Be a Pro for one hour
When I used to work a forty-hour-a-week job and could only write in my spare time, I often thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could write full-time … instead of squeezing in an hour here and an hour there?”
Guess what? I am writing full-time and it’s true … I can still only squeeze in an hour here and an hour there.
My friend “David” is a bestselling thriller writer. His work schedule is even more screwed up than mine. He has a wife and three kids. He’s active in politics, he works for charities, he has networks of friends he mentors and assists …
Between podcasts (some where he’s the guest, others where he’s the host) and promotional activities, ZOOM calls, talks, recording sessions, consulting on a TV series being made from his books, co-branding with various products he endorses, etc. etc., David is lucky if he can find an hour a day to actually sit down and write.
And because he’s on the road half the year, most of that writing time takes place at tables in Starbucks or Peet’s or The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.
In other words, the full-time-artist’s life is not that different from yours and mine.
I’ll bet it’s the same for filmmakers and choreographers, comedians, actors, photographers, not to mention start-up entrepreneurs, non-profit CEOs, and deep-sea-diving camerawomen filming great while sharks off the coast of Australia.
Let us be of good cheer then.
Even if we’re working a full-time job, waitressing, driving an Uber, juggling kids and ex-husbands and all the other heartaches and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, we’re in the same boat with many, many full-time, big-name professional artists and entrepreneurs.
They don’t have any more time than we do. Therefore, let us take courage. Let us resolve:
We can be pros for an hour a day.
(Maybe even two hours.)
We can carve out the time just like the heavy hitters do.
We can be full-time writers for an hour a day.
Oh, this is good. A bolt of truth, and a shot in the arm.
This has set me thinking about John Cleese’s brilliant thoughts in his entertaining talk (https://youtu.be/Pb5oIIPO62g).
So, there’s open and closed mode thinking. Task-orientated time is ‘closed mode’. Focussed. Left-brain. Which is great for editing a piece of writing, but creativity happens only during ‘open mode’, where we’ve left the stress and distraction of the temporal world behind for a while. This needs both time (the hour that Steve mentions) and space (corner table in a cafe, the back of your car, the local library). It also needs time in the sense that you must give the Muse a chance to work her spell, and not make creative decisions with too much haste or finality – keep your options open. So, get into open mode as swiftly as possible, by habit, force of will or humour (I find sunshine and a cup tea assists me) then get that creative work done.
It took Cleese’s insight for me to finally understand why I could write effectively in a cafe or a train to/from work, but never at home, surrounded by the insistent debris of living.
Making the writing habitual too, that’s the thing. (James Clear, BJ Fogg). To turn pro. Aargh.
Yep, I need to get that hour or two done today. I struggle here because I’m accustomed to writing anonymously in cafes, quietly in a corner, but the lockdown here in the UK put paid to that about a million years ago. Still, they’re reopening soon. Maybe some more thoughts later.
I’m stealing this line, “..surrounded by the insistent debris of living!” I LOVE IT!!! BRILLIANT!
Good thoughts, will catch the video later. I also like the clear distinction between left/right brain production.
John Cleese… of course, he’s shown himself a comic genius (rephrasing to note “he HAS a comic genius”), but I love seeing examples like his — where one might initially take him to be a comic actor (“a clown”), but then recognize the depth of intellect that’s present there, his breadth of reading.
“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.”
Creativity as putting oneself in a mindset of ‘play.’ To be childlike and playful.
I love how he alternates the “how many xx to change a light bulb” jokes with the serious business of his message.
14:45: “You have to create your space for a specific period of time.”
16:15: His rant PERFECTLY demonstrates Resistance working its devious sh!t underneath the surface.
22:45: Confidence. “Nothing will stop you from being creative so effectively as fear of making a mistake.” Dammit… there’s Resistance with a capital “R” again.
I like how y’all Brits pronounce van Gogh as “van Goff.”
28:22: “I think it’s easier to be creative if you have other people to play with.” Maybe that’s what’s happening here in this space.
30:15: Woman’s survey of airline pilots. Humor or creativity as connecting separate ideas in a way that creates new meaning. Herein lies the “stealing” metaphor from last week.
How he ends this is genius, too. His advice to management on how to choke and kill creativity. Funny, in its way.
There’s a fine line between genius and madness Joe. I think I’m somewhere on the border! I’ve been coming to this blog for some years. When I recognise the lack of depth in my work, I come by here and it points me back on track.
Right now, in Liverpool, UK, I am being forced by the Inland revenue to fill in my taxes. It’s 4 am in the morning and as an act of defiance, instead of doing my tax return, I’m stretching my creative rights! To keep me on the creative path, I have a habit I follow religiously each day; I make sure I break at least one rule. I may park somewhere I shouldn’t; I may tell the truth even though I shouldn’t; I may choose the most disagreeable stranger to talk to; Or spend time on a blog among complete strangers being honest and not caring about what anyone thinks; I may talk a load of rubbish, and it doesn’t matter.
Do you think the HMRC will accept a poem about an unfortunate spider called George with 5 legs, in exchange for the tax that I owe them? It’s a very nice poem, and I have a drawing in blue crayon if they haggle?
Thanks for sharing the John Cleese link. It certainly gave me some ‘lightbulb’ moments of insight!
May the end of Spring and Summer in the UK have plenty of sunshine and cups of tea to make up for lost time! Cheers
Thank you for the John Cleese clip – fantastic!
I think you’ve touched on this before, and I always love being reminded of it.
I’ve been working freelance for 20 years, and when employed my “day job” has me clocking 60-80 hours a week. I can only write on the weekends. When unemployed I fastidiously write every day.
In either case, I clock in about 2 hours a session. Then I run out of gas. When I have tons of free time I feel supremely guilty about this, of course. When I have no time I feel pretty chuffed: “I squeezed in 2 hours on a Saturday!”
I think most of my real writing happens in the shower regardless.
P.S. I picked up a copy of “The Writer’s Journey” per your suggestion—-this thing is a door stopper! Any chance you can condense its premise into a JAB? Like I said I work 60-80 hours a week ….
Sam, that’s a great book. Really interesting and compelling, and on point for writers. But make sure you also read ‘The Virgin’s Promise’ by Kim Hudson, which is a feminine version. Vogler wrote the foreword, and clearly accepts it as an essential counterpoint to his book. It’s also much shorter.
Hey thanks for the suggestion Peter hadn’t heard of it.
The muse is always waiting to perform. Beat the Resistance! Thanks
Sam… I looked up The Writer’s Journey on Amazon and found some “doorstop metrics” on that title:
407 pages and 1.48 lbs.
I’m looking up Infinite Jest and seeing that book coming in at 1047 page and 2.42 lbs. Picturing David Foster Wallace in the great beyond, saying, “Keep typing, Vogler. You’ll get there.”
I appreciate the stats Joe. When my wife brought in the Amazon package it dropped on the dining room table with a thud. “What did you order?!” “Uhhhh…I think that’s a book…”
I once picked up Infinite Jest in a bookstore, flipped through it, and then put it back down. It was very heavy …. that’s as far as I’ve gotten with that particular title.
Sam… 60-80 hours per week sounds heavy. You must have a lot of discipline, my friend.
This is so true. And if you keep at it you will produce something. Turning Pro helped with that. This post addresses the reality. Just keep at. Just keep going over your work again and again. And if you’re doing that, you’re living the life of dream of.
It is so encouraging
Thanks for JUST DO IT input!
These are my favorite kinds of posts.
In other words: The Path is Suffering. Find your time!
Author and columnist Connie Schultz has a practice that I have started. She lights a tea light candle and writes until it burns down. This both sets the space as a dedicated writing space and the time – about an hour. Works for me
I like it, Jackie. You’re making me think about getting a 60-minute hourglass: https://www.amazon.com/Hourglass-Minutes-White-Wooden-Sandglass/dp/B07FC69D58
Joe, I’m not sure about that. Too much pressure to create, perhaps. I’d end up just watching it. ‘Look at the pretty grains falling….’
Which reminds me of “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” ~Douglas Adams.
Thumbs up, Bev, on the Douglas Adams quote. I also like: “I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t know the answer.”
Peter: I can see your point on the pressure. I’ve got a clock in my office that will give you a digital “tick-tock-tick-tock” sound effect, if you want it. I tried it, and it drove me bat-sh!t. And I too could get caught up with watching it rain.
Thanks, as always, for the encouragement, Steve, clearing the path forward.
This post obviously really struck a chord as there were already 9 posts when I read this at 0705 PST this morning.
I don’t know how it is that Steve seems to know the correct timing for his truth bombs to match my own internal/external battles. My life has recently gotten MUCH busier. To the degree that I realized that it has been a minute (25 years or so stateside, 15 years since combat) since I’m really had to WORK HARD, and those muscles and attitude had atrophied a bit.
My initial response to this new tempo (learning code, (my own choice for numerous reasons), serious traction with employment agency component of my company, event planning for upcoming fundraiser, yard work with change of seasons–and increase in domestic responsibilities since retirement) was by dropping a few balls, shooting out some stray voltage at those closest to me–basically being a child (or amateur) — until I recognized this opportunity to re-find those ‘HARD WORK’ muscles.
I have begun to look at my present situation with gratitude, and seeing as my latest deployment. It will not last forever, and I’m actually much more productive when I don’t have as much time. I need to plan it like I planned operations oversees. VERY CAREFULLY, DOWN TO THE MINUTE.
Peter mentioned the ‘..surrounded by the insistent debris of living…’ which has always distracted me away from any true production at home. The COVID response forced me to respond differently to the what I have always thought of as the ‘screaming domestic responsibilities’ that surround me at home.
This post is a continual reminder. It is also a similar feeling I get when I attended church, or meet with a group of men we named “Field Grade Men’s group” to do PT, eat chow, and talk about real life matters. I feel better after reading the ‘sermon’ from Steve, then the feeling of connection I get when reading the other posts and responding myself.
I’m again renewed, and will find an hour today to work on my own creative endeavors.
Oh, one piece of unsolicited advise. I found the Bullet Journal to be the most effective method I have ever found to keep me on task, stay true to my highest values/goals, and to wrestle back a sense of agency/control in my life. I highly encourage anyone to check it out. : https://bulletjournal.com/
Likewise, B. Love coming in here and seeing all the great comments. People’s ideas and perspectives sparking, the steel of each individual against the flint of that particular week’s essay.
Interesting insight into Jack Carr.
Cover = blown.
I needed to read this today! Thanks again for the inspiration, Steven! Resistance has a way of lying to me. Telling me I’m not doing enough because I have to work full-time in a job that isn’t related to creating music. I can still get “the work” done. This has inspired me!
Good music on your YT channel, Kate. You’ve got a great voice.
Thank you, Joe! I shared this blog with a friend of mine that’s been helping me with my music lately. No sooner did I return to see this lovely note from you. Thanks for taking the time to comment–means a lot!!
I subscribed to your channel, Kate.
Thanks Joe!!! I appreciate the support!
Oh yes, Kate, that’s lovely music you’ve created. I think I have a new favourite singer-songwriter…
Thanks for listening and commenting Peter!! I appreciate the feedback!
Gotta echo Peter and Joe. Not only is your voice beautiful, the imagery and music are stunning. I am pressed for time, but wanted to tell you how powerful that video was!
You might find this to be an odd statement. I went to the Defense Language Institute 30 years ago to study Russian. Just like taking a drink with a fire-hose! It was the hardest academic experience of my life-puure rote learning. Here’s what baffled me for years. Those who played an instrument, were ‘fluent’ in music, studied half the time and were the top graduates. It was hard, generally about a 50% attrition rate, but the musicians sailed through it.
So, another interesting data point (at least to me). When one learns their first foreign language (we call this L2 in the biz), L3, L4, L5 (additional new foreign languages) can we acquired in 1/2 to 1/3 of the time.
Center for Advanced Study of Language gave me those numbers…at the time I was building some new training approaches for language study in the Army. I was all up in the cognitive neuroscience of learning, neural pathways, myelin production, etc–a very reductionist approach.
About 15 years ago, I was a guest speaker for a Veteran’s Day celebration at a high school. The band and choir played before I spoke–and it FINALLY HIT ME! Music is the only international language. How is it that I was one of 80,000 holding up a lighter listening to Steve Perry belt out a tune? Was it because of his choice of English words describing love? I don’t think so. The lyrics, and his terrific voice are only part of it. It was all of Journey blending the music that moved me–to this very day.
Posting your own songs on a public site like this takes GADS of courage. It heightens my day to witness such bravery–and talent! Courage seems to be in such short supply these days that every single act I witness–whether bold or quiet–I want to fan it, encourage it, and wish my deepest belief in your efforts to you.
Very well done!
I must have read your comment 2-3 times already this morning. I want to extend a heartfelt thank you for the last paragraph. I copy & paste comments like this into my inspiration journal that I file away on my desktop for the days where I am a puddle of nerves and tears. My artist’s journey has been like the Anais Nin quote, “the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I had reached a point in my life where I was miserable if I wasn’t singing and creating. A lifelong sufferer of resistance (mine manifests as social anxiety, overthinking, avoidance, and isolation), I started not giving a beep what others thought (circa 2019) and started to write my songs for ME. I’ve written a lot of crap that had to be fertlizer for the better stuff. I was just discussing this with a jazz composer and professor that I look up to–I lamented, “will I EVER be happy with what I write?!”
I’ve known in my heart that I wanted to sing since I was a little girl. It just took me decades to admit it to myself. My sister gave me a copy of The War of Art several years ago. It changed my entire perspective on how I viewed creating songs. Some of my other favorites from Pressfield are The Warrior Ethos and Nobody Wants to Read Your Shhhhh. I started to look at creating as a competition between my light and dark selves. You know the Cherokee parable about the wolves? I was feeding the dark wolf my entire life. When I am exhausted and depressed. He comes back. I view my songs as a sword–slay the demons!! LOL
Your thoughts on languages are fascinating. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment on music being a universal language. Music is expressed in every culture in diverse ways. We are all music makers in some way. We all contribute. I’m inspired everyday by things people do or say.
My “day job” is a foreign language coordinator for a small business. Russian is a beautiful language and culture! One of my favorite interpreters/translators to work with is Latvian–she even talked me into getting Russian felt boots this past winter!!!
I’ll close my reply with a virtual lighter in the air, trying to mimic the golden voice that only belongs to Steve Perry, “don’t stop believin’, hold on to that feeling”.
This is a great thread, Brian and Kate.
I like the Anais Nin quote, “The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
It’s interesting to observe how music and good writing have things in common. Harmonies, themes, acts/movements, lyricism. Lines that evoke emotion. We refer to a piece of writing that really works: “It sings.”
On the topic of “writing as music,” I came across this today:
That’s a cool visual to go along with your “it sings” reply 🙂
Your post gave me a toothy grin and watery eyes as I read this while walking my dogs.
Your music is the slayer of demons. I believe you are more correct than most of us know. It is joy, hope, optimism, love, expression, faith pushing against the atrophy of life, the skepticism and cynicism of fear, the violence and wickedness of past pain/trauma/suffering—it is the light vaporizing the darkness—if only momentarily.
Made me think of 1Cor13 which Steve redrew to everyone’s consciousness with “A Man at Arms”. Verse 11 specifically had me stunned for a while, “when I was a child, I spake as a child….when I became a man, I put the ways of a child behind me.”
I thought about this for months. It seems to come out of left field in that verse. Here is what I think Paul—almost shrugging, thinking, “what am I trying to say here…”
For what it’s worth, my interpretation: Despite all the damn evidence to the contrary—Love is the only mature response to the world. Love is not a teenage crush. It is not the warm feelings of oxytocin when hugged. It is brave, it is hard, it is a choice. It is work. It is self sovereignty and integrity. It is selfless…it is creating music in SPITE of the fear. It is a weapon to slay those demons.
Kate, your post stood out to me. One day a couple years ago I was on a hike trying to shake off a really dark mood. One of those “the writing isn’t going well, I am a deluded imposter” days. And this random song comes on my Apple music and it just sort of transports me for 3 minutes. So I play it again, and again and again throughout the hike, and finished it feeling completely renewed.
I get home and look up the artist. Her latest Instagram post is a rant about how she’s ready to give up, no one gives a sh*t about her music, nobody is buying the album, she’s on the verge of throwing in the towel. The post was almost a year old and she hadn’t posted anything after.
I sent her a message expressing my enjoyment of the song but never heard back.
She had done her job. She had sung her song and it had reached my ears and made my time on earth a little better for having heard it. There’s no way she could know the song she had licensed to Apple music had done that for someone. But, it did. We need your music. Please keep making it!
Sam Luna — thank you! I am sure your message meant a lot to the artist. When her heart is open to music again, I guarantee she thinks about comments like yours. In fact, I know she does. She may be going through writer’s block right now or taking a break. Phil Collins said it best–“you become a slave to the thing (creating music)”. I’ve always told myself I would rather have my songs mean the world to one person than have thousands of listeners that just think, “meh, it’s good”. Another one of my dreams is that a young girl hears my music and realizes she can do it–whatever that may be to her. There’s a specific age group that is dear to my heart. For a woman, it is that precious time around age 14-24 when you’re coming of age. They need just 1 person to believe in them. To care and validate who they truly are, not who others want them to be. My dream is a lyric or a feeling from my music sparks something in them to dream again.
I like what Peter said below–learning to discriminate against fear and trusting yourself. Btw Peter–I am right there with you. I try to look at it as a journey and not a destination. I am much better than where I came from, but I still have a lonnnnnnnnnnng way to go.
Brian–you are right about love! Love as a verb–what it truly means to love others. It is a choice. It is work. For those of us that struggle with self-love, it is the hardest chore of the day.
Well said!! This comment page is amazing to read, btw. There’s so much going on.
Something I love about this space is that people are here as equals. It doesn’t matter if a person has published two dozen books, three books, a few magazine articles, essays and poetry on their blogs, or is still struggling with the vulnerability of putting their words or music or ideas out there for others to see.
It’s “Let US take courage.” It’s “WE can be pros.” It’s “The full-time-artist’s life is not that different from YOURS and mine.” It’s “Let US be of good cheer then.” It’s people being welcomed into the arena. No easy answers. No tips, no hacks, no shortcuts, but being welcomed onto the playing field.
This may seem like a non sequitur, but I think there is a connection. Last week, a friend sent me this video: a talk given at Stanford by mythologist and author Michael Meade. The topic is “The Nature of Genius,” and follows the same threads as Steve’s discussions of the “daimon” — exploring this attendant spirit of divinity that’s within each of us, call it a genius or a daimon, guiding us toward our purpose for being here. While watching, I thought that this was something the folks in WW would relate to.
Summarizing: Each one of us comes into existence here with SOME gift or gifts we’re meant to share, with that genius or daimon urging us toward that purpose. One note I made while he was talking: “When you manifest your genius, other people might get upset because you’re reminding them that they haven’t found theirs yet.” I think Steve had something about this in The War of Art. It’s stories that help bring out that purpose.
About an hour and a quarter, but I found it time spent well:
Great video! Thank you for the suggestion.
As I read through, I see your comments are gems full of wisdom. I’m listening to the Michael Meade video as I type…
I’m listening again. Here’s a great quote from Michael Meade:
“At the end, my sense is that no one will say, ‘Hey you did a good job. You followed the rules.’ At the end, they want to know, ‘Did you become a really interesting character that no one can forget.’ That’s the idea. We’re supposed to have lived in such a unique way, that when we go everybody notices something is missing.”
Here’s another really good quote from Michael Meade:
“The Greek word for genius was ‘daimon.’ And the Greek word for ‘happiness’ was ‘eudaimonia’: making your daimon happy; that we’re happy when our genius is happy. Daimon is the genius, and when the genius is neglected, it becomes a demon. A person’s worst demons are really their genius turned around.”
“Daimon is the genius, and when the genius is neglected, it becomes a demon. A person’s worst demons are really their genius turned around.”
Love it, Joe. Carl Jung’s Shadow Work of the subconscious also addresses this. We all have light and dark inside of us. We must defeat (or learn to nurture, subdue, etc.) our shadow so it doesn’t control us. Winston Churchill called his “the black dog”. When the black dog returns, harness it’s power and turn it back around. Put a leash on it!!!
Good thoughts here, Kate. I think Meade gives a couple hat-tips to Jung in that video. Agreed that part of our journey is to recognize that shadow. Harness it, but maybe not leash it (or subjugate it)? That is… is it something we need to integrate in order to be whole? Is “mercy” just weakness, unless one recognizes the inherent capacity to do violence? We wouldn’t know what warmth feels like, without the cold against which to compare it? Love carries more weight when the alternative is hate, or simple apathy? Light needs the dark to give it meaning. Or something like that.
Good stuff here!! Harness it, but don’t subjugate–yes. Well said!
Kate, Joe and I are big fans of Elizabeth Gilbert, and she said in a conversation, with Tim Ferriss I think it was, that she befriends her fear and welcomes it to the table. She values it and thanks it for coming but informs it that she will NEVER allow it to make any decisions.
I think that’s a healthy approach. Often my difficulty however (aren’t things always more complicated than they need be…?) is in recognising what is fear and what is a healthy aversion. But I’ve been getting better lately at listening to my gut. The voice of my gut has been kind of suppressed for a while by a powerful toxic force in my life, but that is on the way out now. And so I’m getting better at discriminating between fear, laziness, low energy, and logical aversion.
I hope you’re better at this than I am. Most people are.
I was thinking about you this afternoon.
Years ago I attended a morning workout at the downtown YMCA. This Y is nested among 10-11 other branches in our county, and they are all ‘Family YMCAs’ except the downtown Y. I always thought of this as the ‘adult Y’, mostly the professional and working class adults who worked or commuted from Tacoma.
Typical High Intensity Interval Training routines every Mon,Wed,Fri from 0630-0730. Great workout, great group of people–many had been (until COVID) doing that workout for over 30 years.
Now I have always thought of gyms as one of the most vulnerable places on the planet. Naked in a junior high locker room, and ‘will you marry me?’ might be the only greater places of total vulnerability on the planet.
So there is this guy, Blake. He’s an architect in town, on the Y board-very successful guy. Lot’s of great things to say about Blake–but his zone of genius? His God-Given Super-Power IMHO? He welcomes every single new person to the workout the moment he sees them. You could say he’s ‘one of the cool kids’–he’s fitter than most, laughs loudly, knows everyone there by name–but when a new person comes, or returns after a spell–Blake is the first one to go up, shake your hand, welcome you to the Y/workout. He introduces everyone to you. He makes you feel safe, welcomed, seen, heard.
You are the Blake of Writing Wednesdays. Writing Wednesdays is also a place of vulnerability, much like Maureen wrote today. You always have a kind thing to say, an interesting take, or a helpful link, nod of encouragement.
You’re comments make people feel heard/seen. That is so damn important. There are so many times when I’ve written something in a stream of consciousness–because Steve’s post has sent me down a completely unexpected direction–and just after I touch ‘submit comment’ I want to vomit. Oh, CRAP! How could I have written that?!? I just showed my naked 4th point of contact to the world…
…then so frequently, you post something great or even very small that allows me to breath again.
I am pretty confident in my assertion that your efforts on this site are felt by so many people. Thanks to ‘wasting’ Writing Wednesdays here. We need you.
I second this! Well said.
“Your comments make people feel heard/seen. That is so damn important.”
Turning this back on y’all. Everyone seems to be opening up in here and responding to each other. Calling each other by name and really considering the thoughts and insights other people are sharing. Clicking through to see what people are creating. Kate’s music, Brad’s novels, Maureen’s coaching, Brian’s animal rescue and social work. People’s paintings, business, writing. I’ll say I appreciate the sentiment, but what’s happening in here is because everyone is willing to stand in front of class wearing only their underwear (to reference a classic “vulnerability dream”).
I used to think that the more often I commented on one of Steve’s posts, the more I was giving into Resistance. Shouldn’t I be doing “real” writing?
But oh, the thought that went into those comments! Not to mention the editing before I hit the submit button.
A best pal, who also happens to be an editor, told me less than three weeks ago she gobbles up my eMails like a child who’s been craving a treat and suddenly finds herself in front of an unattended chocolate display. “On my initial read,” she wrote, “I always feel like I’m gorging. It’s a heady feeling.”
I aim for elegance in even supposedly throwaway correspondence, so I won’t have to don a Superman cape when the stakes are higher.
I haven’t written a “big book” yet, whatever that means. Probably that I’d better get more consistent about being a pro for even an hour a day.
Yet I can’t imagine anyone — even in this community — whose heart soars more than mine at, say, offering up what I just did. That’s not nothing.
I love reading your comments, Maureen. Definitely keep ’em coming! You articulate your insights in a way that makes the conversation more vibrant and substantive in here.
I’ve had thoughts similar to yours. I could say “my productivity suffers” on Wednesday mornings. And it does. I’ve got chapters to edit (for a mate I met in this space); chapters I haven’t touched this morning. But I’m finding sustenance, too. Kate’s music, the John Cleese video that Peter shared, Brian’s tip on Bullet Journals, banter on fat books with Sam, this conversation with you. S’all good. (Bull, I’ll get to chapter #55, I swear, man.)
Okay, I had just enough time — between posting and seeing this, Joe — to have a change of heart. “Really?” I thought. “Did you really think this was going to be useful to anyone?”
This happens every time I do anything, by the way! And it’s the reason I take such comfort in what the Pulitzer Prize-winning Dave Barry once told me: “I periodically announce that I can’t do it anymore. I suck at it.”
And Brian, I loved this: “I’m actually much more productive when I don’t have as much time.” I had more to show for myself, professionally speaking, during the few years I worked from home with a toddler underfoot than in all the years since. No wonder “they” say if you want something done, give it to a busy person.
Maureen, on this theme of “I suck.” A friend pointed me once to “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling” (HBO documentary, which was really good). That led me to a couple episodes of Garry’s series, “The Larry Sanders Show” (which I had never watched before).
“Larry” is a talk-show host and “Hank” (Jeffery Tambor) is his Ed McMahon-style sidekick. In this one episode, I think Larry must have sick or something, and Hank — after years of being the sidekick and secretly yearning to be “the guy,” gets his chance to sub for Larry and be the guest host.
This scene really got me. It’s classic Resistance, and I can admit feeling versions of what he’s portraying here. It’s heart-rending, really. “What if I suck? Maybe it’s better if I never get my chance and then have to find out I suck.”
Watched it. Thanks, Joe.
You remind me what a friend said many years ago, that we keep our dreams distant as a way of not messing them up. That nailed me.
Eventually? I got more afraid of regret than failure.
Your friend’s comment hits home for me!! Ouch. Maybe that is why such innovative artists like David Bowie said (paraphrasing) if you feel safe, then you’re not working in the right area. Go out of your depth until your feet don’t touch the bottom.
Like a quick chapter from War of Art 3. Thank you.
Dang, good to know I am more Pro than I imagined ..
For me, there has been this perception that as an artist/writer that is what we should be doing most of our time. And I appreciate your examples of the truth of it – promotion, business, family, children, video calls, errands, cooking, … life, life, and more life. And our writing is not separate from that life, but part of it and it is our profession to find the time in our own lives to practice, to do, to write.
Takes some pressure off and brings some enjoyment and a pat on the back in.
Am I the only one who had this image of Steve writing without interruption for several hours a day, most days of the week? It’s freeing to know even a pro like him has to wrangle “an hour here and an hour there.”
I doubt if I’m the only one who finds that the messier life gets, the more seemingly impossible at times, the easier it is to write. There’s just…more to say.
Absolutely! I found comfort in Steve admitting he also struggles with that. I tend to write more when I am stressed. Once the “messes” are cleaned up in my mind through creating, I tend to go into a cycle of rest. Then I gather new information and experiences for inspiration. Writing a little each day as a discipline, rather than waiting for inspiration to come like a light bulb, has been life changing.
Add me to your list of fans, Kate!
I’ve always resisted joining support groups, especially for writers — in favor of, well, doing more writing. Yet here we are. Joe calls it sustenance. That rings true.
I feel like Liesl in The Sound of Music: “Maybe I do need a governess.”
Thanks, Maureen! I just subscribed to your blog and podcast. I liked your “Yes” mindset post :). As a raging introvert, this would be a fantastic mindset for me to slowly adopt. Painful personal growth in baby steps…
This one hour method absolutely works because one’s internal system gets used to the routine and will cooperate with what it expected of it. I know because I have done it many times. Bravo.
Habit can be a strong ally, right Georgia? I’ve listened to some talks by James Clear (Atomic Habits), but haven’t read his book yet. You?
Well, I really hope that Steve has seen these comments – that they are the expanding wavefronts produced by the dropped pebble of his beautiful weekly posts.
The Michael Meade conversation is next up for me. Wasn’t aware of him. Thanks Joe.
Brian, may I please edit myself? Gotta tighten it up a little. How about: “…suffocated by the insistent debris of living…”
And I concur wholeheartedly – JJ is the much-appreciated nurturer and caretaker of this venue, where we exchange ideas and validation. Noticed that straightaway the first time I commented here. Steve’s consigliere perhaps. And that can’t be easy work!
Right, time for my second cup of tea for the morning.
Pebble drop. Waves and interference patterns. Particle-wave duality. Double-slit experiments. We need a physicist in here to sort it out. Can you recommend anyone, Peter? 😉
Was just thinking – Mary hasn’t aired her thoughts for a while. Come to think of it, we haven’t heard from Lynn or Seth for a while either. 🙁 Anybody had contact with them lately? Hope all’s well with them. This is an awesome safe space to think aloud, and, like the ‘Hilbert Hotel’, we have infinite capacity. 🙂
And here I thought I was being mediocre by only getting in a strict 2-hours a day on my novel for the last year. (I use a spreadsheet to track — so if I get behind I can catch up, and if I get ahead I may have a few 1/2 hours days). In truth, though, I figured a while back that two hours a day equals over 700 hours a year. 700 hours on one book is going to make something at least somewhat better than mediocre. And, besides, it’s fun and fulfilling…
A happy hour of escape from that ‘insistent debris of living’. It might be hard to wrestle free from that and carve out the hour, but inside it is ease and peace, joy and a feeling that’s alot like LOVE. Cheers!
It definitely takes us out of the quotidian, Lucy.
right! If we make good use of our time, we can create more value than many others. That’s also what I’ve learned after many years of experience
In life, in work, amidst the pots and pans – does the writer in you really cease to exist? Are the instincts and perception of beauty or injustice still not present? Do these interpretations not find a home in your soul that take root, begging for an escape? It’s only my opinion, and of course we see things as we are, not as it is.
There are no part-time writers When a writer lives, the writer sees what can not be seen, but has the ability to feel, understand and acknowledge what others cannot. For most writers, this ability to recognise something powerful yet invisible, is a terrible burden and a special gift. Until you can express it it through your own voice, it will haunt you. I have come to accept that every person has a purpose. There is no one above you and no one below you. Unfortunately, we have accepted a world that is run on status, superiority and labels in which we assign a value and ranking.
When I was a copywriter, (yes I got paid extremely well, but gave it up,) I was paid to manipulate. You see in advertising, we need to create a strong desire for people to act upon. Everything is powered by feeling. All what is truly important actually comes from the invisible. It’s not the car you want, that is important, it is how it makes you feel about yourself, it’s not the slim body, and attractive appearance that matters, it’s all about how these things make you feel. Yet society has implemented these temporary and fleeting trophies, to keep us in a constant state of need.
I think that’s why as writers it hurts when we cannot escape that nagging and unique expression that eats at us . Despite the world and its incessant shouts for attention, and fleeting need for egotistical validation, writers and artists are the true guardians of what really matters and if you listen to your true self, you will not only recognise the beauty of its song, you will be as one with it, and you will know you have come home.
Writing is a way of life, it is who you are, and if you feel it cursing through your veins, no matter how you try to trick yourself convincing yourself that you belong in a world of striving, of fitting in and pretending that you can still live in a corporate world of status and labels, you are going to hurt, and there will be a day of reckoning when your regrets will punch you in the face. Writing isn’t just about putting a bum in a chair and tapping away while looking at a screen. A writer isn’t someone who writes, it’s someone who lives, who feels, and in any medium available transcribes those feelings and passes them on to others. The writing will come, just allow the inner writer some freedom.
Thanks for the post!
>There are no part-time writers When a writer lives, the writer sees what can not be seen, but has the ability to feel, understand and acknowledge what others cannot.
Disagree with your point. My company of speech writers for future managers worldwide – https://brandy.com/speech-writers and the short and clear pitch is very important to get investors on board. Not all kinds of writing should be like a fiction writer.
>The writing will come, just allow the inner writer some freedom.
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