Confession: I’ve been indulging in a little Office marathon this week while Joe is out of town. Don’t ask me why. Probably because I’ve already gone through Hawaii Five-O, Death in Paradise, and a handful of others that all had endings I hated. I figured I knew what I was getting with The Office. So there it is.
One episode… Michael’s birthday where Kevin is stressed that he might have skin cancer… really got me thinking when one of the characters (Angela, I think) said, “Well at least it’s not a brain tumor.” She may have said something about having a year to live. Or maybe I made that up in my brain.
You never know with a writer.
But what hit me was this:
What would I do differently if I only had a year to live?
It wouldn’t be a huge lifestyle change because I’m already living the life I want—writing fiction, helping other writers, traveling (6 different cities in 5 different states last year, woot, with Hawaii right around the corner).
What I would change is how I show up in the world.
I’d be bolder in my messaging. Louder. More willing to share the real, soul-stirring truths that drive my passion for this work.
And if that’s what I’d do if I only had a year to live, then why the hell am I not doing it now?
So here it is… a few of the things I’d say if I knew 2017 was my last year on this planet.
1. Fuck Comparison.
We have got to STOP with the lookey-looing! It does not matter what another writer does or does not do. It doesn’t matter when they start, when they finish, how long it took them, who picked them up, what’s happening to their book or how many freaking sales they did or did not make their first week in print.
STOP THE INSANITY.
None of that stuff (despite what mental gremlins tell us) will determine the success or failure of our own book.
Only WE—our thoughts, actions, reactions, and choices—can determine that.
Which brings me to the next point…
2. Mindset is more important than craft.
There, I said it. Let the trolls descend! It won’t change my mind.
Anyone can write a book. ANYONE.
Writing a good book, however, or a GREAT one? That requires resilience.
Because after we’ve written the story comes editing. Beta reading. Critiquing. Submissions and reviews. People diving into our work with the intention to find the holes, point out the flaws, and make that story bathe in rivers of red ink.
Sound scary? It is.
It hurts. It’s uncomfortable. And no matter how many times we go through the process, and despite knowing it’s good for us and our books, there is still this trepidation as we click on the email that our crit partner sent–“edits for your book” the subject line.
You’ve felt it, right? The tummy flipping as your heart flatlines.
Writing is a mindfuck.
Which means we can read all the craft books ever written and attend every writing conference from DFW to NYC, but if we don’t do the work to identify, understand, and repair the holes in our own personal life story (abandonment, perfection, comparison, good enough, etc.), we are in for the worst roller coaster ride ever.
(Buckle up, Buttercup, and call your chiropractor. You’re gonna need it.)
But… what about our craft?
3. Learn just enough and take action.
As I went to expand this bullet point, my first instinct was to write, “Learn everything you can and then implement.”
But that’s the problem, isn’t it? The endless pursuit of more knowledge… of “just the right way”… as though there is some magic secret formula that if we understood it we’d be successful.
It’s a trap. (*pictures Admiral Ackbar’s squid head*)
THERE IS NO MAGIC SECRET FORMULA.
There is magic. And there are formulas.
And perhaps you could say THERE IS NO SECRET is the secret.
But what does NOT exist is one single path to success… Just one way to get it right and get it done.
The more we chase the dream that “I’m just missing something and if I could just figure it out THEN it’d all work and I could live happily ever after,” the more we lose out on the awesome living that could be had right now.
I’m living my dream life this very moment, NOT because all my ducks are in a row or because I’ve won the lottery, but because I learned to take action before I had ALL 1500 versions of the same information.
Information is good, but if you’ve read more than a handful of craft books and still haven’t started your story, you don’t have an information problem, you have an action problem.
All things can be adjusted (especially in our books). So instead of trying to learn everything, learn just enough to take action and GO DO IT.
At the end of the day, I simply want for writers what they want for themselves… a writing career that makes them happy (not alcoholic) and allows them to pay the bills, travel the world and write more words.
But if we keep thinking our blocks (writer’s, creative or otherwise) are a craft problem, we’ll keep circling back to where we’ve already been… chapter one.
Don’t let your dream die inside you.
Loves & hugs,