I believe our attitude towards a task colors how well we do it. It also determines how easy or difficult it is and how we feel when a task is done. Part of attitude is how we view life. Optimism and pessimism also play into the equation.
I’ve observed, over the years, that positive people find solutions to problems quicker. That could be because they don’t allow negatives to define them or shoot them down before they start. They realize that a negative attitude makes the task twice as hard to solve. The positive person knows there is a solution. It might not be exactly what they would want the outcome to be, but the solution is there if they take the time to look for pieces and follow the threads. They don’t give up easily. Perhaps it’s that very persistence that yields success.
The past few months I had been analyzing myself and doing quite a bit of reading on craft and motivation. What was I doing different now than before. How could I turn on my creativity again and work through my negatives.
I belong to a fabulous writing group made up of successful professionals from all walks of life and at different levels of writing success. We regularly discuss all sorts of writing issues. One of the topics under discussion was regaining writing momentum. I had asked:
- If you've taken a break, what’s drawn you back to writing?
- What keeps you putting one word in front of the other, even when discouraged, tired, or busy?
- What excites you about what you're working on now?
Most of my group work, have families, and write. We also have quite a few published authors. We have to juggle life and our writing, so as you can imagine, there were quite a few good points made—good answers. There was a definite pattern emerging and one I had seen for myself. One of our NYT bestsellers made a comment that brought it all into focus.
“When it's [the writing] hard, I think about the fact that it is a job that I've committed to…the first rule of a job is, you show up, whether you feel like it or not.”
Bingo! There it was. Attitude. It wasn’t about waiting for the muse to show up, or writing when the mood strikes. It was about the perception that writing was a job. You write. You have a routine you employ to do the job of writing. You sit in the chair and write whether it’s coming easy or hard. You are a writer. You choose to be a professional, not an amateur—or at least, if you wish to be a published author you do. If you want to succeed at any artistic endeavor to show up and go to work.
I needed to rethink my writing. What was my goal with my writing? Had it changed? Was I a professional or an amateur? Amateurs can afford to procrastinate; professionals don’t have that luxury if they want to do their job and meet their commitments.
I don’t have the stamina I had. I can’t write the hours I did, yet. It’s just as someone trains for a marathon. If you’ve never run or haven’t done it for years you aren’t going to fare well if you decide to run in tomorrow’s race. You have to build up to it and in smaller doable steps. Build up resilience and strength. You have to have determination and the desire to finish the race. That is what gets you to the daily practice no matter how you feel or what the weather is. It’s what keeps you at the sprints to build stamina, or the set of stairs you run up and down. You push through the resistance from your mind and body. You work through the sore muscles.
So I’ve set smaller goals (sometimes I can do a whole chapter and other times it’s only a few hundred words) and celebrate when I reach my goal. I’m setting up a workable routine. In the beginning it was a matter of setting a timer. When the timer goes off, I’m done. If the words are hard, I push through the resistance. Sometimes it means going to a different scene and coming back to the one that’s giving me fits. I’m not angsting over how it looks or over some of the word choices (sometimes that is the hardest part for me because I want it just so), I know I can edit it later—but I can’t edit what I don’t have down. As a good friend of mine says, looking at your writing as a job helps one depersonalize the process of creating—a way of distancing yourself from the process. Getting the words down is the job.