That’s how many pages are in War & Peace.
Making it one of the longest novels in the history of literature.
This little piece of trivia isn’t exactly obscure. Anyone with access to Google, Amazon or Wikipedia could figure that out in about seven seconds.
But what you might NOT have discovered in your Internet search about author Leo Tolstoy is that during the time it took him to write War & Peace…
…He had 12 children!!!
What’s YOUR excuse for not writing?
Now, I know.
Tolstoy probably wasn’t a great father.
Tolstoy had affairs with his two female serfs.
Tolstoy had an incredibly devoted, caring wife.
Tolstoy lost five of his youngest children to poor health.
Stop justifying. Stop making excuses. Stop getting defensive.
THE BOTTOM LINE IS: You’re not writing.
For example: What did you write today?
ANSWER: Not enough.
If you’re attributing your lack of wring to “lack of time,” then you’re only lying to yourself...
Because it’s not lack of TIME – it’s lack of COURAGE.
And that's totally cool. Every writer goes through it, myself included.
Look, writing is a scary thing. One of the scariest. As my mentor Bill Jenkins says, “Good writing is like walking across a stage naked.”
And, as Tolstoy himself said, “You write only with your pen dipped in your own blood.”
Even as a professional writer myself, I still get zapped with impulses of creative fear on a daily basis.
And those little buggers hurt.
But "sticking yourself out there" isn't just something you do in person or on your business card.
It's something you do on The Page. That blank sheet of paper staring back at you.
So, today I’m going to share three exercises to help you enhance your creative courage.
NOTE: These practices come straight from my own writing experience, all of which have been revolutionary in my own career. They DO work, if you stick ‘em out.
1. Give yourself permission. Permission to write something totally irrational, weird, odd, silly or ridiculous. Permission to capture, express and say ANYTHING, no matter how outrageous, stupid or idiotic it sounds. You don’t have to publish it on your blog or share it with your spouse. You just need to write it.
By doing so, the idea will become public in your mind. This cleansing process will broaden your acceptance of otherwise crazy notions and lay a foundation of confidence in even the most absurd notions. Ultimately, by embracing your creative ridiculousness, you’ll surrender the need to appraise and evaluate everything you write.
EXERCISE: Learn to write Morning Pages.
Coined by one of my writing heroes, Julia Cameron, here’s how they work: You sit down, first thing in the morning, and just PUKE for three pages. No stopping. No editing. No thinking. Just writing. It’s stream of consciousness meditation. It’s a check-in with yourself.
“A psychological holding environment that becomes a gateway to your inner and higher selves,” Cameron says. And these “gripe sessions,” where you work out your grudges, become moments of free association and celebration.
If you’d like to learn more about this invaluable tool (WHICH, I’ve been doing daily for several years and TO which I attribute 90% of my creative success), email email@example.com and I’ll send you an article that will change your writing practice forever.
REMEMBER: When you work out your mental shanks, you bring forth your creative gold.
2. Remove the threat of rejection. “Nobody will like my writing. Nobody will relate to my writing. Nobody will want to read my writing.”
Sadly, these excuses prevent many writers from EVER putting their work out there. So, I often ask my coaching clients the following:
“Well, what if it wasn’t YOUR writing?”
(At which point they look at me like I’m nuts.)
And I explain: “What I mean is, if your name wasn’t attached to your writing, would you be more likely to share it?”
90% of the time, they say yes.
By writing anonymously (or under a pseudonym), you take yourself out of the equation. You remove the threat of rejection. And this disassociation prevents you from becoming overly defensive when someone reacts negatively (or worse yet, not at all!) to your writing.
EXERCISE: Blog anonymously everyday for six months.
In 2004 when I noticed waning confidence in my writing abilities, I started an anonymous blog. My goal was to write simply for the sake writing. To get better. To have fun. No pressure. No expectations. And, to post ideas, stories and thoughts that I otherwise wouldn’t have wanted to take credit for on my regular blog. (That anonymous blog has since been deleted. Sorry.)
As a result, several cool things happened:
FIRST, I became a more confident writer, simply by writing every day.
SECOND, I became a more comfortable writer, sharing even my craziest thoughts, knowing that nobody knew it was me.
THIRD, I became a more desirable writer, as I slowly attracted readers, comments and support from complete strangers who connected with and enjoyed reading my work.
If you’d like to learn more about the psychology of writing anonymously, email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you an article that will change your writing confidence forever.
REMEMBER: When you expect nothing, failure is impossible.
3. Find (the right) people to validate your writing. We writers crave validation. We THRIVE on it. We need people to say, “Great article!” or “I loved your book!” or “This post really got me thinking…” Otherwise, our writing is in vain. May as well be to a brick wall.
The challenge is, we need validation from unbiased sources. Not our parents. Not our friends. Not our partners. But rather, people who have no personal stake in our creative success.
EXERCISE: Today, spend fifteen minutes searching online for writing events in your local community. Pick two or three events to attend each month for the next twelve months. Think of this as your Validation Plan. Your goal is to surround yourself with other successful Creative Professionals who will offer honest, helpful feedback on your work.
Ultimately, whether you choose artists groups, publishing associations or writer’s guilds, just concentrate on finding other people who do what you do and ask them help you do what you do better. Period.
REMEMBER: Decide (wisely) whom you want to listen to.
- - -
Look. As a writer, fear comes with the territory.
Fear of failing.
Fear of being judged.
Fear of exposing your Truth to the world.
MY SUGGESTION: Deal with it. You're a writer. It’s part of your job description. And if you're not a writer, it still applies. If you're a HUMAN, it's part of your life description.
So, love it that fear. Because it means that you are awakening.
So, channel that fear. Into the words and onto the page.
Ultimately, if you can learn to give yourself permission, find a way to remove the threat of rejection and successfully seek out credible validation for your writing, your creative fears will slowly fade away.
Only if you stop lying to yourself.
Only if you stop making the excuse that you don’t “have time” time write.
REMEMBER: It’s not lack of time – it’s lack of courage.
Even Tolstoy, who had enough children to outfit his own football team, still MADE time to write War & Peace.
LET ME ASK YA THIS...
What did you write today?
LET ME SUGGEST THIS...
For the list called, "9 Things Every Write Needs to Do Every Day," send an email to me, and I'll send you the list for free!
* * * *
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
Terrified to face the page?
Bummer. Perhaps my monthly coaching program for writers would help.
Rent Scott's Brain today!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009