Zestful Blog Post #112
When you don’t feel like writing, what should you do?
Your first option is to not write. Of course. Millions of people, from all walks of life, enjoy the act of not writing on a daily basis. But if you’ve already made the decision to be a writer, you believe you really ought to write, you’ve enjoyed writing in the past, you know you have something to say or at least something you need to explore—you have to figure out a way to produce.
I’ve known writers who get in trouble when they equate writing to some other activity that requires proper enthusiasm. Like nobody is going to climb a mountain if they don’t feel like it, right? You’ve got to have enthusiasm and passion for any climb, besides physical conditioning.
For years, whenever I recognized that I was in a slump, I tried to make myself want to write. Tried to change my attitude somehow, tried to gin up enthusiasm. Tried to struggle against apathy. Struggle upon struggle. Gosh, what fun.
It is true that writing is a craft, and thus a writer benefits from adopting the mindset of a craftsman (this word applies to both sexes, because it’s more rhythmic than ‘craftsperson’ and because I say so). A craftsman takes materials and tools and makes something. Fine. You can build a chair even if you’re having an off day. It will still be a chair, serviceable and perhaps even beautiful. But there is more.
Gradually, when I became a professional—that is, when I started to earn a significant portion of my income from writing—it all came clear. All you have to do is show up and start working. No matter if your immediate results suck. Just show up on the page and see what happens. If you do that faithfully, you learn that the magic will come IF you work. The work itself produces the magic.
[I taped this postcard to my current notebook.
Here's a guy who struggled, but he produced, boy howdy did the
son of a bitch produce. And he found the magic.]
I have to re-learn this every time. I think, man, I don’t know how to get going on this story / article / blog post. What’ll I do? Then I just get started, in some random place, perhaps, with just the grain of an idea to explore. I know that if I work on an idea or angle and find that’s NOT the right path, that’s OK, I’ll have eliminated one possibility. But invariably, if that first angle conks out, it always shoots out a little spark of some new idea or possibility. And then I’m on my way. It might not be smooth from then on, but I’ll be producing material, and I know it will all come together, sooner or later.
Anyone who cares deeply about the quality of what they produce—chair-maker or author—and who sticks with it, learns this. It's incredibly freeing. Creative gurus have spread the word for ages, but the word still needs spreading. The magic’s already there. Show up, get to work, and go find it. Better yet, let it come to you.
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