Honoring Who You Are…
will make you a better writer
(among other things)
Do you know who you are as opposed to who you want to be? Do you respect that person’s needs and passions? Do you even know those needs and passions?
If not, now is the time to find out. And I mean now–not tomorrow, not next week, or the next day you have off from work. No, not even this evening after supper when you can finally relax in your favorite chair with your feet up and soothing music playing in the background. Instead, this evening watch that show you love so much. Watch and think about why you like it so much and what brings you back week after week. Don’t worry. It’s not only “OK” to start learning about yourself now and do some of the work later. If you are doing things right, you’ll be doing a lot of the discovery later.
Why do you want to do this?
Well, knowing yourself will help you understand how you best deal with difficulties and help you initiate real change. Accepting yourself will make the process more pleasant. Acting combination of the two in your daily dealings with yourself will make you a better writer. (Really, it will help you in all sorts of ways, but as this is a writing challenge, pardon my focus on that activity. The initial exploration and discovery will help in any area you want to immerse yourself in)
Now, as this post is about you, indulge me please as I discuss myself for a moment and explain how knowing and respecting my process and myself… my personal way of doing things, has made me a better writer.
Having things “Just So” seems to be a trait of many writers, and using pen and paper are my “just so” items. I keep shelves of dog-eared dictionaries and reference books. Little tweaks complete each experience… different music genres, writing flumped on a bed or leaning at a high-top table offer various moods for the session. When I include these things for my process, I write more, I write faster, and I am usually happier with the result.
I’ve learned (sadly through trial and error more than through any amount of deep analysis) what I need to make my writing work. And the “work” has regained some of that early on sense of play it once had, so I tend to send more time at it. With the extra time and practice, I write more, and my writing has improved. Win-win!
However, this is a new development. I mean, I used to do those above things all the time when I started writing. I used to fill notebook after notebook with stories, character sketches and poems. Even after typing in several of them, I still have over two crates full on the floor by my desk, begging their turn at the keyboard. Then… one day, I stopped scribbling. I forget if it was a move from of our more crowded apartments or the excitement of a new computer… or even the push to post wordcounts after some writing challenge or sprint. Likely, it was all those things and more… Either way, I stopped. I felt like I was writing in the Dark Ages, and that everything I did was unprofessional and sloppy. Where was my determination to place Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard? All that paper wasted! (And here I’d gone to college for Environmental Science and Forestry). Wasn’t I taking more than twice the time to get a draft done by winging things longhand as opposed to organizing my story in a Scrivener Binder? (Not knocking Scrivener, btw… I love the program.)
What am I trying to say here?
I’ve read blog after blog from people who’ve thought similar things and tried to change their writing process either to streamline it or to make it “work”; some have succeeded, and so many others have not. My process could have benefitted from some streamlining, but it worked. It worked well for me, and my attempts to adjust things reduced my productivity dramatically. A computer with internet (or even a solitaire game) offers me too many ways to escape my own head and the page. Trying to learn how to type correctly as opposed to my four-finger hunt-and-peck never worked the way I hoped it would. Irregular changes in computer software, crashes, viruses… it all amounted to distraction and reduced wordcounts.
It took me years to figure out what went wrong. I was trying so hard to fix something that wasn’t broken, because I kept looking at what wasn’t instead of understanding what was and accepting how I did things. I couldn’t even make a meaningful change without knowing what the actual process was.
In order to get anywhere, it helps to know where you are starting.
I sabotaged myself for over ten years because I couldn’t accept how I worked and who I was. I don’t want to see all my writerly friends do the same thing to themselves. So please, take some time to look at what you do and why you do it. Take regular account of what inspires you, what turns you off, what distracts you and how you feel after a break (do you feel refreshed and ready to go or are you inspired to take a bit more time off?) and so many other things. Learn how to work with yourself.
Discovery takes time. You’ll (hopefully) be working on self-discovery for the rest of your life. It is a process well worth your time.
(For more about the person we are versus the person we want to be, watch this video by Kelly McGonigal; it’ll help in making those changes if you choose to, or at least help you pick your battles better.)