One of the loves of my life is simultaneously the bane of my existence.
What does this look like, you ask? A warped cycle that goes a little something like this:
I go out and experience everything (heck, anything) that could potentially become fodder for my writing (read: copious notes in my Moleskine) and when the creative inspiration hit me, I spend HOURS writing. It is a “feast or famine” mentality that keeps the thoughts tumbling around in my head instead of flowing through my fingertips onto the screen or page before me. My recent writing challenge helped me identify that I don’t carve out enough time to devote to a daily writing practice. But the what about the other side of the coin—this deeply held belief I have about the creative spirit and writing when inspiration strikes?
A few years ago when I saw this TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on “Your Elusive Creative Genius” I was floored. She put into words (so succinctly I might add) how I felt about the writing process: the times when creativity strikes and when it doesn’t, yet you continue to slog through because you show up for your passion. If you have 20 minutes to spare, I’d highly recommend watching.*
The funny thing is, even though I saw this, understood it and was inspired, I still defaulted back to my feast and famine ways.
Following the aforementioned challenge, I read Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job by Jon Acuff. It’s a great book for those individuals who, when asked what they do for a living, reply, “I’m a______, but I want to be a_________.” If you hadn’t guessed it by now, my blanks are: 1) PR director and 2) writer. This isn’t to say I don’t love or enjoy my job, I do. But if I could support myself through writing alone? It would be a dream come true (even as clichéd as that sounds).
So back to Quitter. Two major insights that made an impression:
- Passion. It’s great to have it, but sometimes we run the risk of having it be this abstract notion that stays untested, the “what if”, nothing proves it wrong so it remains perfect and idealized. It may make us feel better at the end of the day, bright and shiny up there on the shelf, but wouldn’t we rather try?
- Hustle. Stop aiming for perfect, it won’t be. We need to put ourselves out there and possibly fail a little on the way, but it’s all in the name of achieving the dream—we work at it. He advocates for working on our dreams first thing in the morning before the demands of the day—loved ones, work, stress, exhaustion—have an opportunity to interfere.
The outcome from reading this book? My new routine includes a 6am wake-up to spend the first hour of my day writing, just for me. I work on my craft, in an attempt to break through the “creative inspiration” mindset that has kept me away. Some days are good, some days are downright painful. But the end result? I’m finding new story ideas in the most unexpected places (score one for creativity), my writing is getting better (score one for quantity → quality) and it’s made me a happier person (score one for following your passion).
The best part? I’m a few days away from submitting a piece for The Best Women’s Travel Writing, Volume 9 (side note: I can’t believe I’m putting this out there for everyone to read, it’s a new level of accountability, even for me). My draft is written and I’m now in the editing process (three revisions down and probably a few more to come). There is no procrastination, there is no anxiety about whether or not I’ll get it done. It is done, I’m refining. Heck, I’m a writer. I’ll submit it and one of two things will happen. If I’m selected, I’ll be ecstatic and probably call everyone I know. If not, I’ll nurse my wounds for a bit, but ultimately it’ll be ok.
I’ll dust myself off, and look ahead to the next story.
*NB: If you’re looking for more creative “inspiration”, a close second is a lecture from John Cleese on Creativity.