Lynn Dickinson shares tips to help writers honestly examine their writing routines to make the changes necessary to achieve their writing goals.
As an assignment, I asked my students to take a close look at their own thoughts and behavior patterns around writing or not writing.
“Every morning I tell myself I’m going to write something today, but then different things come up and I just don’t do it. Morning turns into afternoon, which turns into evening, and I keep thinking I'm going to write something—just later on. Then about 7:30 I tell myself I’m too tired or busy or whatever. I’ll write tomorrow. Then the next day, I do the exact same thing to myself all over again—but it feels new because I have new reasons every day for not writing. And I never (or rarely) actually write anything. When I think about how long this has been going on, I start to feel guilty and ashamed. Help?”
When I received this assignment entry from one of my students, I rejoiced. It may sound a bit rude of me, but the situation is not as dire as it may seem. There is reason for great optimism here. Why? Three reasons...
Writer, Know Thyself!
First: As unpleasant as her discovery was, this student learned something important about herself. Many would-be writers wander around for years in a writing-avoidance haze much like hers, without ever fully realizing they're doing it. This kind of inner work is not an easy task, but she did a great job! She looked clearly and deeply into her patterns for the very first time.
Second: Even more importantly, she wasn't examining her behavior in a defeated, self-judging kind of way, but like a scientist, discovering her true, longstanding behaviors. It was as if she were a neutral observer in her own mind. In that way, this is an EXCELLENT response! For the first time, this student really got to take a clear, objective look at a pattern that had been running in her life. This pattern had been holding her back from the writing practice she desperately wanted to have.
Third: Once you clearly know your unconscious patterns, you can work with them, release them, and take dominion over them. It’s like shining a flashlight on that gremlin that hides under the bed. The light hits it, and it scurries away. With a little patience and persistence, a pattern that’s been operating just below the surface can be identified and examined in ways that allow you to bring it to light. Doing so can eliminate its power over you. In this case, with just a few weeks of work on her pattern, this student was writing more regularly than she ever had before. And you can, too.
What Are You Thinking?
Inner excavation is rarely fun. It can take honesty, determination, self-awareness and courage to truly examine ourselves. It's not for the faint of heart, but there are great advantages to knowing yourself as a writer on all levels.
Ask yourself the following questions with complete honesty:
- What are your longstanding patterns when it comes to writing or not writing?
- What does your writing (or non-writing) life really look like externally?
- And more importantly, what do you do internally that keeps you from having the active, productive and prolific writing practice you know you really want?
Whatever your response, please don’t judge yourself for your patterns. We all have them. Just for today, be a scientist about yours, and not a critical parent. Identifying your own personal pattern is the very first step toward releasing it. Once you know WHAT you're doing, you can take the next steps toward releasing the patterns that have been holding you back.
As I wrote in a previous article, Writer - Know Thyself.
When you become aware of your dominant pattern(s) around writing or not writing as much as you'd like, you'll be on the road to living the writing life of your dreams.