Know Your Value

Peggy Carter is kind of who I want to be when I grow up.  I have a bookmark of her tacked to my wall, with the quote “I know my value” across the bottom.  Even when nearly everyone around her professionally treated her like a less person, she did not give up on herself.

I am not sure if I was born a competitive person, or if it was later ingrained into my brain. To an extent, the determination and drive that comes with a competitive personality can be a good thing.  There are certainly times that I have achieved more because of my need to feel competitive.

The problem is when you make a lot of things a competition, you don’t always win.  Failure stings a bit harder.  You tend to want to give up if you don’t do your best and beyond, every time you try.  Or if someone just happens to do better than you did.

The problem with this kind of attitude, it’s  a losing game, no matter how many times you think you’ve ‘won.’

In this life, there should really only be one person you are competing against. Yourself.

This is a concept I am definitely still working on.  There are times I have to remember that as long as I did better than past-me did, strived a little harder, did a little more, that I’m winning.

There are also ways to take the competitive nature out of a competition.  In her book “Yes, Please!” Amy Poehler talks about the “Pudding” and how we all want it.  For her, the “pudding” was an Emmy award.  So Amy made a game of it, to take the sting out of not getting that yummy, delicious pudding.  She got all the women who were nominated in her category to do bits and make funny jokes.  She saw them as her friends and teammates, instead of her competitors.

I think this is a great attitude to have, to see those around us as our teammates, rather than adversaries.  If your friend gets their book published?  Cheer them on.  Gets a raise at a job they love?  Be excited for them.  By recognizing the worth in others, rather than tearing them down in a misguided attempt to make yourself feel better, you’ll find that it is a lot easier to recognize your own worth as well.

You have value.  When that little green monster climbs into your brain and tries to compare you to someone else, try to drown out that little voice by saying “They’re doing great!  I’m working hard too.  I’m going to reach my goals too.”  

 

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Capturing the Muse – Writing for the uninspired

With the advent of the internet, it’s easier than ever for writers to connect with one another.  Because of this, I have met lots of writers who have very active muses, those that do not wait for the muse, and those that can only write when their lazy muse feels like it.  I consider myself to fall in the second camp, I don’t wait for my muse or for inspiration, to write.  If you’re like me, this can mean tricking yourself to producing.

Okay, tricking sounds simple.  It’s not really a trick, it’s a series of carefully planned habits and practices that help me make sure I show up to write even when my muse doesn’t.  Here are some tips to get you started down that path:

  1.  Create a daily writing habit – Stephen King and several other professionals will give you this advice.  Whether it’s setting a word count goal, or setting aside 20 minutes a day to write, create a goal and stick to it.  Even if you write just 200 words a day, that’s 73,000 words a year.  That’s a small novel.  That’s several short stories.  This writing may not feel inspired at first, but if you show up to do the work, you’ll be surprised how often it starts to feel inspired.
  2. Find a process that works for you – I have several work sheets for story planning.  When I start writing a story, especially short stories. I pull one out and start the very fundamental process of character building on them.  I usually start with 3-4 characters, give them names, 4 personality traits (at least one negative trait).  From there I add a setting if I didn’t already have one in mind and I build from there.  I am the sort of writing that likes plot that stems from character, so that is why I start with characters.  Once I have plot, I work on world building and theme.   The worksheet I use the most is here, which I based off a story workshop I attended taught by comics author Kelly Sue Deconnick.  It gives me a great building block to start with, whether my muse had chosen to show up or not.  Sometimes the traits I choose are literally random ones.  Other times I have an idea of the characters and they come naturally.
  3. Writing prompts – Find a prompt you like, set a timer (15-30 minutes is usually the best) and write.  The scene can be random or with characters you’ve already created, but write and see what happens.

If you want advice beyond what I can recommend in the space of this small blog post, I have a few books to recommend.  They are as much about creating a writing practice as finding inspiration, but they have helped me immensely over the last few years.

Both of Pressfield’s books are relatively quick reads, but they shine a good light on the practices of a “Professional” even when you don’t feel like one yet.  He also just released a another book, Nobody wants to read your Sh*t, which he released for free to start out, so you might still be able to grab a free copy.  I’ll be reading and reviewing that book, in a couple weeks.

  • On Writing – Stephen King

I’m not a fan of horror, but I’m smart enough to know that Mr. King has some amazing advice on writing.  I listened to the audiobook, which he reads, and it’s one I’ve gone back to time and time again.

  • Fantastic Mistakes – Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” Speech

I own the hardcover book, but you can also watch Gaiman give the speech here.  This is something that is great to read or listen to when you feel like you can’t do this.  His voice is kind and encouraging, which makes it seem almost like his advice is coming from a dear friend.

 

 

 

Capturing the Muse: Writing for the uninspired


When I first started writing, I thought I had to be “in the zone” for my work to be truly good.  The muse had to be talking to me and the words had to flow from my fingers like water in a stream in spring.  Now, don’t get me wrong, when things flow it feels amazing, but if you wait for the muse there is a good chance you could be waiting a while.  My perspective on this didn’t change on its own, but thankfully I found something that helped me realize why waiting for the muse was a bit futile.

I went to a writing workshop and the teacher recommended the book “The War of Art” by Robert Pressfield.  In his book, Pressfield talks about how the professional shows up for work and does their work.  Even though we as writers often think of ourselves as artists or creative minds, we still need to treat writing or creating like a job, if we expect to make money off it.  Don’t get me wrong, I know people who can’t wait to write, who spend their day fully inspired and mill out thousands upon thousands of words a day and make it look very easy.

I am not one of those people.  I have to fight to make myself sit down and do my work.  I have to fight my mind to stay away from all the distractions of the world.  But I’m good at getting organized and keeping to a schedule when I’m committed.

So now, every Monday I make a list of my goals for the week.  I also know what I need to get accomplished by Friday, and I know when I’m going to work.  I’m lucky enough to be able to commit myself full time to writing, but if you’re working another job while you try to build a writing career, it’s still important to set goals and set aside time to get your “work” done.  Even if it’s just a half hour a day, that half hour will get closer each week to where you want to be.

So don’t wait for the muse.  Get to that desk, kitchen table, notebook at the library, and do your writing.  If you do it regularly and show up, you’ll be surprised how often the muse decides to join you.  When you’re regular, she’s more likely to be as well.

And go back and read work you wrote when you weren’t necessarily “in the zone,”  there’s a good chance it’s just as good as when things are flowing.  The zone really is just perception.

So get out there, and keep writing.  Muse be damned.

photo credit: _______ ____ _ via photopin (license)