A creative creates art.
Or painting, drawing, bedazzling, creating a business plan, baking, or developing code for the next Shopify-like business.
The writing process is personal. Every writer or artist has a unique way of getting to their craft — finding it from within their soul, accessing it, producing it. There is no one-size-fits-all. Some use habits, some momentum, and some pure grit.
An article from the LA Times a few years ago interviewed five screenwriters about their routine. Three of them wrote from their cars. One of them wrote from their car while it was moving.
Whatever works, works.
Do you write from inspiration, routine, mood, or simply chain yourself to your desk for 7 hours a day? As I’ve done. It doesn’t matter. As long as you find your way to finding a solid writing practice, look resistance in the face and do it anyway.
Resistance will find that weak spot, that chink in your armor
Everyone has one. Some have more than one.
Resistance is tremendously diabolical, nuanced, and protean. It attacks writers at our weakest points, usually an area where there is some truth to what we might fear about ourselves.
When you have a thought, like, “I suck at writing. Why am I trying to do this hard thing when there are far better writers?” Your next thought should be,
Bullsh*t, I won’t allow resistance to get me to quit.
There is nothing wrong with you. You can write, you can make money from writing, and you can always improve at anything.
But resistance is persistent. It finds your weak spot and holds on, digs in. It knows the chink in your armor. Resistance is your inner gremlins getting the best of you and wreaking havoc on your writing and self-esteem.
Don’t write today. Go through email. That is so much easier. You aren’t making any money anyway. How long can you keep writing for free?
One way to beat it is to keep in mind that negative voice is informed by your past and has nothing to do with your present self and what you are capable of accomplishing today. Right now.
The form it takes for me might be different from the form it takes for you. Everyone has a different weak spot. The only way to deal with it is to just dismiss it. There’s no grounding in it. It just keeps you from doing what you are meant to be doing — any creative pursuit that feeds your soul.
Four Ways to Fight Resistance and Write Anyway
Somerset Maugham was asked if he wrote on a schedule or only when inspiration struck.
“I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately, it strikes every morning at 9:00 o’clock sharp.”
A true believer in routine.
A routine comes from our habits. Habits form through repetition.
A believer of ritual is Twyla Tharp. She describes her ritual in her book, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.
For Tharp, getting into the creative process each morning starts with a cab.
She starts every morning by going to the gym to work out at the crack of dawn, catching a cab at the same time, hailing it at the same place, and having the cab take her to the same gym each morning. This is the ritual that triggers her creativity. Her ritual starts long before she gets to the studio, where her work begins.
Creating a ritual helps you overcome resistance. The wall you know you’re going to hit when you sit down to write. The ritual fortifies you. You’re mentally preparing yourself for that moment when you sit down and that negative force hits you. When you’ve got enough momentum and self-confidence, enough juju, you’re going to get through the wall of resistance, and arrive at rhythm and flow.
That is the whole concept behind rituals, routines, or habits.
#3. Perform little successes before writing
He doesn’t just show up to a game 20 minutes before it starts. He shows up to the arena a little over three hours before tipoff prepping for success on the court.
The pre-game workout gets him loose and improves his ball-handling skills. The first drill Curry performs is dribbling in motion from the scorer’s table to the opposite end with a series of crossovers and between-the-leg action. Once on the other end of the court, he does the same thing but walking backward.
“Curry then moves on to taking left-handed shots on the left side of the basket, launching high-arcing, hook shots. After making five, he transitions to the left elbow, where he receives the ball, takes a few dribbles, and shoots left-handed floaters. He makes five, then moves to the right elbow to toss in five right-hand floaters. Then it’s back near the basket on the right side for high-degree-of-difficulty shots with his right hand.”
He then performs 20-foot baseline shots, then takes about 15 shots at five different spots on the floor, and ends with a shot from the tunnel as he is walking off court, sometimes making it into the basket from the opposite end.
If you’ve watched Curry play, you know he is one of the most confident ball handlers in the league. That confidence comes from the before-game practice — small successes — just like writing every day for a year makes you a more confident writer.
Wallace’s theory of little successes
From the moment Wallace gets out of bed, he is looking ahead to the moment he has to sit down to write (whatever time that is for him, every creative is different). He adds to his momentum by performing little tasks he claims as successes. It can be as simple as brushing his teeth or taking out the garbage.
He is trying to produce a series of little successes to generate momentum.
You can count anything that makes you feel good and add it as a success.
- Brushing your teeth
- Working out
- Having a healthy breakfast
- Lifting a kettlebell for 20 minutes
- Shoveling snow off your walkway
- Taking the garbage out to the curb
Count these things as little successes.
Going to the gym is building up little victories because, by the time you sit down to write at your computer, you’ve got some momentum going. You’ve had success. I’ve exercised, brushed my teeth, shoveled the walkway, fed the birds.
Think about anyone successful, like Steph Curry, before a game, he is working out or getting a massage to loosen his muscles in the locker room. He is mentally preparing himself for the challenge ahead by building up little successes, so when the game starts, he is in the flow of his craft at the highest possible level.
#4. Chain yourself to the desk
This is me when I don’t have balance in my life. I chain myself to my desk for 7 hours straight, sometimes forgetting to stretch my legs or eat or drink water. I can be kind of a masochist when it comes to working.
However, I credit the chain-myself-to-my-desk routine for the monthly earnings I’m receiving now. I’m still getting benefits from that work. Writing every day and posting for three months gave me more than just an income. It gave me discipline, a routine, time to figure out my most potent rituals, and the belief that it’s possible to make money from writing. Priceless. Sometimes you need to put in the hours to make things happen, gain traction, find an audience, and convince yourself that your dream is possible.
This works for me. I can’t wait for a good mood to write. I can’t wait for my muse to show up. Those things aren’t reliable. If I waited for inspiration, I’d never write or get much accomplished. I really just start, and that produces the conditions for writing. When I just start, 20 minutes in, I’m usually on a roll, the muse arrives, but the writing part comes first. Sometimes, you have to plow through resistance to get to flow using pure grit.
Nothing good comes easy.
All successful people have one thing in common, persistence and a plan to battle the resistance that creatives face each day. You don’t know what you can accomplish if you don’t put in the time with a well-tested plan in place.