After re-reading Elle Luna’s essay and book, The Cross-Roads Between Should and Must, I started thinking about commitment.
So much anxiety around writing stems from our inner-critic, and our response to this criticism often manifests as procrastination, perfectionism, overachieving, comparison, and victimhood. (To read more about these five responses, click here).
We use these exhausting tactics as a way to either prove ourselves or avoid criticism. If you don’t write a book, then no one can judge you. If your partner sees you working on your book at night and during the weekend, then they’ll finally take you and your writing seriously.
Here’s where the idea of commitment comes in.
When we claim the title ‘writer’ and commit to the writing life, the pressure to prove ourselves and the fear of judgement weakens.
Why? Because nothing is as powerful as a mind made up.
Deciding that you are going to be a writer is empowering.
Will this last forever? Probably not.
You will continue to have self-doubt even after you declare yourself a writer because being an artist and making time for your art is uncertain and there are no guarantees.
However, when you commit to the writing life, it does remove the angst of: Should I be a writer?
Do I have what it takes?
I’m not sure what to do….
And when you eliminate this internal dialogue, you can get on with the work.
And you no longer have to concern yourself with the opinions of others because you’ve already made the decision that you’re in this for the long haul.
When we commit to the title of writer, artist, or creative, the pressure to ‘be there’ now reduces.
So many of us refuse the title of ‘author’ or ‘writer’ until we’ve [insert lofty achievement here]. The only problem is that we keep moving the goalposts. ‘I won’t be a real writer until I publish my first essay’ becomes ‘I won’t be a real writer until I publish my first book.’
I won’t be a real writer until …
- I get an agent
- Sign with a traditional publisher
- Become a New York Times Best Seller
- Get a movie deal
- Get interviewed by Oprah
- Become friends with Stephen King.
Maybe you think denying this title is a type of motivator. That the ‘right’ to claim the title of ‘writer’ or ‘author’ will drive you to the finish line.
Oh, dear one, it takes a lot of work to write a book and if your motivation is this flimsy you may not make it.
When you claim that you are a writer, right now, you show that your creative practise is important to you. That you are committed to the writing life.
When you say, ‘I’m a writer, it tells us a bit about who you are and what is important to you. It clarifies your values; it shows that writing is a fundamental part of who you are regardless of internal and external goings-on.
Committing to writing doesn’t mean that you’ll quit your day job to write full time, it means that you are committed to honouring this aspect of yourself by making time for it, thirty minutes a day or 500 words at a time. (However you want to do it).
Most of us have to do other work as a way to pay the bills, whether it be a desk job or maintaining a portfolio career that includes teaching and freelancing, but if writing is the currency that will take you where you want to go, then you need to make time for it.
Being committed to writing means that you stick with it, even when your pitches get rejected, your short stories go unpublished, and three people come to your book launch.
Being committed to writing means staying in the chair even when it isn’t going well and your imagination has become a shrivelled prune and reorganising the walk-in-robe suddenly sounds like a thrilling adventure. (It isn’t).
We commit to writing because it’s how we express ourselves, process information, explore complex problems and feel the satisfaction of achieving a challenging task. It’s also playful, fun, electric, emissive, stimulating, and it feels valuable.
We commit to writing the same reason we commit to anything — because it’s important to us.
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