AJ is currently buried under revisions, teaching at school, and other stuff. So today, I’ve asked another newly published writer to visit and share some thoughts. Alex is the author of CLEAN. Welcome Alex Hughes!
Most of us writers are a little bit up and down. One day we think our work is better than Michaelango’s, and the next we think it classifies somewhere below the microbes that live on the pond scum in a particularly nasty pond. And the more pressure you put us under, sometimes, the more we worry everyone else will discover the pond scum in our writing and call their friends and laugh about us in large groups, followed by an award-winning YouTube expose of our pond scumminess to public cheers.
There are downsides to a writer’s imagination.
But here’s the thing. Nothing great ever came out of panic and worry. Worry grabs problems and hoards them like a packrat, little paws running over the troubles again and again to the exclusion of all else. It is obsessive. It is jealous, and demanding. And it will grab at your attention nearly ad infinitum – if you let it.
In contrast, I was in a group of artists and musicians a few weeks ago, and to a one they all said their best work came when they were in a calm place of surrender. They felt a connection to God and the universe, and they felt like the story, the painting, or the song was flowing through them. This place of “flow” is about faith, and trust you can make something great today, or at least make something better. It is a pair of open hands and a smile, a small child playing happily engrossed with shiny toys. It is beautiful and accepting.
The worry rat does not play well with the flow child. The rat pushes the child out if possible, or sits in the corner and demands attention from important things to deal with imaginary enemies Right Now. The child gets bored, or scared, and stops playing, and art is lost. Opportunities are lost. Stories are lost. And enjoyment of the work – that thing we all did so easily in the beginning – enjoyment is lost too.
So, for the sake of my work and the sake of my sanity, I am setting out traps for my worry rat. I am learning to lock his little cage in a storage locker well away from my workspace. To ignore his piping demands for attention. And never, ever, under any circumstances give him any new material to play with. If you’ve noticed, worry rats love to get together on the internet and talk about the Big Scary Problems We Have to Fix Now. Turn them off – and get work done instead.
Neil Gaiman said the best advice he ever got (that he ignored) was from Stephen King. “This is really great. You should enjoy it.” He was in the middle of some of his biggest times of success, but he didn’t take the advice – he didn’t enjoy it. He worried about it – the next deadline, what was going to happen, the next project. And he missed a good part of the ride as a result. (Hear the end of the speech here: http://io9.com/5911699/watch-neil-gaimans-delightful-commencement-speech-about-succeeding-in-the-arts). He gives advice to all the creative out there: let the worries go. And enjoy the ride.
Don’t let the rat steal your joy.
For more about me and my book, check out the social media links below.
Order Clean today on Amazon: http://amzn.to/KTTbWc
at Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/K6G4ji
at the Book Depository: http://bit.ly/ND5iej
or at your local bookstore