We Decide the Time to Live and Time to Die for Our Writing
BLUF: Jim Rohn was right.
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
Who is influencing your writing dream?
It's a principle parents teach their kids, teachers teach their adult students (better bet it was in my leadership classes), and something smart people remind themselves of constantly.
You are who you hang out with.
During these weird times, I'm going to ask you to keep that in the front of your mind.
Because, over the past few weeks, and increasingly so, I've seen more and more writers posting negative messages about their writing, mostly due to the current circumstances.
So I've withdrawn from the internet.
Because (see Jim Rohn concept above) I don't want to be influenced by people's negative messages, and it seems the more people post about how they "just can't write" or what they write just isn't there/working, the more I see new people jumping on that bandwagon.
A few things about human nature.
Humans are pattern seeking creatures (check out Michael Shermer delivering it straight and real). We deliberately and subconsciously look for patterns to assign meaning to things, even when there is no pattern or meaning.
We are also creatures of habit; we'll keep doing things because they're comfortable, because we've always done them, to the point that they become the absolute truth for us--even when they're not.
When we start "seeing" that our writing is crap or, maybe even a worse perspective, that we "just can't sit down and write," we begin to reinforce that runaway thought train by seeing the behaviors that solidify that outlook.
For two years and four seasons of the Horrible Writing podcast, I gave people tips, tools, and tactics to help them reach their writing goals. Those who listened are probably punching through the COVID world. Those who didn't, who never listened, might be struggling.
Mindset is a choice, but it takes work, determination, grit and, hell, some freakin' attitude.
I've talked about the importance of structure to your writing (you need a dedicated space and time to write). I talked about the discipline of writing (shut off the internet, bar the family from your writing space unless someone is dying, etc.).
The world has changed, at least temporarily, and we either change with it or we get left behind. We buckle down and adjust and push forward, or we use it as a justification (cough, cough, excuse) for "why" we can't do something. All of us assume the roles of the tiny characters in the book Who Moved My Cheese?, but we have the power to decide which mouse we become when the conditions we live in are suddenly foreign.
Don't tell me why you can't, show me how you can.
Defense mechanisms are a tricky beast. They protect us from things we don't want to see/deal with. They blind us to destructive behaviors to help us stay on the path of least resistance. They're necessary, at times, but dangerous at most others.
Ask yourself: how did you react to this post? What types of thoughts were you thinking? Did you identify with some, part, all, or none of the message?
One of the things I learned as an instructor was that when students had epiphanies, when they had the "wow" moment, they often also had guilt (a terrible remnant of archaic system of power and control exerted by those in authority).
The one thing I would remind these students constantly is that it's all going to be okay, if we decide to work toward it being okay.
Time to live and a time to die.
Iron Maiden once sang that there was a "time to live and a time to die."
The thing about that principle from a writing perspective is that we can control our fate, we decide when the time to die has arrived--through our actions and inaction.
If you, like me, find yourself "touched" by too many people/communities who are despondent about their writing, writing negatively about it, etc., move away. Don't wait until you recognize you're being negatively influence. Unplug now.
If you find yourself descending into the pit of despair, set up that structure I've been asking writers to think about since episode 1 of Horrible Writing podcast. The nice thing about dedicating a writing time/space and telling everyone in the house that you are not to be bothered until writing time is done unless the house is on fire or someone is dying (yes, it can be done, I did it as a single father with small children) is that you have set the foundation for success. Get up early and write first. Stay off the internet.
Do healthy things for you!
The world needs epic writers to bring them epic stories. We first choose, then we act, then we become.
Go be epic