Write When You Can
It seems the mainstream cultural mindset with being productive in writing is a performance race built upon a sense of panic and urgency. Something I feel sounds like, “WRITE! Write all the time! When you are asleep, when you are with your children, when you are in class, even when you are writing — write!”
In all sincerity, I do fully understand and appreciate this collective belief, but I also feel that I just can not advocate the same for it as others do.
While the point attempting to be conveyed is simple enough, Write so much that your momentum will never be slowed, I am concerned that advocating productivity achievements gained through stress and fear will more likely result in higher amounts of burnout and mental anxiety.
Using myself as a perfect example, I would like to share how I have applied this fear-motivated action advice in my own writing career, and how I have worked to overcome it through acceptance and patience.
Early on in my writing formation, I listened to a presentation provided by Elizabeth Gilbert at a Google Talks session where she shares this advice (paraphrasing): Writing today or later on is better than not writing at all; so appreciate the effort, not the measurement. At this same moment in my formation, I was reading Stephen King’s book “On Writing” and then Ursula K. Le Guin’s book “Steering the Craft” which provided professional guidance on writing with a similar emphasis being: write with seriousness because this art requires a serious effort.
Being I was in my early writing development, I took E. Gilbert’s advice as being a really heartfelt way to look at life but that I needed to be more like King and Le Guin; in that, I needed to be aggressive, ready, and ruthless in my efforts and with myself!
However, this misunderstood approach to writing had caused me many repeated periods of both burnout and extended hiatuses. In a metaphorical explanation, I pressed down upon the gas peddle and only stopped when either the engine exploded or when I ran into a wall.
As a result, my aggressive attitude towards writing yielded less productive works being completed and, instead, many wasted efforts and years.
Eventually, I reevaluated my hostile, repeated-burnout approach; however, that did not come easily. Instead, embarrassingly to admit, I fought any effort to change; resulting in the extension of more repeated periods of burnout and hiatuses.
What facilitated me into the eventual acceptance of my need for change was, again, through the advice of Ms. Elizabeth Gilbert. That form of advice came through her book “Big Magic.” From this book, I came to appreciate another approach to creative output (again, paraphrasing): Don’t create because you wish to achieve greatness; create great things because that is what speaks to your soul.
It was through her book that the last of my stubborn resistance melted away. I was able to see my writing not as a point of measurement that is fulfilled by a certain set of words or pages per day or books read per year. Rather, I realized that in writing I feel most alive and that it was this feeling of being alive that drove me to this creative medium, to begin with. Moreover, that my writing should always be appreciated for the experiences I have and not from the completed productions I accumulate.
Though this post is brief, I hope I have shared how important is to take your work lightly while enjoying the experiences, good or bad. However, I know this viewpoint will not work for everyone. Rather, some might still hold that the rushed sense of urgency works for them. If that is true, good for you, keep it up! If it works, it works, and that is all that matters.
However, for those of you who feel it does not work, consider from my shared experiences the freedom of an alternative. Consider, too, that what I have shared might not work for you; that’s fine, also. Either way, I hope you do find a method that works for you, and that you all strive and thrive in whatever achievements you hope to succeed in.
In the end, I hope you all write on, steer your craft towards success, enjoy a good talk or two, and find the magic in whatever you create.
— Music —
Blume — “Haze | Beautiful Chill Mix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHZhfPWs_EU
— Sources —
Wright, N. W. (2018, May 17). Empty Brown Steel Chair [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/6Lb72CHdx_k
Google. (2007, May 25). Eat, Pray, Love | Elizabeth Gilbert | Talks at Google. YouTube. Retrieved 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bhVDIe42to
King, S. K. (n.d.). On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. GoodReads. Retrieved 2021, from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10569.On_Writing
le Guin, U. K. L. G. (n.d.). Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula K. Le Guin. GoodReads. Retrieved 2021, from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/68024.Steering_the_Craft?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=bVEnHwndue&rank=1
Gilbert, E. G. (n.d.). Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. GoodReads. Retrieved 2021, from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24453082-big-magic?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=q4rlQcJh5g&rank=1
Blume. (2021, June 17). Haze | Beautiful Chill Mix. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHZhfPWs_EU