Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How do you treat your writerly self?

Post by Lynn

If you were arrested for being kind to yourself, 
would there be enough
evidence to convict you?
- Peter McWilliams

“Get your butt in the chair and write!”

“You call that an active verb? I’ve seen slugs with more animation!”


“That’s it? Two pages in three hours? You’ve got to be kidding.”

If you’re been speaking to yourself like this lately, it might be time to take a look at how you treat your writerly self.

I’ve noticed a tendency among my writing friends: kind and supportive to me, nothing short of wretched to themselves. I’m talking a Charles Dicken’s schoolmaster kind of treatment, complete with flogging and starvation.

Now, I’m all for work ethic, but I’ve also noticed that when I repeatedly bludgeon my muse, it tends to slink away.

I had a boss once who reacted to stress by getting angry and irrational. She called waste-of-time meetings to ask us why we weren’t working harder. “The beatings will continue until morale improves,” my co-workers and I whispered to each other.

Newsflash: it wasn’t a productive workplace. I left as soon as I could.

Maybe it’s time for you to put the whip down. You know who you are. Put it down, give yourself a be-kind-to-me break and see if afterwards you don’t get further with your projects and produce better writing too. Put aside the obligations, judgments and Must Do’s for the moment. They won’t go anywhere, trust me.

Pretend your good friend is burned out, crabby and discouraged. What would you do? Run out and get her favorite smoothie? Send him off for an afternoon at the movies?

Now go ahead and do that wonderful thing for yourself or something even better.

Isn’t that an improvement? Aren’t you more energized and able to approach the page?

I thought so.

What kindnesses can you show your writerly self?


Anonymous said...

Ah yes, if you wouldn't say it to your best friend, or to a child you loved, don't say it to yourself. Good rule!

There seems to be an attitude that if we don't soldier on when we're overtired (probably spinning wheels while doing so) we're lazy. The body needs rest. The mind needs a break.

Jennifer Carter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer Top said...

This is so true! I kinda feel like the muse and discipline should not be allowed in the same room together. Save the discipline for editing! :)

RichardK said...

In the years P.T. - pre-therapy - I would always berate myself on how poor my writing was and how it wouldn't get me anywhere, These days, I praise myself a bit more. There are times I know my stories need to be fixed, but it doesn't mean I'm a bad writer. It just means I need to learn something else to improve.

Luana Krause said...

I've learned to cut myself some slack. Sometimes other things than writing need to be front and center for a while. Looking at the Big Picture helps put things in perspective. I've also learned to never say negative things about myself EVER! I'm a believer in positive self-talk.

Lynn said...

I like that rule: never allow the muse and discipline/editor in the room together, kind of like those two friends you have, and you love them both, but you keep them separate because they fight.

Mary Hill said...

Great advice. I will remember next time I feel like I blew it.
I get your blog everyday via email.

Kittie Howard said...

Great post! I also don't understand why so many beat up on themselves. There's more to writing than, well, writing -- one has to take a break and live life a bit if the words are going to come at the keyboard.

Lynn said...

I like the spirit of these comments! The less bludgeoning in the world, the better.

Thanks for sharing, and thanks, Mary, for reading The Writing Bug every day! (Or every post, I should say)

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