Jeff Goins’ You Are a Writer surrounded by journals filled with ideas, thoughts, and inspirations. A small drawing containing some favorite quotes on writing.
Thirty three years. The number of years living with the notion that permission was required to begin; almost my entire life. Nine months is a smaller but infinitely more important number to me representing the short time I’ve been on this creative expedition to open my mind and allow the words and ideas to flow from both the pen and camera. This quest led me to Jeff Goins’ You Are A Writer; one of several books I picked up to uncover new ideas and inspiration about writing as well as learn about the writing process from individuals who have ventured forth down this path.
Of all the books to start with on writing this felt like a good choice after flipping through the pages and confirmed once I had read the first few pages. Jeff manages to walk the reader through the realistic portrait of a writer from start to finish, keeping the focus at a high level, all the while giving enough insight to inspire. It is the type of book you want to open with because of it’s effectiveness to be honest and inspiring.
The book opens by first focusing on the mindset behind becoming a writer and how critical this initial leap can be, reminding the reader that belief starts from within:
“Embracing your identity as a writer is mostly a mind game. It’s about tricking yourself into becoming who you are. If you do this long enough, you begin to believe it. And pretty soon, you start acting like it too.”
This immediately resonated within because it points directly at one of the areas that for those thirty three years I didn’t connect with. I didn’t believe. I’ve previously written about this creative permission always sought and never having believed in my abilities as either a photographer or a writer. Creativity was not a word I could associate with. Yet here is Jeff, consistent with Elizabeth Gilbert’s message in Big Magic, and Amy Cuddy in her famous Ted Talk, reminding me about the importance of mindset and the impact it can have on one’s actions. Writing, like every other creative outlet, begins in the mind and can either make it to the page with a bit of courage and belief or remain stifled behind the walls erected within ourselves.
“Before others will believe what is true about you, you’ll have to believe it yourself.”
Sometimes the benefit of reading consistent affirmative messages gives us that extra nudge to continue down the path. For me, nine months ago, it wasn’t just a nudge it was a push. As someone who has wandered down this path, the importance of these beliefs and ideas are not lost on me and Jeff does a great job instilling this idea before moving on to the focus of how. Start with the belief and the pen, and words, shall soon follow. With a mindset established Jeff directs the reader to start thinking about getting started, tools of the craft, and what kind of writer you want to be. The piece that stuck out to me however was when the discussion shifted to the editing process.
Do you ever hear the little voice in your head that’s trying to tell you something important and choose to ignore it, because frankly, what it’s suggesting is hard. The voice pipes up and that dread follows close behind quickly reminding how much you dislike doing exactly what the voice is trying to tell you. Jeff addresses my quirky voice directly and hammers home the importance of doing the task! That task is editing.
“Good writing is in the editing process.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge I’ve wrestled with in this whole writing process, beyond the mindset of starting, is editing. The voice has always reminded me. Spend the time editing but for some reason this process continues to be a mountainous chore. University should have been the opportunity to refine this process and even then I was quick to ignore the voice. A quick read through, catch the spelling mistakes, and done! It is just not that simple. That is the process of someone who believes to much in their abilities and not in the process. When Jeff brought up the importance of editing that little voice inside sat back, vindicated, because I knew it was true.
“You’re going to have to write and rewrite a lot. For every hundred words I write (which might take about 10 minutes to spit out), I spend 30 to 60 minutes of editing and rewriting.”
So there it was. Editing is no secret to most seasoned writers but for me these words were a much needed reminder about how important this process is to writing. It doesn’t matter how quick you can throw words on a page because the polished final product comes in the editing process. Writing isn’t easy but the time and effort put into editing is worth the suffering. In fact, I don’t need to look back to University for an example.
A couple of months ago I submitted an article for review on Elephant Journal in hopes of getting some of my work out there beyond just this blog. When I heard back, the comment was it needs to be edited with a few pointed questions about what the article was trying to accomplish and that it was not reaching the reader. That article remains un-edited partly because of my own dislike of editing but also because of that fear of rejection. It’s easier to walk away then to continue to toil, re-submit, and get rejected again, isn’t it? In fact that’s one of the critical points Jeff tries to in-still. Editing skills will continue to evolve but make no mistake the person reading it, or one step further publishing it, may still tear it apart. Jeff remains steadfast in his encouragement to keep working and not to give up despite the criticism and hard work required.
So this is a challenge to myself, to push past this wall and give it another shot. In that editing-feedback loop new skills will form and ultimately lead to a better writer. Doing nothing will leave me no further ahead. Jeff cements this idea by revealing his track record of written vs. published works when he first started out, and even today. Never be afraid or discouraged by criticism, feedback, or rejection.
The voice of experience can rejuvenate our way of thinking by providing positive affirmation we are on the right track. Giving the small voice a pat on the back and reminding us to listen to our instinct. Jeff’s book is that affirmation and gives that needed reminder to keep writing, learn to love the editing process, and not to be fearful of criticism, feedback, and rejection. Embrace it and grow from it. Does that sound familiar? Sounds like a thread of mindfulness finding its way into the story. Not turning away from those things that scare us instead sitting with them, learning from them. A theme that expands beyond just creativity but life in general.
If you are an experienced writer this book is probably not first on the list. But if, like me, you are new to the process, need some encouragement, or need a reminder to remain steadfast then this book is worth reading. If that isn’t enough I’ll leave you with some profound advice from Jeff himself.
“Stop waiting for permission and prepare to do the work. There are no big breaks. Only tiny drips of effort that lead to waves of momentum.”
You don’t need anyone’s permission but perhaps these words will inspire you to keep writing. I am a writer and so are you.