My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Monday, February 25, 2013

It's Really Okay Not to Write. Really. Part IV

A picture of a pencil?
Man, you know this guy knows what he's talking about!

Intro and Part 1- The Journey Begins

Part 2- Chesslectric Boogaloo

Part 3- The Search for Sporadic

Part IV 

Live Free or Write Hard


You Don't Have to Get "Good" at the Things That Bring You Pleasure 

Do you enjoy writing?  Does it bring pleasure, fulfillment, and possibly even meaning to your life?  Do you do it when you like it and not worry about it when you don't.  Does the act of writing cause a catharsis and the finished product create a sense of self worth?  Do dopamine and seratonin receptors light up like a Christmas tree when you bring pigment to paper (or pixel to screen)?

Great.  You can go home now and stop worrying about getting "good."

Full stop.  

Seriously, that's it; the article is over.

You're still here?  It's over.  Go home.  Go.

#eightiesmovies #beforepostcreditsestereggswerecool #ironichashtags   #isntitkindofironicthecharacterthatcharliesheenplayedinthatmovie

You haven't left yet...?

OH FINE!  Let's unpack it.....a little.

One of the biggest complaints that people who enjoy writing have about the advice of famous writers is that if they take it that seriously, it will start to take the enjoyment away from the writing.  Whenever I hear this complaint I always think the same thing: it's a little like that joke: "Doctor it hurts when I do this!" "Don't do that."

If you don't like turning something enjoyable into a commitment, the solution is very simple: don't do that.  It's not brain surgery.

Seriously.  Fuck.  Just don't do that.

Pictured: what you don't have to turn this into.
What those writers are most often responding to is people who want to be like them.  People who want to emulate their success.  People who want to be Writers (capital W), write for a living, or possibly even make a name for themselves.  They have been asked the recipe for "success."  If you dig through famous writers (not published authors, but actually household name type writers) you're going to find that the number of dilettantes is basically zero.  Fitzgerald nailed it without doing a lot of work (he was actually a pretty fly writer), but he's almost the only one.  Everyone else works their writerly little ass off.

Lots of people enjoy things that they don't work hard on.  They're called hobbies.  People play video games without becoming the national champion.  People read without trying to become a speed reading champion or getting a literature major.  People listen to Richard Dawkins and Neil DeGrass Tyson without getting degrees in science.  People play instruments without practicing enough to be in the London Philharmonic.  People play sports on the weekend without putting in the hours of a professional athlete.  People jog for fun and fitness without working hard to improve their time.  It's just plain possible to enjoy the fuck out of something without ever working hard to become great at it.

Get over it.

Seriously, if you don't want to put in the time and effort to get really good at writing that is absolutely okay.  Really.

If you enjoy writing at the level you're doing it, you win.  Have a trophy!  That's it.  Endgame.  That's all there is to it.  There isn't anything else.  Enjoy your spoils.

Fulfillment?  Meaning? Purpose?
You totally win at art!
If, however, you want to pull a paycheck, be well known for your skill, or make writing your job, you might have to do...you know...JOB-LIKE STUFF.  Just sayin.  You might have to learn to do the parts you don't like.  You might have to try to get better at things.  You might have to practice.  But if you just like writing in a casual way, it's okay to write in a casual way.  You'll get better over time.  But you will take a lot longer to log in your 10,000 hours than someone sitting down to four hours a day who makes an effort to practice what they're not already good at.  And if that's okay with you, then enjoy.


If you're writing to get rich or famous there are better ways.  (So so so many better ways.) If you're writing because you're obsessed with it like people all through history become obsessed with the perfection of craft and art, then do the parts that aren't rainbow unicorn orgasms and make yourself as fucking good you can possibly be.  If you're doing it to be happy (not happy in the sense of a job you love with some shitty parts to it but something that you only do when and because it feels good), then you can stop the second it stops making you happy.

And really....that's all there is to it.  If you don't like writing to feel like a chore, just do it for fun.  Of course, complaining that you're not a successful novelist is a deal breaker, so you have to knock that shit off.  But if you can handle that prerequisite, go ahead and only write when you enjoy it.



(Except for the next part which is here:  Part 5--The Expense Strikes Back)