It is 3 PM on a glorious spring day in Portland. My cat's in the window making that weird clicking-in-the-back-of-the-throat sound that kitties make when they see birds or squirrels. It's spring break, so every normal human is outside enjoying themselves.
I'm sitting at my desk, near where Captain is making odd cat noises. There's a nice breeze blowing in the window, but it is not the same thing as being outside, enjoying the day, taking a hike, hanging out in the park, sitting on the deck at the local pub, raising a glass.
So why don't I just quite whining and go do something?
Because I have a blog post to write.
I made a commitment to myself to write a blog post every day until further notice or some other unforeseen event makes it impossible. I wanted to see if this would help my traffic (it has) and also lay the groundwork for some upcoming things like an ebook release and some day, the publication of my novel. Also, because, um, I love writing these here posts and most days it is so much fun I can't believe I get paid for it.
But some days it is 3 o'clock in the afternoon and I haven't blogged yet and I'd rather be doing anything than sitting at my computer wondering what to write. But here I am. And guess what? This is what commitment looks like. And commitment is what creates abundant writing careers.
And so here I sit until the blog post gets done. And, amazingly, now it is. And sitting here doing it reminds me, again, that this is what commitment is all about.
How about you? What are you committed to? How does that look in your life?
This morning I was writing about a character. Her arc is to go from being what she considers to be a failure, to suddenly experiencing great success. So as I was tracing this movement, I started thinking about how to show what her failure looked like and felt like to her, and then what her success would look like and feel like also.
As always, writing is life and life is writing. The thought occurred to me that this is a good exercise to do for anyone who wants more success in their life. What makes you feel successful? How do you feel inside when you are successful? How do you behave? What actions do you take? What are the outer trappings of your success?
Conversely, how does failure make you feel? How do you act and present yourself when you feel beaten down and discouraged? What does failure look like in your world?
I have some ideas that are not yet fully formed about this topic. A vague starting point:
Successful people hold themselves well, stand up straight, meet your eyes and have a firm handshake. Duh. Beyond that, there's a sparkle in their eye, a zest for life that shows in the way they dress and walk. They don't hesitate–in any situation, they take action. Outwardly, they care for themselves and their surroundings well.
Failures slump over and their eyes are dead. They meander through their days instead of walking purposefully. Nothing much excites them so they spend a lot of time idly flipping through web pages that don't really interest them on the internet. Their surroundings are shabby and they don't much care.
What else? What am I missing? I want to know because this information bears on my character, but I also think it bears on all of us. What does success look like to you? To me success means getting a novel published and no matter what else I accomplish (and I have plenty of unrelated goals, such as write an Ebook and start a coaching program), until I publish a novel I'll not feel fully successful. What does that say about me?
The more I think about it, the more this topic of inner and outer success interests me. I think it is worthy of thought and writing about to explore how you really feel about it. Because once you know what success looks like for you, you can begin to take steps to achieve it. Probably I'll be doing lots of writing about it through the creation of this new character, which will have a bearing on my own life.
So let me know what your thoughts are about success. What will make you finally feel successful? Or maybe you already do–and if so, what contributes to that feeling? I'm all ears.
She asked how she could get to the core motivation for her writing, casting aside all the things we do like comparing ourselves to others or torture ourselves with thoughts of the other things we could be doing. And, I have an answer for that, though I will admit that it is one of the toughest things we writers have to deal with. The pressure to compare ourselves to others or worry that perhaps we are wasting time are two of the most toxic distractions imaginable.
But I like to remember to separate the process from the product and remind myself that during the initial writing, my job is to focus on the process. When writing, it is up to me to concentrate on the writing only, and let all the rest of that crap fall away. There will come a time, all too soon, when worldly concerns will infringe upon you. Then you will be taking your project to market, and that is when you can start thinking about how to position it in regards to the work of others, and so on.
But how, specifically, to maintain this focus on the pure, sweet heart of your project? Here are some ideas:
Give The Whining Free Rein. But only for a limited, pre-agreed upon amount of time, like 10 minutes. But for that 10 minutes, let 'er rip. Stomp around the house, sit and wring your hands, moan, sigh heavily, whatever your favorite is. Worry obsessively about whether the book you're writing is good enough, or ponder all the things you have to do on your to-do list. Then, when your allotted time is up, stop. And get to your writing.
Agree to One Hour. For this one hour, all you are going to do is write. You are going to focus on your writing. You are not going to worry about how to market the book you are writing, or wonder if you'll ever be good enough to land an agent. If your thoughts stray to these topics, you are going to imagine these thoughts are on clouds, gently floating away from you. And you are going to direct your attention back to your writing project once again. In this way, you will stay true to your core motivation for one hour. And then you can do it again for another hour.
Make a Deal With Your Critic. Tell him or her that if she will just take a nap while you are focusing on your writing for an hour, there will soon come a time when you will need her help. (That time will be when you start editing and rewriting.) Note: your critic is not only the inner voice that tells you you're not good enough, it is also the voice that whispers: isn't it time to quit writing and see what they are talking about on Twitter? Until you are done with your hour, the answer is no.
Practice these three techniques to stay true to yourself and your writing. And let me know how they work out for you. Or perhaps you have some favorites of your own?
*Note to Don: Alas, I don't have the answer to your Burning Question, much as I wish I did. I have no idea how they get the caramel into the Caramel Bars. But if you find out, let me know.