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November 15, 2010
Symptoms of the “shoulds” include:
- You should write first thing in the morning.
- You should write daily.
- You should keep a journal.
- You should write down your dreams every morning.
- You should have a room of your own and be organized!
- You should write for publication.
What if some of the “shoulds” just go against your grain? Are you not a real writer then? What if you write best after 10 p.m. instead of first thing in the morning? What if you start journals repeatedly and never last more than three days? What if you can’t remember your dreams? What if an organized office makes you freeze and you secretly prefer writing in chaos?
Are you a REAL writer then? YES!
What Am I Exactly?
If you struggle with your identity as a writer–if you don’t seem to fit the mold no matter how you’ve tried–you would love the book I found over the weekend. It’s called The Write Type: Discover Your True Writer’s Identity and Create a Customized Writing Plan by Karen E. Peterson, who wrote the best book on writer’s block I ever read.
This book takes you through exercises to find the real writer who lives inside you. You’ll explore the ten components that make up a writer’s “type.” They include such things as tolerance for solitude, best time of day to write, amount of time, need for variety, level of energy, and level of commitment. Finding your own personal combination of traits helps you build a writer’s life where you can be your most productive and creative.
Free to Be Me
To be honest, the exercises with switching hands (right brain/left brain) didn’t help me as much as the discussions about each trait. I could usually identify my inner preferences quite easily through the discussion. It gave me freedom to be myself as a writer. It also helped me pinpoint a few areas where I believed some “shoulds” that didn’t work for me, where I was trying to force this square peg writer into a round hole and could stop!
We’re all different–no surprise!–but we published writers are sometimes too quick to pass along our own personal experience in the form of “shoulds.” You should write first thing in the morning should actually be stated, It works well for ME to write first thing in the morning, so you might try that.
What About You?
Have you come up against traits of “real writers” that just don’t seem to fit you? Do you like to flit from one unfinished project to another instead of sticking to one story until it’s finished and submitted? Do you need noise around you and get the heebie jeebies when it’s too quiet?
If you have time, leave a comment concerning one or two areas where you have struggled in the past with a “real writer” trait. Let’s set ourselves free from the tyranny of the shoulds!
October 29, 2010
It struck me that getting fit and getting published have a lot in common. The problems that derail us and the solutions proposed by the “experts” can almost be interchanged!
- For example, if you want to lose weight and get in shape, fitnss experts say that a support system of some kind is necessary. (Writers need it too.)
- Interval training is recommended for fitness–short bursts of focused work, then lighter periods for recovery. (This works best for my writing schedule as well.)
- Fitness experts recommend keeping track of your calories consumed and miles run. (Writers recommend keeping track of words and pages written.)
- Certainly to succeed in both areas, you need daily disciplines (consistency).
- And in both arenas, “slow and steady wins the race,” rather than days of self-torture followed by taking several weeks off.
- Both fitness experts and published writers recommend journaling, both for dealing with emotional issues that can throw you off your goals, as well as “before-during-after” journals for dealing with special blocks and temptations.
- Fitness gurus tell you how to deal with those loved ones who (perhaps unconsciously) try to sabotage your weight-loss progress. I’ve written about that issue myself, pertaining to writing.
- Fitness experts talk about the changes you need to make daily, and how you must think of them as “lifestyle changes” if you want to be successful. (Writers, also, must make changes in lifestyle that need to be permanent instead of lasting only until a deadline is met.)
- Diet instructors caution against using your calories on junk food and feeding the body little nutritional value. (As a writer, I have to force myself to lay aside my junk food mysteries sometimes in order to feed my mind something more literary and challenging.)
- To be successful in either endeavor, you need to stop those negative, defeatist thoughts and be optimistic.
- There are also times to deal with where you do everything right but get disappointing results (follow your food plan and exercise daily, yet gain a pound–OR write daily and submit, yet get rejected.)
Where’s My Motivation?
I realized that if I can master these general habits and mindsets, I can conquer all my fitness issues AND my writing issues! I just need to find the motivation.
In case you think your own motivation is lost, enjoy “Where Does Your Motivation Go When You Lose It?” The suggestions work equally well for developing fitness OR writing habits.
And if you have time, please leave a short comment sharing a way that YOU fire up your smoldering motivation. We’re all in this together!
May 10, 2010
When I’m frustrated, it’s usually a sign that I’m trying to control something I can’t control. This can be a person or a situation or an event. The process can churn your mind into mush until you can’t think.
On the other hand, making a 180-degree switch and focusing on the things I can control (self-control) is the fastest way out of frustration. This concept certainly applies to your writing life.
Words of Wisdom
Remember the Serenity Prayer? It goes like this: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
How about reducing frustration with your writing life by applying that wisdom to your career? Here are some things to accept that you cannot change:
- How long it takes to get a response from editors and agents
- Editors moving before buying the manuscript they asked to see
- Size of print runs
- Publisher’s budget for your book’s publicity and promotion
Trying to change anything on the above list is a sure-fire route to frustration and wanting to quit.
However, do you have courage to change the things you can? Here are some:
- Giving yourself positive feedback and affirmations
- Reading positive books on the writing life
- Studying writing craft books
- Writing more hours
- Reading more books in the genre where you want to publish
- Attending local, state, regional and national conferences you can afford
- Joining or forming a critique group
Wisdom to Know the Difference
If you’re battling frustration and discouragement with the writing life, chances are good that you’re trying to control something beyond your control. It will make you crazy! The fastest way back to sanity is to concentrate on what you can control about the writing life.
Choose anything from that second list–or share an additional idea in the comments below–and get on with becoming a better writer. In the end, that’s all you can do–and it will be enough.