1. That my favorite, best selling, Pulitzer prize-winning, epically published writers’ first drafts SUCKED! I found this very liberating—that maybe they too were not the elevated intellectually-superior, uber-disciplined, specially anointed species, I’d projected them to be.
That they too struggled, floundered, wrote utter crap, and failed miserably. And THEN succeeded—if only by sticking with it because they simply had to! They pressed on through the murk of fear, doubt, and failure, kept reading, writing, and editing, sought help, support, great editors, and eventually completed.
2. That writing a book takes a village. Somehow that image of the solo artist toiling away at her craft in a little cabin in the woods held strong. There is some truth to that, we do need alone time to generate much of the work, but the reality is that most great writers are part of a writing group, have a crew of trusted readers, have professional editors, and final copy editors that not only edit, but support and guide.
3. That I am NOT my repetitive negative thoughts of doubt, self judgment, self recrimination, fear, and avoidance. That mindfulness meditation can allow space for those thoughts to exist without thwarting my creative process. After some time of consistent meditation practice a distance opens up between me and the thoughts, to the extent that I cease to identify with them and then they in turn lose their charge and influence over my behavior.
The true me is much bigger than these fleeting moods and repetitive negative thoughts, and with practice and determination I have the power to continuously re-direct my mind toward encouragement, inspiration, and self love.
4. That I can accomplish a lot in a very short period of time when I stay consistent. I can generate 50,000 words in a single month. That’s a book-length project. And if I go back to #1 above, I can allow this to be my “shitty” first draft, and move forward from there with a lot of material to work with. Imagine what you can accomplish in a year!
5. That I am able to stay most disciplined and consistent when I focus on self-care. What does self-care have to do with writing? Everything. Look what happened to Hemingway, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath. I’m pretty sure these writers were not meditating regularly, watching their diets, dealing with their issues via therapy and body work or exercising a lot.
Taking care of mind and body on a consistent basic is crucial: Sitting in silence for 30 minutes a day, spending time in nature or at the park, limiting excessive TV or Internet distractions, writing down positive goals and affirmations, surrounding yourself with positive people, eating healthy organic food, and needless to say, reading and tending to your creative life.
Applying these “5 things” literally did change my life, and no they didn’t happen over night, but what can help accelerate the process dramatically are intensive programs. Staying consistent with all this stuff in support of your writing life takes support, accountability, and community.