On my way home from work I decided to stop in to the occult bookstore in my neighborhood. I’m not an occult person but I’m always fascinated by what the occult represents to me–unconscious, spiritual, and symbolic reckonings–and since I feel that what I do is in a way magical, I like to look around this store when I’m feeling a little lost. You see, that day I felt the need to seek help from the universe. These last few months I’d been doing little writing and much reflecting about who I am, what I want to say, and what I want to do with the rest of my life. You could call it a mid-life crisis, I call it a breather.
For the last seventeen now, I’ve been entrenched in the passive role of student to my muse. I wrote stories just to get them finished; and like any craft, these stories taught me to be a better writer and editor. On and on, there wasn’t a single idea I rejected. I wrote and submitted short stories to magazines, then patted myself on the back for the effort, as a range of friends, family, and co-workers did the same. I read a whole hell of a lot too, everything from biography to fiction to poetry to graphic novels. I was your metaphorical sponge, soaking up any little bit of art and creativity. I couldn’t slow down. To stop, says the shark, would be to die.
Early February, I finished the next draft of my first novel. It was ugly, I told everyone, but at least it had a head, a body, and a tail. I would take some time off and go back to it with a fresh mind. So, a I usually did on “time off”, I worked on a few short stories. Then I wanted to work on some poems too. I next took a hard look at my library of potentials and suddenly wanted to do it all.
Every day, my list of things to do piled up. And this was my usual method. Days off from my novel were always days working on something else, and days off from writing in general were days reading up on craft, grammar, or simply reading to be inspired. But in all of this, there was one thing I ignored. In all of this work, I didn’t stop to ask myself what I wanted to write about or even read about. Both had become addictions of habit to better myself with form and/or function. And this was okay at the time because I wasn’t good enough and I needed to keep learning more more more.
But now this year, I felt more and more confident with myself. I wasn’t great yet, but I’d really started seeing everything falling into place. Then one day, as I got down to this gargantuan list of things to write, as I felt myself stepping away from a passive writing life to a more active one—something snapped. I suddenly felt afraid and alone and shaken. I shut everything down. No more writing schedules, no more goals, no more lists, no nothing. I spent a lot of time walking and thinking and journaling. My break spanned for two weeks, then four, then six, and now eight. What I’ve come to realize is that there needed to be myself in my writing, and in order to do this I needed to allow it, and in order to allow it, I needed to be vulnerable to the possibility of it. In other words, I need to open up my mouth and sing with my own voice and my own style instead of every other singers I’d learned from all these years. The problem? I didn’t know how to sing anymore. It’s called stage fright. It’s called writer’s block. It’s called courage.
I needed to write what I wanted to write about, to temper my craft with the movements and flutterings of the spirit. There needed to come from the soul my self, both dark and light. So, one day, I asked myself something I hadn’t even bothered to ask myself so very long ago when I was much much younger: ‘What do I want to write?’
Short answer: I’m fine. I’ve come out the other end of myself knowing more about who I am, what I want to say, and the style in which I want to say it. I needed to take this break. We all come to this point in our journeys, and for the most part, we go through it alone. But we can get help. We can get aid from friends and family, we can get aid from others writers, and we can get aid from other books.
Daily Writing Resilience I picked up off the shelf with an almost sinister attitude in its impossibility to change my mind and that it and every other book like it was going to get me out of the hole I was in.
But I was wrong.
It didn’t save me, or anything so dramatic, but it’s done more: it’s saving me. Page by page, its little quotes and takeaways build me up brick by brick. Right place at the right time? Sure. Fate? Maybe, maybe not. But for whatever reason this book is right next to my laptop, and its there to stay, and I will use it. I hope you will too.
Help is what we need every single day as writers. In sports, there are teammates and trainers and coaches that give the players what is called ‘win-talk’. I learned this watching hockey. “There you go, one more, you got!”, “Shots on net, boys!”, “One shift at a time, one period at a time, one game at a time!” This is a psychologically proven thing, win-talk, also called positive talk. We lack this as writers because, for the most part, we don’t need it. Writers, we’re self-starters. We have our solitude and our solace because we need it as creative individuals but also as quiet, thoughtful boys and girls, men and women. But even lone wolves need a pack for support sometimes.
This book is part of that support. For every day on the calendar, there is a lesson here to learn about the writing career, from the very beginning to all of the mucky middles with its peaks and valleys in-between. I’m only a third of the way through the book (April 18th), but it’s already so much mana for my spirit.
“April 18, Abstain from Jumping to Conclusions” (p.119) is not only valid in your writing life but in life in general.
“April 14, Trumpet Your Defiance” (p.115) gives you the moxie to be proud of your self and voice and not be bowed down by diffidence and submission. Titles like “Uncage Your Voice”, “Exercise an Attitude of Gratitude”, and “Quit Looking for Approval” get you interested; then the few paragraphs on the page give you insight and experience to another day won (Dr. Robinson is the author of 35 nonfiction books and two novels); then the takeaway at the end sums it all up. A quick read and a heartfelt and inspiring result will come.
Earlier this year, I saw a flash of a future that was in no way certain but which I’d attached myself to as concrete and unbreakable—a crystal-clear, bullet-proof glass vision of me smiling a weak, defeated smile as a man just like me only older, weaker, mentally and physically exhausted, unhappy, and regretful of the dream I’d given up on. This was not my future at all, but I accepted it as such because I only knew my past and what I feared I could only achieve.
But the future is not clear. The future is a foggy, swirling mass, and will always be, and so from this cloud, we see what we want to see. It’s a magical mirror that shows us both what we truly fear and desire. No matter what we think might happen in the very near future, we can’t predict what will happen to us in the rest of future’s length, from here till we die. But the thing is, we humans believe we’re so certain of our negative fates that our positive ones become all but obliterated.
Don’t give up on the positive.
It’s all about mindset.
What you feed your body, your body (and your mind) will be too. Feed it shit, and you’ll feel like shit and think shitty thoughts. Dr. Robinson’s book of exercises, quotes, lessons, and takeaways is one of my new ways of feeding my mind something healthy. It energizes my mindset and ensures I’ll get the most out of my day. It sounds like an energy drink ad, but that’s because it does just that only for your mindset. So drink up!
Create and Complete!
Here is a link to the book.
And here is another shot of positive thinking.
Good luck out there.
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