Monday, June 23, 2014

Write Like You Mean It: How to Escape the "Hobby" Lobby

Since last Monday, I've heard from several writers applauding Kim's excellent exercise for exorcising doubts (see: Introducing the Doubt Box).

Suzanne Fluhr had this to say about it:
...[M]y husband views my writing as a hobby (I'm a recovering lawyer). This makes it more difficult for me to see it as more than a hobby even though it feels like it deserves a weightier descriptor. I'm going to find a big ol' doubt box and banish my doubts there. Thanks for sharing this idea.
Doubt Box notwithstanding, Suzanne's "hobby" comment resonated with me. Like a big, thundering, bring-out-your-dead gong.

A hobby is a creative way to pass the time...
Ah, yes, the "hobby" label. Are you as familiar with that particular bete noir as I?

I'm guilty of telling myself that something as enjoyable as writing (no matter how much the words make me wrestle with them, I thoroughly enjoy the process) must somehow be self-indulgent, and must therefore take a back seat to things like laundry... and making meals... and running errands... and saying "yes" to whatever friends need when they call and begin a conversation with "since you don't have a real job..."

Not long ago, the realization that I had no problem making it a priority to finish clients' writing projects, but continually put my own on the back burner, smacked me upside the creative head.

Appalled at how cavalier I was toward my own writing, I resolved to allow myself to value my creative endeavors more highly. To schedule non-negotiable time for them in my week. To make my writing a priority.

Then I read about Charlie Munger selling himself the best hour of his day, elevating his personal pursuits and putting them on a par with his paying clients, giving himself permission to validate his own interests. That resonated enormously with me. I took a page from Mr. Munger's playbook and resolved that, for at least three days a week, I would dedicate the best, most creative part of my day to my own project.

... but writing well takes WORK.
Yes, client work still gets done. Yes, life still encroaches. (When, for instance, one's mother falls and fractures bones in her face and is life-flighted to a distant hospital, one's creativity suffers a setback.) But, barring emergencies, that time is MINE. Not mine to do with as I please. Not at all. I guard it jealously. That time is mine to work on my current Pet Writing Project.

I do not squander the time on social media, or answering email, or even answering texts or phone calls. I do not do laundry. I do not run errands. I do not clean, or cook, or do any of the thousand and one things I have allowed to distract me in the past. I am "on the clock," so to speak, and I do my darndest to make the most of it.

The payoff of the decision to stop treating my writing like a guilty pleasure was immediate. I now approach the day with my Pet Project at the top of my to-do list -- and, as a result, have made more progress on this project in the past three months than I have in the past three years. God willing, it will be finished by the end of July. And that, I don't mind telling you, feels goooooooood.

Paying myself the best part of my day has allowed me to banish the "hobby" doubt permanently. For the next two months, I challenge you to make your writing a priority and pay yourself in a similar manner. Kim and I would love to hear what happens when you do.

Here's granting you permission to fully embrace your writing aspirations!

Onward and upward!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Introducing The Doubt Box

Last night kicked off the Summer, 2014, #Write2TheEnd Writers Workshop in St. Joseph, Michigan. We met the writers who had signed up, learned what their goals are for the next eight weeks, and discussed initial strategies for achieving those goals.

(At #W2TE, every participant who meets his or her self-determined goal by the end of the workshop receives $100. Co-facilitator Kim Jorgensen Gane and I are committed to doing everything in our power to help participants get that hundred bucks.)

I'm the Roll-Up-Your-Sleeves, No Excuses, Get To Work type. I love to present writers with tools for organizing their content, improving their productivity, and making the creative process easier.

In a sense, I'm the Activities Organizer. But Kim is the Emotional Core. Case in point:

How big must it be to hold all your doubts?
When we were preparing our presentations, Kim mentioned an exercise she had planned. She brought out a lovely, little blue box with a hinged lid. "This is the Doubt Box," she told me. "I'm going to have people to write out the doubts that are holding them back on the project they want to finish. Then they'll divest themselves of those doubts and put them in the box for the duration of the workshop."

I did not laugh. But I am a lousy actor, and "You've got to be kidding" must have shown clearly on my face.

"What?" said Kim. "Don't you like the Doubt Box?"

"It's not that I don't like it," I told her. "Exercises like that -- touchy-feely things -- just don't resonate with me. But that doesn't make them less valid. So, by all means, hit them with the Doubt Box. Oh, and by the way, can we burn the doubts at the end of the workshop? I can get into that. Because... fire!"

Kim humored me and nodded. So I am totally looking forward to the Doubt Flambe of the final session. But I digress...

Don't carry your doubts with you.
They'll weigh you down as you venture into the unknown.
During our first session, Kim talked about the importance of writers allowing themselves to see themselves as artists. Of claiming creative time and jealously guarding it against the vagaries of life. (No, she didn't use the word "vagaries." I'm paraphrasing.) She talked about the realities of unpublished writers sometimes seeing their work as frivolous, or themselves as frauds.

Then she brought out the Doubt Box.

As soon as she mentioned it and named it, before she'd even had a chance to fully explain her plan for it, our wonderful #Write2TheEnd participants grabbed pen and paper and began writing. They got it. Immediately.

The Doubt Box quickly accumulated pieces of paper -- each one a doubt that was weighing someone down, keeping that person from charging into the fray and tackling the writing endeavor that fed her soul. As the Doubt Box filled, the participants grew noticeably more positive -- more ready to get to work.

This. This is what #Write2TheEnd is all about. It's about finding ways to help writers commit to a project they love. It's about networking with others who share similar goals, but who may not have the same core approach as you. It's about being willing to divest yourself of doubts, and get writing.

What doubts are weighing you down? You can put them in a Doubt Box of your own. Share them below, then let them go. Put them in the comment box, and get them off of your back and out of your mind!