In 2018, my writing dreams were three seconds away from dying. Three years later, lessons I’m going to tell you saved my writing from dying.
When I began blogging, my first gig paid $1.5/hour. My blog had 200 email subscribers. I sent drafts to clients, and I never heard from them. I would send drafts to publications and I would receive a rejection note in my email. I came to my partner on the verge of tears, saying I wanted to quit many times because my writing was rejected. The feelings of insecurity I had could fill an entire book.
When I practiced the following lessons, the rejections became approvals. Never hearing from clients again became a high-paying, long-term retainers. And the feelings of insecurity became a steadily growing sense of self-assurance.
I hope these 4 lessons can help you save your writing from dying.
1. The laundry can get done later, not your writing.
One of my friends wants to write. But she doesn’t write. Not even a 200-word blog post. She waits and waits and waits until a spare time (she has a full-time job and takes care of her family) knocks on her front door.
Waiting for a time when all things in your life are in order kills your creativity.
We make space for many things in our daily lives.
Why not make a space for your creative work? The only thing you need to do is to reverse the order of your priorities.
Like I did.
When I started blogging, I had a full-time job and personal life. I had no time to write. One day I realized the price I was paying for this: a low-grade form of despair.
I reversed the order of my priorities. I would write first, which required something I once considered impossible: not making the bed, ignoring an overflowing laundry hamper, and a sink full of dirty dishes. I jumped over the shoes left in the middle of my living room floor to get to my desk. I used to tell myself I would write when all things in my life are in order. Now I know that to write I just need to make space for my creativity. And, eureka. It’s the laundry that can get done later, not my writing.
This is how I found time to publish nearly 1000 articles on my blog and medium in three years.
For you, substitute laundry for anything that postpones your writing. Maybe you’re postponing writing until you reach your 30s or 40s or 50s. Maybe you’re waiting until you develop thick skin to accept rejections. Until you read enough books to become an excellent writer. Until a certain creativity revelation touches your pen.
Confidence as a writer comes not from “pumping yourself up” with hypey self-motivation or waiting until you’re ready, but from actually creating.
You have time for any creative work you want to create.
Make space. Make space for what you love.
2. Don’t get in a war with fear of creativity.
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
You get a terrific writing idea. The thrill feels like you’re falling off a cliff. But then fear creeps in and whispers, “This is going to end in your horrible, bloody death.”
For most of us, creativity cannot take a single step forward without fear marching right alongside it. Fear always barges in when you try to create because creativity asks you to try something new, and you don’t know what the outcome will be. Fear’s job is to make you doubt your creative potential. And you shut your creativity down.
Nothing cripples your creativity as fear does.
I’ve learned instead of fighting fear, allow it to enter your creativity room. Make space for it. Don’t fight it. Don’t get in a war with it.
People who see me create consistently think I’m a daredevil. I’m not. They think fear has vanished from my creativity room. Nothing is further from the truth. Fear still creeps in every time I sit in front of my computer. Fear never goes away. It’s just that I let curiosity in and fear sleeps in the bottom of my bed.
That’s a cool way to make peace with the fear of creativity.
You don’t have to be 100% brave, daring, and confident. You just have to be a tiny, tiny bit more interested in creating something than you are frightened of it. It has helped me to become a professional writer. And it will help you too.
3. The peskiest interruptions come from inside you.
They sound like your life (have you run the dishwater? Have you called the client back? Have you cleaned out your email?) Or they sound like your insecurities (This sucks. Your writing sucks. This idea sucks. You suck.)
If you want to save your writing from dying, push aside every interruption.
Do me a favor and copy the next paragraph somewhere you can see and be reminded of what writing is about.
Writing is more about repetition than it is about inspiration. Writing is more about discipline than it is about creativity. It is more about practice than it is about talent.
4. Every second spent looking at an ideal or an idol can be better spent.
The first time I published an article on the web, I was terrified my creative work would fail spectacularly. Every writer I read was better than me. My idols wrote beautiful words. I couldn’t even write one good sentence.
The more I looked at other successful writers, the worse I did.
I learned when I focused on my work, my writing skills improved. I had to determine what worked for me, regardless of what worked for other writers. I stopped comparing myself to others when I understood every second spent looking at other writers would be better spent working on my writing skills.
When you measure your accomplishments as a writer, don’t put them against an ideal or an idol.
You may in fact surpass everything your idol ever accomplished. Will that make you feel awesome? No, because your focus will shift to something new that’s out of reach.
What works is comparing what you wrote this year to what you wrote last year, or where your writing skills were five years ago.
That can tell you how far you’ve come.
The above 4 lessons have one thing in common. You’re not supposed to leave your writing on its own. You’re supposed to show up for your writing. You’re supposed to see your writing as a plant you’ve planted in your garden. You see to its development. You take care of it. You cherish it.
Your creative work needs an action you choose to take — so that it can be kept alive and flourished.