Human First, Writer Second: Having the Right Mindset for Setbacks and Shortcomings

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It’s 11:00 P.M., and you’re staring at the blinking vertical line on your screen. Your word count has changed by only 50 words since you sat down fifteen minutes ago, and that’s only from deleting the previous sentence because its sounded like something you would read out of a book titled “Clichés 101.” You sigh, shut the laptop a bit harder than you probably should, then head to bed, feeling exhausted and guilty for not having accomplished any of your writing goals.

We’ve all been there. Some of us are there right now, trying to cope with the guilt of our writing shortcomings.

It’s easy to become disheartened by our lack of progress. Whether life gets in the way or we just don’t feel like slugging through a particularly frustrating scene, the guilt still weighs on our shoulders. It makes us feel like we’re giving up on our dreams, like we’re accepting the mediocrity and monotony we’ve seen so many friends fall into.

It shouldn’t feel that way.

Why?

  1. You’re not a paid, full time writer (probably).

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If you’re like most writers, you squeeze writing into your life by sheer will. Most of us have full time jobs, are stressed out college students, or spend most of our time at school and the rest doing homework or extracurricular activities. When we find time to write, it’s usually because we made that time by skipping out on a social event, working extra-fast on a project, or by opting not to fall into the other more relaxing “veg” activities like Netflix.

Writing doesn’t pay for most of us. Let’s be realistic here. We can’t all find an hour each day to dedicate to writing. Some of us can hardly find 15 minutes.

That’s okay.

We have jobs to work, exams to study for, scrimmages to play in, instruments to practice, relationships to grow and maintain, and families to care for. We have responsibilities that should come before writing. That’s just life.

As soon as you realize it’s okay to say, “My life is too busy right now, I’m going to step away for bit,” you’ll begin to feel that guilt slip off your shoulders. It’ll make it that much easier to jump back into the game once you’ve taken care of your responsibilities.

  1. You only have so much to give.

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A popular analogy for human energy is a jar of marbles. When you do something that takes energy, marbles are taken out of the jar. When you do something that relaxes you or revives you, marbles are returned to the jar. Life is a balance of keeping the jar from emptying while still accomplishing all that you want to do in life.

Sometimes, writing adds marbles back to that jar, but sometimes it drains the whole dang thing.

We have those days we finish writing 2k words and we feel better than ever. Unfortunately, we also have those days like in the opening paragraph; we try, and we try, but in the end, we’re exhausted and nothing has been accomplished.

It’s okay to not have energy.

I know, I’m breaking every single goal-setting rule in one sitting. But for real. Can we just be honest and admit that sometimes, you just don’t have it in you to pull the words from your heart and onto the page? It happens! Don’t let it get you down!

If you have the courage to admit when you don’t have the energy, you save yourself a few of those energy marbles. Then, next time you sit down to write, you might find that you have enough of them to get some real work done!

  1. Other hobbies are okay too.

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The thing about writing is that it wants the spotlight. It has a way of pushing your other interests out of the way so it can be the center of attention. It’s like that little kid at the nursery that needs to be held, otherwise it’ll scream and cry until your eardrums break. In this analogy, the screaming and crying is guilt.

You know what? Reading is cool too. So is photography. Video games are rad. Knitting while watching Netflix is pretty sick. Building LEGOs and taking pictures of them is legit. Creating intricate mosaics of Steve Carell is fabulous.

I don’t know what else you like to do, but whatever it is, do that too!

It all comes back to that jar of coins. Hobbies should be some of those things that fill up your jar so you’ll have the energy to achieve your dreams. If writing a book is one of your dreams, it’s in your best interest to fill up that jar by enjoying yourself!

I don’t want you to read this post and think, “Man, procrastination is okay, everyone does it.” This post isn’t about procrastination. Don’t think this gives you a license to neglect your writing to spend four hours watching GoT. Procrastination is bad.

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Recognizing that life is crazy, and that you can only give so much of yourself to writing, now that’s good.

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You’re only human after all. As long as you don’t give up, taking a step back or giving yourself room to relax is okay. Often, it’s what helps us get back into the rhythm of things.

 

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Caleb Robinson, Signing off.

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