This is your only goal as a writer.
I live in North Dallas, and this past Tuesday was the first day of truly cooler weather.
The night before that cold front blew through, my wife and I were debating — maybe even arguing — about what costume our two-year-old should have for his first Halloween where he’s aware that people are just giving out free candy.
While I enjoy cooler weather, and we’re certain to enjoy seeing our son in whatever costume we land on, another aspect of the fall always inspires me.
The return of the NBA.
I’m not a diehard fan, but I enjoy watching a few games every season, and I can’t wait until the playoffs. Officially tipping off this Tuesday, this season promises to be fascinating considering how many high-caliber players are on new teams, especially with Kyrie Irving leaving the Cavs for the Celtics.
Of course, the year could be less than compelling if Golden State rolls over everyone.
This is where we finally get to your only goal as a writer.
Really, that goal is the same as any other professional doing their job.
When Steph Curry was recently interviewed about the Warriors’ expectations for this season, Steph’s words resonated with this writer:
“Every year, no matter how much talent you have or how much success you’ve had the previous year, you have to show up and regain that edge. . . . For us, that’s up to us. That’s something that we can control. And not getting complacent, which I think we can get ahead of, but look at the talent around the league and how teams have kind of reshifted a little bit. It’s going to be a challenge. It’s nothing that we can just walk through the season and end up back in the Finals. We have to really put our best foot forward every opportunity we get. That’s all we can do.”1
The only thing you can control about your writing life is if you choose to show up.
- Stephen King wrote, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
- Dan Poynter wrote, “If you wait for inspiration to write you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.”
- John Updike wrote, “The pleasures of not writing are so great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again.”
- William Faulkner reportedly said, “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.”
- Steven Pressfield wrote, “The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”
- Michael Jordan said, “I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”2
Even the defending champions of the NBA, a star-studded team that has every right to believe that they’ll steamroll the competition again this year, understand that greatness is granted; it’s earned. It’s bought at the cost of their time and dedication to a craft they’ve devoted their lives to.
Now, they may have millions of more reason$ to put in the daily work of making themselves better basketball players and a better team, but the team understands that “no matter how much talent you have or how much success you’ve had the previous year, you have to show up and regain that edge.”
In other words, could the Golden State Warriors not practice during the offseason and not stay in shape, then hope to compete in the NBA? Even with their athletic skills, that’s not likely.
So they show up every day and do the work they’ve done a thousand times before in order to maintain their skills in the hopes of enhancing their skills.
As a writer, that’s your job too.
When you don’t know what to do with your writing, just show up.
To encourage yourself to write more, make it a habit:
- Do it at the same time every day or once a week. How often or how long you do this isn’t as important as how consistent you are.
- Drink the same kind of coffee, tea, or what-have-you every time.
- Listen to the same song, album, or playlist every time. (The Westworld soundtrack was my writing jam for a long time.)
- Write in the same place.
The specifics of what I mentioned above aren’t important. Just be consistent with your setup process. What you’re trying to accomplish through these steps is greasing the wheels of your writing habit so you can slide more easily into getting words onto the page.
Now, when you’re finally ready to write, sit in front of your computer with your hands on your keyboard and don’t do anything. Don’t move. Let your mind rest. Breathe. Take the pressure off yourself to WRITE, then allow yourself to just write.
If you’re not working on a specific project, write a letter to someone you haven’t communicated with for a long time. Write a letter to your future self, or your past self. Write a poem. Write a stream-of-consciousness rant about how frustrated you are with not being able to write. Write a short story. Write a pitch for that magazine you’ve always wanted to be published in. Write a children’s story for your kids. Write your first memory of wanting to be a writer.
The goal isn’t to write something of value; the value is found in the act of writing.
And when you show up day after month after season after year, you will increase your odds of finding success as a writer, however you may define that.
If you’ve had trouble being a consistent writer, make a plan right now to just show up in front of your computer tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. You may just be surprised at how that blinking cursor gradually shifts from a foreboding menace into an enticing call to creation.
- Nick Friedell for ESPN: Klay Thompson: Warriors aspire to be Michael Jordan’s Bulls
- Michael Jordan is the best NBA player of all-time. His Bulls were the best team of all-time.
P.S. I became a Mavs fan when I moved to Dallas in 2010. I had the opportunity to attend a few games that year. I firmly believe that my move to Dallas and their championship year in 2011 weren’t coincidence.
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