“I’m going to Venice,” she says. “I’m late for my flight.” Her empty palms show as she waves goodbye to her friends. She freezes for a moment to sip from her piping hot cup of coffee, then rushes off down the road. A few blocks later she takes one last sip of her coffee and tosses it in the trash as she walks into her favorite bar. Smells like last night, and sweat. She never liked the smell much. Makes her head hurt but the bartender knew how to make her drinks and in what order, so she kept going back.
This was originally published on The Intoxicating Unhinged Mind There’s some amazing writers contributing to this publication. When you have a moment you should check them out.
Our housekeeping is mendicant, our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. -Ralph Waldo Emerson taken from his essay titled Self-Reliance
Have you lost yourself in societal expectations?
Trying to meet the expectations of everyone around us ultimately leads to depression and feelings of failure because it’s impossible to meet everyone’s expectations. Everyone is going to have an idea of what you’re “supposed” to be doing. But the only person on this earth who truly knows what you should be doing, is you.
Unsure of what you’re supposed to be doing? It reminds me of Picasso’s quote,
It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.
Lost? That’s the best place to start. It’s ok to not know what you’re doing yet. Give yourself full permission to figure that out. Whatever that looks like. And of course not everyone will understand. That’s part of it. Finding what you love is hand in hand with stepping away from everything that you’re not. Step toward the ones who take time to understand.
Invest fully into finding or doing what you love and don’t be swayed by what others think you should be doing. Because if they were doing what they loved, they wouldn’t have time to be swaying you to do anything other than what you love. They also wouldn’t because they know what it takes to live what you love, hard work and dark nights alone with nothing but the glitter of a dream.
I didn’t learn this from people who were born wealthy and I didn’t learn this from people who were born in poverty and never found their way out. I learned from people who had a dream and didn’t give up even in their darkest moments.
There are people out there who write entire books. You say you wanna write. You say you have a great story with great ideas. There’s only one thing stopping you from getting a great story from inside your head and onto paper. The only thing stopping you is you. That’s no hard truth. We all have priorities. We all have responsibilities that keep us from where we should really be. So how can you start?
Let it unfold slowly
The first way to start doesn’t have to be banging out the whole book in one night. Keep a notebook and jot down your ideas throughout the day. Or use your notes app on your phone and organize an outline. We live in a world the worships hustle culture. But as writers we don’t follow what the world does, we write to change the world. This leads to the next point.
Change your mindset
There’s no right way to write a rough draft. Every writer starts their story differently. Some people write outlines scene by scene. But others including Stephen King go right in for the kill with only a vague idea. Some people use post-it notes and those boards kids use for science projects. Try different ways to get the story out that fits into your lifestyle.
Some people claim you don’t have to write every day. And you know what, you don’t. But the best defense against writer’s block is writing something every day. When you write because of discipline, it’s not the unreliable couple, motivation and inspiration that’s progressing you forward on their terms only. Using discipline places you in control. It’s this that gets you the finish line. Also what’s great about writing your story every day is that it keeps you in touch with your characters. And when you’re in touch with your characters it’s easy to know what choices they are going to make. This is why it’s best to choose discipline.
Respect the greats
The greats are great for a reason. There’s something about comparing great works of fiction to their author. It’s almost as if the book loses context without understanding the life of the writer.
Enjoy the journey
Seriously though. Life’s too short to not have fun doing what you love. I used to get so angry. I used to throw huge fits and give up writing for days. Felt worse when I didn’t write than when I was frustrated. But then I started paying attention to the movies and books I loved. They don’t feel like the author trudged through them. They do feel like the authors paid attention to detail while using techniques that engaged the audience. Take your writing seriously and but don’t take it so seriously you lose a sense of play.
Take time to learn and grow
There comes a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance, that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which resides in him to till. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance
You can read more of my work on Medium. Swing by and leave me a comment @jayne.press
There are a few different things that come to mind when we think about what it means to live. There’s the idea that we are walking, talking, breathing human beings that eat, sleep, and poop. Then there is the choiceto live. To wake up and do more than just survive. This mindset looks like, tasting new things, going on adventures, saying yes to rest and no to unnecessary overtime. What would we even need to choose to live?
Where does the desire to live come from?
Before we talk about what we need to live, we should ask, what gets us to intentionally make choice to live? Is it desperation? Is it courage? What shifts our mindset from staying safe in monotony to taking on new risks and adventures? Some might say books do it for them. Some might say they are part of a community of people who inspired them. Then there’s some who believe it’s all in the stars.
Then again, maybe the right question to start with would be where did it go? There’s a lot of things in life that clam us up. There’s grief and trauma and unacknowledged behaviors. These are all good reasons to clam up. There’s a million smart reasons to stay safe in your own little shell. I’m not here to convince you either way. I’m just here to understand how to make the shift.
How to keep writing even when flooded of uncertainty
When we start writing our novels and our poems we have this grand idea. It starts in our head. Then we find different ways to get it out on paper whether writing outlines or going right in and developing the piece as we go. The process of getting from the depths of our mind onto paper is not always a walk in the park. In some divine moments stories pour out of us, those are not the times I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the stories where we have it at the tip of our tongue. Those moments that come and it seems like you can’t see which way to go next. That is exactly when uncertainty floods us with doubt. It’s not a good feeling, but great news, I’m here to help!
Let’s talk about uncertainty.
When we feel like we have no idea what’s coming in life and in writing, the first thing that hits us like a load of bricks is fear. It’s fear from loss of control. It’s fear from failure. It’s fear from looking stupid. Uncertainty floods us with all sorts of feelings, but that’s just it, they are just feelings. So when you feel uncertainty hit you like a load of bricks, it feels like the best option is to doubt success. Especially because you’re so uncertain, you don’t even know what success would look like.
Ok we’re flooded, now what?
Now you acknowledge those feelings. You take the time to accept that you have no control and you are now in unknown territory. These feelings are ok. These thoughts and feelings put us on guard and keep us safe. So let them come.
Now let’s go back to the beginning
We’re talking about writing and the uncertainty that comes with it. We’re talking about your story. So let’s think about this some more. Your story is in your hands. It’s in your complete control. So now with that shift in mindset, which isn’t always simple, we’ve gained the control we had when we started. The control that says, this is your story and you can do with it what you may.
So what next?
Think of those times when you were a child and you were most amazed by something. Whether it was an ant carrying a leaf ten times its size. Or whether it was a scene in a movie that lit your fire so much you couldn’t believe your eyes. Allow that wonder to carry you along. Surprise yourself with all the options you have to create something spectacular. And then let that magic flow into the uncertainty like a candle on the water.
The only way you fail in writing, is not writing at all. An book that sells 30 copies or 2 copies is not a failed book. No matter what the world tells you, your art is monumental. Sometimes it takes tweaking in the story, sometimes it’s marketing but always the final product is about acknowledging you and the hard work you’ve done to get where you are.
Writing wakes me up to so many things, here’s a few.
Do you write to wake up?
And no, I don’t mean in the morning. Writing in many ways shines a light on the parts of yourself that you didn’t even notice. And the lessons that come with being a writer also tend to shine a light on your flaws, whether it be procrastination, perfectionism, or fear. The entire process proves many things that you are not.
You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. ― Octavia E. Butler
While it may shine a light on what you are not, it also shines a light on all the things you’re capable of accomplishing. I’ve been working on my experimental fiction novel for over a year and I haven’t lost my fire. I’m nearing the end of my second rewrite so I will be transitioning to focus more on development of worlds and characters. Which is fun but new worlds can feel daunting. Anyhow, it feels good, the fact that writing my novel got me through one of the hardest times of my life and I’m still going with as much or maybe even more motivation as when I started. I’m a long term commitment type of person. I like friends from childhood, I like memories, and I like to have a family growing beside. So I’ve learned, writing this book is a wonderful addition to my existence. With all that being said, writing has awakened me to a trust in myself that no other occupation has gifted me.
What’s more is that spending time with my characters has really helped me look inward. I often ask myself, would I do that if I was in that situation. If the character does something I never would, I sit with that character and calculate each step which makes me realize, I’m not different from the villians in my story. Thinking about my writing, even with significant amounts of solitude, connects me with humans around the world.
“‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.’” — E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web
The writing process isn’t the only thing that wakes me up. The community I’ve gained while developing myself as a writer is a huge part of the waking up process for me. I’ve joined writing communities on every platform and I feel at home in every single one of them (except for maybe tumblr). The writing community is a culture I wish everyone could be part of. The communities wake me up to a million things; genre preference, what I’m capable of, walls worth breaking down, and grammar rules worth accepting. But my all time favorite aspect of the writing communities I follow is that I am enough. Whether I have typos, unfinished work, 10 followers or 2k followers, they are there cheering me on on every platform.
Waking up to who your are and what you’re capable is one of the most valuable things you could do while you’re breathing. I wish with all my might that someday this journey will pay our bills. While I’m traveling there, I won’t forget to reach out to other writers, to look within, and I definitely won’t forget to celebrate my milestones. Let’s keep going, shall we?
Anyone moderately familiar with the rigours of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote and it seemed good; read and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in; was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good nights and bad mornings; snatched at ideas and lost them; saw his book plain before him and it vanished; acted people’s parts as he ate; mouthed them as he walked; now cried; now laughed; vacillated between this style and that; now preferred the heroic and pompous; next the plain and simple; now the vales of Tempe; then the fields of Kent or Cornwall; and could not decide whether he was the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world. ― Virginia Woolf, Orlando
Just a little note: If you’re a writer looking for writing groups to be part of, reach out to me on Instagram at @jayne_press and I’ll try my best to guide you in the right direction. Happy Awakening fellow Writers.