Get A New Story: Just Do The Writing

In my Writer’s Circle, what we see more often than not is that those who write regularly are more productive, have more frequent creative thoughts, and struggle less with their writing.

Binge-writers, on the other hand, tend to struggle more with writer’s block, self-doubt, and creative burnout.

Writing regularly, however, like many other good habits, is easier when we keep going. It’s when we stop that things start going sideways. Resistance, procrastination, fear, and self-doubt bubble up to the surface pretty much the minute we unplug or put down the pen.

Turns out, inertia is both your greatest ally and most villainous foe.

The nature of inertia

Inertia is “a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.” In physics terms, it means “a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.”

In other words, if you keep writing, you are more likely to keep writing and find it easier to do so. If you stop writing, you are more likely to remain at a standstill.

This also means when you stop writing regularly, it requires a greater effort to begin again.

The insidious quality of resistance

And it doesn’t take long, does it? Just a day or two off from writing and your inner resistance barometer creeps up over the threshold to where you’ve slipped back into procrastination without even noticing. Suddenly it seems completely reasonable to organize your files, check your email before you start writing, or quickly drop by Facebook or Twitter to “warm up.” Only then 2 hours go by and what happened to the script?

Oops.

And that’s just the garden variety stuff.

Life’s greater challenges

What do we do when faced by greater personal difficulties that throw us off our game, like the death of a loved one, a frightening medical diagnosis, a betrayal from a spouse, or some other heartbreak?

Do we stop writing? Or carry on?

When I was confronted with a painful personal situation late this summer that shifted more responsibilities onto my shoulders along with a great deal of emotional stress, the little thought, “I might have to give up writing,” came sneaking into my head. I quickly smashed it back with a resounding, “NO!”

You see, writing regularly — writing at all — is so hard won for me that the notion of giving it up for any reason is somewhat terrifying.

I spent wasted YEARS dragging my feet over writing. When I was in a car accident two and a half years ago, this inner voice had been saying to me, “Write like your life depends on it.” You better believe I got serious about writing pretty quick after that cosmic two-by-four whacked me upside the head and told me it was time to write.

So having a personal disaster strike, though it was a tempting lure to surrender to complacency and resistance, sent me running in the opposite direction: To a fiercer commitment and determination to follow that inner guidance to the letter.

Keep calm and carry on

In one of my favorite posts from Steven Pressfield, “Personal Anguish,” he says:

“What happens to us as artists when our personal lives crash and burn? When we’ve lost our spouses or our homes or our minds; when we’ve been betrayed or, worse, betrayed someone else; when it’s three in the morning and sunrise feels like it’s never going to come?

“Here’s my experience: some of my best work has been done when my personal life was in chaos.

“This seems to make no sense. How can we do good work when it’s all we can do to keep from checking into Bellevue? But we can. Weird as it seems, internal catastrophe never hurt an artist or an entrepreneur.

“The Muse, it seems, is a hardcore kinda gal.”

Writing becomes your home

“For a man who no longer has a homeland, writing becomes a place to live.” ~Theodor Adorno

When faced with my own misfortunes this year, I unknowingly rediscovered Steven Pressfield’s wisdom for myself. And more beyond that. Writing became my solace. It represented my commitment to my self, my work, and my dreams no matter what someone else might create in my life. As my Writer’s Circle members can attest, I wrote everyday (at least 6 days a week) for 15 minutes a day, just to stay connected to the story, to the work.

It has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

And I’ve never been more proud of myself for doing this work.

Over the last 11 weeks (including taking time off for a wrist surgery), in just 15 minutes a day, I’ve written 55 pages of my current screenplay. It’s been confidence-building and inspiring to see what I can do in the face of crushing emotional challenges and personal obstacles in very little time.

Yes, that’s less than a page per day. And, it’s 55 pages more than I would have written were I not writing at all.

Become a writing warrior

In his chapter, “Play Hurt” from Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield says:

“Has your husband just walked out on you? Has your El Dorado been respossessed?

“Keep writing.

“Keep composing.

“Keep shooting film.

“Athletes play hurt. Warriors fight scared.”

Is there a time to rest?

My working theory is this: Take time off from writing, and play hard. But have a plan for how you’ll get back on the writing bandwagon after you’ve vacationed or rested, so the resistance doesn’t catch you off guard. But when it comes to life’s bumps in the road, write.

Just write.

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3 thoughts on “Get A New Story: Just Do The Writing

  1. Tarl

    Creative writing is enjoyable for me. I spend my employed hours as a technical writer – formatting and re-wording. Those skills have definitely helped me in my creative pursuits, but they are not nearly as satisfying as seeing something come to life on the page.
    There is a strong perfectionist streak in me. I have to look to my sketchbook and ground myself. If I want perfection, then I draw a circle. Anything else is an approximation, a symbol, or an opinion. This has helped me in my drafts. They’re not perfect, but they are my voice, and I am exploring. I know that each draft is going to make the story better. I go into it like a sketch. I have to put down a bunch of lines in the wrong place to get the shape so that I can put down the few lines in the right place.
    The journey in writing is more important than the destination, because I am writing foremost for me, but also for those who come after – those who will read these words. They are on a journey with me, and they plan on learning something, too.

  2. Jenna AveryJennaAvery Post author

    Leona, Thanks for commenting. Yes — getting right back into writing is key. I love the quote! It reminds me of Pressfield’s Turning Pro — such a defining moment to commit to writing no matter what. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Leona Heraty

    Hi Jenna,

    Well said! It’s so true that we must soldier on, despite life’s diffulties, and keep up the wonderful habit of writing most of the time. After we take a break from writing to recharge our energy and creativity, we must also have the wonderful habit of getting right back into writing ASAP, without taking too much time off. I’d like to share with you and the other writers one of my favorite quotes about writing from one of my favorite authors:

    “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”
    ? Agatha Christie

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