How is writing going you ask?
I wrote my shitty first draft the other day—not the whole book, but the first three chapters. So into that tiny little wastebasket icon on my laptop the drafts are dragged and dropped—all 6,500 words of it. Author, Anne Lamott says all writers, well known and not so well known always right shitty first drafts. At least there is some consoling there—plus knowing that Steven King probably tossed more than 6,500 words into the trash can helps a bit too.
Have you ever considered of how revolting that word—dragged—sounds. Now say it as you drag your hard fought work to the dumps! Yeah, that is a sucky feeling.
I don’t assume I was doing my best work. I was having trouble focusing my mind. It was as if my brain became scrambled tofu (I don’t eat eggs so I assumed it more proper to use a vegan metaphor…). Life has its distractions and I am not immune to them. The things I should do—writing, ordering coffee supplies, clipping my toenails, or just paying attention to the moments and people I am with—I can’t. I was getting overwhelmed by distractions.
Just the other day my daughter was getting ready in pre-op for surgery and all I could think about was getting back to work or if I could remember where I parked at the hospital—I blame the sign St. Charles hospital has stuck in the ground near the main door that asks you “Do you Remember Where You Parked?” And I couldn't help but speculate about what my latest clever tweet was going to be… No one noticed except maybe my wife…
At that moment I had this overwhelming sense to quit. In the isolation of my car, I shouted, “I quit! No one cares if you write, Joe. No one!” as I drove back to the coffeehouse from the hospital.
We can be our own worst critic.
I had a friend call me yesterday—someone I haven't talk to in a while. He reminded me of something I said sometime ago why back then I wasn't ready to write a book:
"I'll write a book when I have something to say."
I would've loved to considered this a profound parting wisdom coming from my deep well of knowledge, but I know it's coming from a place of fear—fear of failing. Something else that was keeping me from pursuing my passion to write—the risk of embarrassing of myself and looking foolish. There are moments I am to concerned what people assume about me...
We can can be our own worst enemy. Don't give into the shame and judgment of the inner negatives voices. Don’t confirm the inner critic who wants you to play it safe and don't be afraid of embarrassing yourself. Push through the fear and negativity that comes with being a risk taker. If you have a dream or an idea, it's worth pursuing.
The Outer Critic
Outer critics mostly can be people who play it safe—similar to the inner critic. They are people who don’t push themselves to something bigger and something greater, and they don’t want you to do it too.
I overheard one of my daughters the other day tell someone that when she in high school she let someone whom she considered her friend convince her to not take a film class. This person let my daughter think she couldn't be any good at filmography—she didn't want my daughter to take the class because it's their hobby, and there was fear my daughter could become better at it than her. My daughter was manipulated into not doing something so the other person could play it safe and not be pushed to become a better filmographer.
This isn't something only my daughter has experienced. I had something similar happen when I left paid ministry and became a small business owner. Several people encouraged me to rethink this new endeavor because many small businesses fail, and I should expect mine to fail too. Many of the people who tried to discourage me have never owned a small business—so their advice is coming out of their own insecurities and fear—they were playing it safe and wanted me to play it safe.
I remember having a friend of mine critiquing a blog post I did years ago—he had nothing to say about the content of the blog itself—he told me he could tell I don't like writing and that I wasn't any good at it.
Here is small business advice for you—If you want to starting a business, do it. You won't be sorry even if it fails.
Now I know it seems I have surrounded myself with negative people, but that is not the case. For every negative comment or opinion, I've had many more positive and encouraging people tell me to write.
I wrote a blog article not too long ago about two tools I use to help me write a better story [You can find my article here: Everyone Has A Story: Two Tools To Help You Write Your Story Better.]. In this article I talk about how I write between 800 to 1,000 words a day. The goal is to set up a habit of writing even if I don’t feel inspired. When I write every day—when the discipline has sunk its roots deep in to my daily routine I have freedom.
So I write, write, write.
In that article I wrote on how none of us want to be alone. People need to learn your story—they need to realize they are not alone in this world. My suspicion is that folks are craving words that matter more than ever. There are empty and hate-filled words being said nowadays. People want to hear your words—words that show you are real. They need to learn your story—the mess-ups, the failures, the brokenness, and the way you have overcome the agony of defeat. My encouragement to you—do work that makes you proud—work that tells the truth. There is an obligation as a creative to keep going and to keep creating. Anne Lamott says, “You keep going because you have a debt of honor to keep going.”