Write for Your Tribe

Are You Disheartened?

Have you thought about giving up this writing thing?

Have you wondered if you should devote so much time to this endeavor? Whether you should risk your sanity for it?

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Pixabay

Is it worth all the SACRIFICE when you get so little in return? So little validation. So many rejection letters.

No money. Nil.

Or perhaps your half-finished story has never seen the light of day. You’ve hidden it in a drawer or on a hard drive, too afraid to show anyone. Too afraid to finish.

Meanwhile, your writer friends publish their work, get noticed, climb the rankings on Amazon. A few have published with the Big Five, won Pulitzers, and made millions. These may or may not be your personal friends, but they write the books you read.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You suspect your writing is not on the same level as theirs. You feel like a dandelion amongst roses. Like Ira Glass explained, a gap exists between what you admire – your taste – and your ability.

Should You Quit?

Perhaps the better question is, Can you quit?

Discouragement sets in because writing is hard. Believe me, crocheting is much easier. Or knitting.

Can you give it up and keep your sanity? If the answer is yes, then you can take up a more rewarding hobby. Like knitting. (I’m not knocking knitting. I have two projects going right now.)

Or maybe you’ll choose to do the hard thing because you want to write. Or you need to write. And you hate knitting.

And maybe you’ll decide that success isn’t measured by rankings or money or even popularity. Maybe success means making a small difference in the world.

Your Mission, If You Choose to Accept It

STAY THE COURSE. Don’t give up.

No one else can write with your unique perspective, with your experiences, your voice.

You might object, “Too many voices are clamoring to be heard already!”

But none of them are yours. You are the only one who can write your way. You are the only one with your voice.

If you study the craft, if you do the work, you WILL inspire someone else. If your story, poem, picture or post can help one, anonymous person, is it worth it?

Keep writing. Accumulate a body of work, and your influence will grow. You may not win a Pulitzer. You may never make a bestseller list. But you will reach the right people – your people – with your authentic words.

It’s about writing — and sharing — one true thing.

Be yourself. In time, your voice will find readers. Your readers. Write for your tribe.

Information Gluttony and Lack of Creativity Go Together

Recently, I’ve been struggling to write. I had the seed of a story that wouldn’t sprout. I brainstormed and jotted down some notes, but in the end, my setting was boring, my characters were clichéd, and my premise was just dumb.

I was stuck.

So I did what I usually do when I need inspiration: I scoured the web. I turned to my favorite writing blogs and podcasts — rich sources of encouragement and instruction over the last five years. I watched videos. I opened the newsletter emails I subscribe to. I pulled out my favorite books on crafting fiction and ordered new ones.

The muse was silent.

I doubled my efforts. Every spare minute, I read another article or listened to more of my favorite writing podcasts until I was steeped in information, as if I expected to fix my writing by osmosis.

But my mind was waterlogged by other writers’ advice. I was inadvertently drowning out my own voice.

Don’t misunderstand me: it’s helpful to draw from the well of others’ experiences; we all need teachers. I’m grateful for authors and editors who share their knowledge. What would I have done without them?

But if we rely too heavily on outside sources, if we never trust our own instincts, we may become stunted.

“We are most original when we are most ourselves.” Rebecca McClanahan

It’s harder to be myself when various voices are shouting the rules in my head — when I’ve consumed too much advice, too many rules, too many instructions.

At some point, I must stop procrastinating because I have enough information. I HAVE ENOUGH.

For me, creativity blooms with white space. Mental white space. So instead of taking in another brilliant podcast about plotting, I should take a walk instead. Or sit on the rock in front of my pond and let my imagination wonder.20150908_231813959_iOS

Even bite-size tweets and Pinterest memes add clutter to my mind like salty French fries add pounds. Too many articles and blog posts and podcasts lead to information gluttony. The resulting bloat doesn’t feed my creativity. It stifles it.

I need a mental environment where creativity can grow. Here are a few things that seem to help:

  • Information fasting. Limiting outside voices (podcasts, emails, blogs, articles, news).
  • “Brain-dumping” on 750words.com. When problems mount and anxiety overwhelms, it’s hard to concentrate. Pouring out my worries (often as prayers) helps unload these burdens.
  • Stay home. Take on fewer activities. Accept fewer invitations. Run fewer errands. Stilling my body stills my mind.
  • Solitude. This might mean waking early before anyone else (sometimes insomnia is a good thing). Or taking a long walk, which, yes, is not being still, but it feels like “cleansing movement.”
  • Knitting.More cleansing movement. When my hands are busy, my mind can rest.
  • Focusing on small things.

Nigel sitting up (Daniel's)

Like watching my tuxedo cat bathe himself. Nigel licks his paw and draws it over his face starting at his eyes, reaching further with each stroke until he has cleaned behind his ears. His sandpaper-tongue catches my skin as he considers my hand an extension of his body.

Focusing on one small action is the opposite of multi-tasking. It’s a luxury. It calms and clears the mind.

 

Photo by Daniel McLendon

I hope these practical suggestions will help someone else, too. In the last week I’ve realized how much my mindset also smothers my creativity, but that’s a post for another day.