I sometimes chat with folks who are overwhelmed by their writing hopes. They want to write the book, and they beat themselves up for not having done it by now. They can’t seem to find time to write. They wonder if they should even try. Why are they failing in this way, when they achieve in other parts of their life?
One of the main impediments to building a life in which you prioritize creativity is by being overly accountable.
You’re likely used to achieving. You’re hyper productive. You thrive in a dynamic, multitasking environment. You take pride in never dropping balls. And maybe, when you’re being really honest, you have little patience for others who drop balls. (“You had one job!”)
The darker side of accountability is blame. The evidence is clear that shaming and blaming others in the workplace leads to animosity, lower productivity, and even more mistakes. Leadership development consultant Michael Timms shows that we’re hardwired to blame others, and we do it a lot (check out his article in the comments).
We know blame isn’t helpful in the workplace, and we take care to encourage our co-workers, yet we blame ourselves for not living up to our incredibly high expectations for our own creative process.
Creativity is a mindset and needn’t be attached to outcomes. Creativity is inherently anti-productive and anti-capitalist, and it thrives when mistakes are embraced rather than rejected.
Creativity needs to feel good, and writers need to dwell in the realm of the possible.
A lot of people want to write a book, but they don’t know how to start. Instead of testing the idea with their target reader in a small, safe experiment, they throw a lot of ideas into a Google Doc, don’t show anyone, and promptly get stuck. They have big expectations for their first draft, and when they invariably write a shitty first draft, they throw away that draft and don’t start again. Well-meaning writers set up a daily schedule in which they commit to cramming out 500 to 1000 words, then miss a day and don’t get back to it.
Having a daily commitment to writing is not a bad thing. For some, it can mean the difference between doing the work and letting it slide. But you don’t need to write every day to be a writer. You just need to write.
Your book is not another task. If you find yourself overwhelmed by your hope for your writing, cut yourself a little slack. Creativity cannot grow when you hold it too tightly. Instead of working on The Book, just try writing in your journal. Rediscover the joy of writing for itself.
People who want to write a book believe in the hope that they will one day write that book. Hope is wonderful, but it can be A LOT. Hope can rest on huge expectations, and it can crumble when things don’t work out. Instead of relying on hope alone, embrace the power of multiple possibilities.
This possibility might work. This one might let you down. This one might lead somewhere.