I tell my students and clients all the time (gently yet emphatically): “You’ve got to establish a writing habit.” It’s about opening up the channels so the creative juices can flow. Once those channels are open and flowing daily (at least 5 days a week), writing becomes second nature, resistance dissipates, and projects begin to write themselves. . . .
So, why has it been weeks (or months?) since I’ve had my own regular writing habit? Why have I put off writing a blog for . . . oh, five or six years now? When others ask, “How’s the writing going?” my answer is, “Oh, I’m not doing much of my own writing . . . I’m helping other people write.”
This is true, and it’s a good excuse, right? Altruistic? Noble? Of service? Or . . . am I doing what my clients and students do when they say, “Oh, I have a really busy schedule” or “How can I write every day when I’m not inspired every day?” or “I sat down to write but I ended up on Facebook.”
Often, beneath any of these excuses is a darker, more hidden reason for resisting writing: Fear. We know that as soon as we sit down to the computer, that snarky little voice inside our head is going to start growling at us, telling us how pathetic we are as writers. It’s an unpleasant—even painful experience—so naturally we resist it. Naturally we fear it. The thing is, we’ve got to sit down anyway. We’ve got to sit down, and sit down, and sit down, despite the snarking little voice. For many, sitting down daily to write will get them past this incessant Inner Critic. The channels will open and the voice will grow quiet, or at least faint, or may even disappear all together . . . at least intermittently. For others, the voice will continue to snark no matter how often you write. If you’re one of these people, you’ve just got to keep reminding yourself that anything the Inner Critic says is inherently . . . a big fat lie.
One trick I like to pass on to my students is this: If your Inner Critic is on a particularly gnarly rampage one day, just write badly. Yes, that’s right: Write crap. (Try it out and let me know what happens!) It’s kind of an aikido move: If someone comes at you with an attack, join their energy, rather than resisting it. It’s also similar to Anne Lamott’s “mantra,” shitty first draft (I didn’t swear in cyberspace; I’m just quoting!). The premise is if you give yourself permission to write as badly as your Inner Critic says you will . . . sooner or later, you’ll probably have a few gems slip in under the radar. You may even end up writing something really good. But you can’t get attached to that result; you’ve got to give yourself total permission to write badly.
So, as I finally set out on what has felt like a monolithic task of blog writing, I’m sitting in my chair at my computer, feverishly chanting . . . “Shitty first draft! Shitty first draft! Shitty first draft!” . . . Won’t you join me?