Writing to the Younger Me
So it’s like this. If you don’t watch out, you’re going to find entire decades fly by as acres and acres of half-completed, in prewriting phase projects lay on your shelves, nestle tucked away in boxes. When you’re in your thirties, you’ll be thinking you’ll get to it the next day. And you may well take rejection more seriously in your thirties than in your sixties.
Then again, by the time you get to your sixties, you may well just reach a conclusion that you’re at the age of perceived marginalization, and that it will then take that much more energy to crank up your inspiration.
What about your forties and fifties? Well, you may well get so locked into your career and your need to pay the bills and attend to family needs, that your writing may well take a serious back seat.
So, what’s the solution? Well, there are some books I would suggest.
Let’s start with the works of Steven Pressfield.
The War of Art will nail you to the wall in terms of any of your procrastination tricks. The author knows resistance inside and out and he claims it engulfed him for over a decade. The book will tell you of the power of resistance in all its forms and makes it clear that it never goes away, that it shows up for a daily battle, and that it turns up the heat the closer you get to achieving a goal. Pressfield doesn’t stop there, though. The second half of the book provides a solution: Evolve from ‘amateur’ to ‘professional’.
In fact, his follow-up books Turning Pro and Do the Work continue his assault–on our behalf–on resistance.
Depending on how you’re approaching your writing life, however, you might want to approach things from a lighter point of view. In that case, I would suggest picking up a copy of Finish by Jon Acuff. It’s a different take on resistance and one of his focal points is perfectionism, which he effectively personifies. and at this point in my reading, he hasn’t even used the word. But he understands it and he provides solid solutions, including making your work fun and choosing what to fail at.
Another recommendation: If You Can Talk, You Can Write by Joel Saltzman.
This is ironic since this post is written waaaay too formally. And you know what? It’s not been as fun to write. Can I explain why I’ve drifted from a more relaxed, conversational approach? Nope, but it’s a good wake-up call, that’s for sure. My favorites from the book: “All you have to do is stop rejecting your thoughts and start writing them down.” and “What’s needed is entitlement, the firm belief that ‘If it interests me, it interests others.” His credo is, “Progress, not perfection.”
So, younger me, get those books and read excerpts daily. Remind yourself that ‘progress, not perfection’ is a daily struggle.
And I’ll close with two quotes.
The first is from Nelson Mandela: “There is no passion to be found playing small– in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
And finally, a book-ending quote in Pressfield’s The War of Art: “Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”
Go get’em, younger me.