If You’re Not Writing, You’re Resisting

BookFor a few years now, my husband told me. My business coach did too. Everyone told me I was wasting my time on paid writing work that didn’t fill my soul. But it’s hard when you’re freelancing and getting paid. It’s hard to say, “No” when you don’t know when your next big check will come in. But these were the first two signs. Another one had come years before.

Several years ago, I received a handful of Steven Pressfield’s book. I quickly devoured The War of Art, but it was only when I got into Turning Pro that my life changed dramatically. Here are a few nuggets that started the stone, that rippled across the river and that finally had a big impact on the way I perceived my writing:

“When you sit down to do your work, do you leave our web connection on?

It can be fatal, keeping up with the Kardashians.”

“When we were amateurs, our life was about drama, about denial, and about distraction.”

“We usually think of breath throughs as ecstatic moments that elevate us from a lower level to a higher. And they do. But there’s a paradox. In the moment, an epiphany feels like hell. It exposes us and leaves us naked. We see ourselves plain, and it’s not a pretty picture.”

It’s that last statement that really stuck with me. I realized after reading his book that everything I was getting “busy” doing, finding jobs, taking unfulfilling writing gigs and even playing games on my phone was taking me away from my real dream of publishing a children’s book, short stories and personal essays.

I am ashamed to admit that I bought into the belief that I could get what I wanted without the time and effort involved. I had devoted and sacrificed a lot to get to be freelance writing for the past 9-years. But that took research, networking and time. I didn’t give my next dream that same fervor.

When I read Pressfield’s work, I realized that all the other “stuff” I was doing was another way I was unconsciously distracting myself out of fear. I was embarrassed by the pieces I was sending off before they were given their fair due. I let time fall away from me while I was shopping online or searching for the next big writing gig. After having my second baby and took time off from all of my paid work, I had enough space to reflect on what I was doing-I was getting good at work I didn’t really want to do, and I was moving further away from my dreams.

The good news is that I got the wake up call and on the path now to turning pro. I’m working on the stuff I’m excited about daily. I’m attending conferences, reading books on the topic and writing at home and writer’s group. Thanks to finally waking up, I’m committed and hopefully that will bring me that much closer to my dreams.

Here in the Midst of Challenge

I often do as you do. I read about people once they’ve already climbed the mountain and faced that lion. It’s all inspiring and humbling to do so. But what I rarely get to see is a picture into the lives of those who are fallen.

What do you if you’re not there yet?

I’m in that murky space right now.

I’ve spent 8-years in the professional nonfiction arena. And I’ve done okay for myself. I’ve worked with reputable companies. I’ve built a network of clients that can depend on me to create and complete finished articles on time. I rarely have to look for work and grateful that somehow people find me. But what I haven’t yet done is succeed in my fiction life.

In other words, I’m still climbing that mountain.

I’d like to write a riveting blog post concerning the twist and turns of countless rejections with stops and starts of my fiction career. I’d like to say I spent 7-years tolling away at my work about to give up when a glowing response from a literary agent and a top ten best-seller review gave me hope again. This is the sort of stories I end up reading about. Mostly because when people are in the middle of struggle, they’re holed up at home. They’re throwing their hands up in the air. They don’t want people to know they’re going through a hard time. They want people to celebrate with them once they’ve succeeded.

But the truth is, our seemingly weakest moments are our strongest ones. It is the times when we’re at our breaking point, when we are on the verge of giving up, that makes for great stories.

In Rising Strong, Brene Brown says the following:

“While vulnerability is the birthplace of many of the fulfilling experiences we long for — love, belonging, joy, creativity, and trust, to name a few — the process of regaining our emotional footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness in our lives; it’s the process that teaches us the most about who we are.”

This means that all of you who are writing right now and receiving those rejection letters are on the path to the greatest opportunity to elevate your courage, and your sense of identity. It’s not an easy road when we don’t know whether our work is of value or if anyone will care.

But as Elizabeth Gilbert writes in Big Magic, that doesn’t matter.

Quotes-From-Elizabeth-Gilbert-Big-Magic

Create what you must. Write because you delight in it. Face your fears every day while you’re sitting at your computer despite the fear that it’s not good enough. Because I believe if you work at it every day, you’ll eventually get there. And all that courage it took to do so, will not only make you a better writer, but a better person.