The self-help section of bookstores is an enlightening place, and I encourage anyone who feels less-than-adequate to venture there for a pep talk. No, don’t open the books or even look at the back. Consider the titles. Get Out of Your Own Way, and even more enlightening, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. Oh, yeah, and The Motivation Switch: 77 Ways to Get Motivated, Avoid Procrastination, and Achieve Success.* Reflect on what that is telling you about the rest of the human race: It interferes with itself, doubts itself, is unmotivated, procrastinates, and considers itself–at least for the moment–as a failure. As I browse further, I notice that the human race does not love itself, feels insignificant, is anxious to the point of immobility, and wants to change. It really wants to change, and it thinks there is an answer, maybe in a book. Probably, if you think about it, the people who wrote the books themselves are grappling with that fear and wrote as catharsis. Their editors had to nag them to finish.
I don’t know about you, but I find that very reassuring. It always makes me cheer up to realize that the rest of the human race is not nearly as competent as it appears, but it gets things done anyway. I find it encouraging that I’m nothing special, especially when things have been interfering with my writing time. I don’t know that I would have eliminated any of the interruptions, but my focus is easily broken by things like competing in tournaments, having stuff injected into my knee, being anesthetized, and having a esophogastroduodenoscopy. I missed a few days, and it bothered me.
It’s so easy to stop writing (The Divine Guide to Creating a Daily Writing Practice, I’m sure, points that out, as I assume does Active Patience, a Simple Guide to Productive Writing). There are so many reasons not to write, and many of those reasons are good. Writing is self-indulgent. It is difficult. It requires concentration. It distracts the writer from the important business of life and from family. What you’re writing might not be very good. In fact, it might possibly be pretty bad. Heck, let’s just admit, it’s dreadful and people won’t meet your eyes any more when they read what you’ve written because they don’t know what to say that wouldn’t be rude.
As the blurb for Anyone Can Write Books: Get Inspired, Get Motivated, Conquer Your Limitations, and Write Some Books asks, “It’s no secret we all have books we want to write. But what’s holding us back? Why do we fear, procrastinate, or feel unworthy?” Of course, some procrastinators feel all too worthy, believe they have something incredibly important to say, and want to have absolutely uninterrupted time in which to say it. Without a tinge of that vanity, nobody would write.
Here’s my answer: Who cares why we don’t write sometimes? Why we don’t do what we want to do? It doesn’t really matter, does it, what is holding us back?
No, I know the secret to success; it is what has gotten me through much adversity in my life and produced all kinds of completed projects, including a Ph.D, a few medals, a large number of knitted objects, many drawings and paintings, twenty-three years of teaching, a rather quirky marriage, some published work, and a whole lot of wasted time. It’s called not worrying about it, showing up, sitting down, and getting to work. Over and over again.
So this morning, now that I no longer feel a little goofy and weird from the anesthetic, now that I have blocked Facebook from my computer during working hours, now that I have (by simply doing it and treating it as a given) trained my husband to notice that I won’t talk during writing time, I finished one chapter and moved on to the next. Even though I’m pretty sure I’m biting off more than I can chew with the latest character, that my prose is hasty, choppy, and repetitive, that it will never be published, and that the laundry needs doing, I worked for two hours. And I will probably do the same tomorrow, because writing is a job and you have to show up for work most of the time, even if you’re not getting paid.
I was not particularly motivated when I sat down, and I don’t know that I’m all that motivated now, but it’s a job, and I actually like it better than a lot of other jobs I’ve done. And most of those jobs I did with even less motivation than this one. But boy, I had fun this morning. I keep forgetting how much fun it is just to do the thing in front of you, with your full attention.
I have not read, nor do I plan to read, any of these titles. I have other things to do right now. You go ahead.