Saturday, April 15, 2023

When You’re Down in the Dumps, Be Open to the World Helping You


Scott D. Parker

Sometimes, creativity is hard, discouraging, and challenging. In every creative project, there is always a moment (or moments) when you question what you’re doing. It’s an inevitable part of the process. What do you do?

Be open to the signs the world is sending you.

By the way, I’m using “creative” here because this applies to any type of creative thing you do, whether it be writing, painting, composing, researching, or building something.

The Challenge of the Tedious Work

I experienced a couple of challenging days earlier this week. They were days in which I began to question why I do the writing stuff and all the surrounding things an author does to sustain a writing career.

I’m updating my author website this spring. For one thing, I think it’s a good idea to refresh all the public-facing stuff from time to time. My site had been static with one design for …well, I can’t remember the last time I updated it. Another reason is as a cost-cutting measure. The theme I was using is one of those subscription-based plans and, now that my taxes are finished, I was able to see that the money going out (for hosting, webpage theme) was not as much as the money coming in. Thus, I revised my website and opted to use a modern, responsive theme for a single purchase price.

I was struggling with the website mainly because it was not properly formatted. I was beginning to sweat it out, to be honest. What if someone—especially a fellow sax player in my church orchestra who only discovered on Easter that I write books—visited my site at the very same time the site was garbled? Would they ever return?

I was able to slap that thought out of my head rather easily. Is that something I can control? If yes, then worry about it. If no, then soldier on and do the work of updating the website no matter how long it took.

How Long Is a Novel Supposed to Be?

On New Year’s Day, I started my current book. Last year was pretty bad writing-wise so my simple goal was to start and finish this book with the only rule of thumb being write every day. I have met that goal, but, after 104 days (as of yesterday), I have not completed the book.

Which was weird. And it got to overthinking things.

It took me about ten months to write my first one back in 2005-2006. Then I spent seven years not writing the second only to complete my second actual book in about a six-week span in 2013. In those intervening years, I’ve complete more manuscripts, with the fastest being a three-month span in early 2017 in which I completed a novel a month. I was enamored with the pulp writers of the 1930s and fancied myself in their company.

That’s not me.

Thinking my book was too long and too slow, I recently purchased Dean Wesley Smith’s classic Pacing course over at WMG Publishing. In my email conversations with him, he banged my head with the Bat of Obvious: “As for your present book, just write until you find the end of the story and don't worry about length. Then keep learning, as you are doing.”

Yeah, but what about that other book when….? was my first reaction. That’s when another author showed up in my feed.

I subscribe to the Writer Unboxed blog posts and read those posts daily. This week, Kathleen McCleary posted a just-for-me (no, not really) blog post entitled How Long Does It Really Take To Write a Novel? Eager to learn The Secret, I read her post.

And, again, found the Obvious Answer: it depends on the story and the author. In reading the details of how long it took her to write her novels, I found encouragement. She mentioned that writing every day helps (I absolutely concur with that statement) and it doesn’t matter what others have done. Then, like Dean, Kathleen lays it out in a clean, obvious statement: “Let it go.  Meaning, let go of your ideas of how long it should take you to write your book, and just write. You have a story to tell and you are the only one who can tell it, so let it unfold.”

The Work is the Win

The bow on top of the Cake of Encouragement this week came from Billy Oppenheimer. He is Ryan Holiday’s research assistant, Ryan being the guy who is bringing Stoic philosophy to the 21st Century and showing us how it still applies. Billy has a weekly newsletter in which he shares six things he’s learned each week. It’s a great resource.

Billy appeared on The Best Advice podcast and in this episode, he said he followed one of Ryan’s basic habits for sustained creative success:

The Work has to be the Win. “You control the effort," Ryan says, "not the results. You control the work you put in, not how it’s received. So ultimately, you have to love doing it. You have to get to a place where doing the work is the win & everything else is extra.”

The World Can Help You…If You Let It

All of these desperate threads wound themselves in my brain and thoughts this week and cleared away the cobwebs of doubt. Doing something creative is always difficult. There will always be challenges. The key to maintaining the creativity is to keep moving forward. The work is going to take as long as the work takes. When it’s over, you’ll know.

So just keep being creative, because being a creative is a wonderful thing to be.

Photo courtesy of Steve Johnson via Unsplash

No comments: