Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Great New Advice Site, But Don't Fear Ignoring Harmful Advice

20,000 hits! Well, OVER 20,000. Still don't know how many READS that translates to, but it's still awesome that people have at least found my blog about 20,000 times.

Roughly 20,000 times people have come to read how I've been doing with my writing. Come to read my struggles and how I overcame them. Come to see my growth. Come for my encouragement. Come for my insight. And that insight is what I'll be presenting today.

See, I once again failed to really put anything to paper this week. I've been sore from my wrist injury a few weeks back. I've been sore from exercising a bit harder than I should have; mostly due to excitement over nice weather FINALLY being here coupled with guilt over not really exercising over the LOOOOONG winter months. I've been exhausted with a full work week; a TRYING work week where - I must admit - I've nearly quit about nine different times; six of which were from the same day. I've been exhausted because - for one reason or another - I haven't been able to get to bed before 1am three nights in a row.

While I did have a social high point in being able to hang out with Ronoxym, Cyhyr, and another couple that I met at the beginning of the year: Mouse and Bear, the rest of the week was a stupid waste. Aside from having a pretty decent "cleaning day" yesterday, my production level was about 5%. I wrote last week's blog post, I made minor advancements on the X-Future board, and I did some more naming research last night. Whoooo....

Okay, enough complaining. How does any of this relate to the supposed "insightful post" I was going to share with you? Give me a couple minutes. I'm getting there, I swear.

On Thursday I read Ali Luke's grand return to blogging after being on maternity leave: There’s Never Enough Time to Write: Here’s Why.

While she was giving her own great advice on the subject she shared a link to the blog Productive Flourishing. A fantastic blog that tends to lean towards writing advice - since it is written by a writer; doi - but is presented that the advice can be used for nearly EVERYTHING. All-in-all, another great blog that I strongly recommend adding to your reading list.

The post Ali linked to was about The Two Hour Rule as a way to push through projects. Sadly, every time I've attempted this during this week I've passed out....

Well, while I was reading Charlie's insight about breaking projects down in to 2hr portions, I ended up getting lost in some of his links. Much like, Charlie tends to write one post with about seven others in mind, and links to them as he references them in passing. Which means, much like with, I bring up about three more pages every time I read one. Getting me lost for hours... Ironically, Charlie has a post precisely advising AGAINST such tactics: Use the Two-Tab Rule to Stay Focused

Point is, I found about three more articles on Thursday that I shared with my Struggling Writers Society group. The first is something I'm guilty of, as is Ron - although, I don't know how helpful Charlie's advice is for someone with ADHD...
Stop Shuffling and Start Creating

Sure, shuffling helps me out with at least the ILLUSION of being productive all the time - "Don't have ideas for X-Future? How about I think about my High Fantasy story? No? My Hey Arnold fanfic? Or maybe adapt more of the X-Future board to prose?" - but it DOES result in me having SIX open projects and nothing getting completed.

Then there's Charlie's concept of the Idea Garden. Now, ChibiSunnie and I call ours Plot Bunny Farms, but I like Charlie's more generic term for the same concept being used outside plotting out fiction.

The final article I shared with everyone is where my own insight comes in; sorry for the slow crawl to this: Stop Lying and Start Creating

This article had me actually sobbing a little bit. Mostly because of how true it is: I do "overly research" as a way to "pretend" I'm productive. Just check everything I've written so far about this week to see my point. I mean, right now I'm talking about all the information I gathered by reading other people's blogs. I'm probably a master at the "excuses for not writing" department:
  • I'm so far behind on my latest crocheting project
  • This house is a disaster
  • I'm learning how to improve via blog posts
  • I can't seem to get in a comfortable/creative spot with my laptop the way it is
  • My job is just too mind-numbing; I can't think of anything right now
  • It kept forever to go through my Facebook notifications first
  • I'm exhausted and passed out instead
  • I should be exercising instead
  • My computer lags so hard core!!!!
  • etc, etc, etc
So, why do we do it? Why have the above list of excuses? Why spend six hours avoiding something, instead of just spending two hours doing?

Well, last fall I wrote responses to two different articles commenting about their thoughts on why writers might "Meta-do", as Charlie put it.
Procrastinate to Avoid Fear
Monkeys, Monsters, and Playgrounds

In short, the articles call out the battle of Pleasure Vs Fear of Failure. Truthfully, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. My main procrastination flaws due to fear are that I'm a "meta-doer" and that I favor Instant Gratification too much. I know some people that have slipped so far that they have stopped writing all together, all because of Fear of Failure. Sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy: they fear failing, and so they never push to succeed.

And that's the true tragedy. All the insight and helpful blog posts can't help with that. In fact, in some cases it might cripple people even more. As Charlie pointed out in "Stop Lying..." the more we research the more we might get scared that we're not on par with our peers. Adding to the fear. Adding to our self-doubt.

This week a friend of mine posted as a status: "It's kind of hard to be a writer when you haven't written anything in years."

Granted, this could have been a vague rant about a beloved author taking FOREVER to get the next book out, but I took it at face value: self doubt over one's authenticity as a writer.

I remember that moment. Heck, I've had that break down a few times throughout the course of this blog's lifetime. The major one, however, was when I believed my creative writing professor when he told me in college that I wasn't going to cut it. I went the next six years without writing anything recreationally. It was a dark time, but one I crawled out of.

So, stop doubting yourself. If researching is causing you to put-off the actual creative process - like I tend to do - then stop! If researching makes you fear that you're on a much lower level than the rest of your peers - again, a situation I find myself in, especially when I discover people have hit milestones while younger than me - then stop! If reading other people's works becomes intimidating instead of inspiring, then stop! If forcing yourself to create ends up enraging you more because it's too much of a struggle, then stop! If the advice you receive adds to the void because you don't think it can apply to you, then ignore it!

You need to find your own way, no matter how well-intentioned everything else around you may be. Sometimes you have to sink in to the non-writing abyss and turn off your brain to the creative until you're in a better spot in your life. Ignore that "you're wasting your talent" or that "maybe you're not meant for this creative career" or that "you'll never improve".

Those are more roadblocks that either you or well-intentioned friends/family are putting in front of you. True, you won't improve if you let your talent grow dust and rust. I know that first-hand in regards to my production training. However, don't let that worry or fear bog you down any further. Once you're out of your slump - however long it lasts - you'll work on your craft because it's your PASSION again, and you'll start improving THEN. Don't force it NOW if it brings you more anguish than joy.

I think the bit of advice I read the most in regards to concurring procrastination is basically: "If it's important to you, you'll find time for it." While it is sage advice, I feel it's also the most hurtful advice out there. Does that mean parents who have to work 16hrs a day to make ends meet don't think their children are important? If they did, they'd find the time for them. Does that mean someone who is working full time AND trying to earn a degree no longer finds friendship important? Because if it still was then the working student would find time for friends too.

Granted, those were EXTREME examples, but it works on a more minor scale. Is my health not important to me since I don't find the time to work-out as much as I should to get to a better state of wellness? Or because I don't find the time to cook healthier meals?

Or... is writing not important because I'm not putting enough effort in to finding the time to work on it? I didn't do anything terribly productive writing-wise in May.

At its core, "if it's important, you'll find time" is indeed good advice. I'm sure spending three hours a day on Facebook or watching TV isn't more important to me than writing. I'm sure if I took the advice the way it was intended I would re-prioritize and - SURPRISE - find time to write because it's important to me.

Still, if you're already in an "Am I Really A Writer?" mindset, having someone call you out about it not being at the top of your to-do list can really sting. Instead of the intention of "rework your priorities" it sounds more like verification that what you thought was important actually isn't, otherwise you'd be doing it already.

So, keep this in mind while you scour the rest of the internet for advice on how to pick yourself up by the bootstraps.

Not all advice is for all people. Everything is circumstantial and context is largely in the mindset of the receiver. The best we - the advice givers - can do is go as generic as possible and hope to hit home. However, if advice EVER makes you feel worse about yourself, just ignore it and find something else.

For instance, at the top of this post I commented that the article about shuffling may not be as helpful to Ron as I would hope, simply because with his ADHD he might not be able to help but shuffle projects. Maybe creating an Idea Garden or Plot Bunny Farm isn't enough to help him focus. Perhaps reading the article that makes something so difficult for him sound so simple ends up upsetting him; and anger him that he can't control the ADHD. If that's the case, then he needs to ignore the advice I handed him and instead figure out what DOES work for him, and then stick with that.

Obviously, with all things, the "ignore what doesn't fit" advice should be used in moderation. You're not going to magically master something overnight. Some things you just may never be good at, no matter what. Sometimes the hard truths of reality are exactly what you need to hear, so don't ignore EVERYTHING just because it's hard to hear/read. Same goes for allowing a "creative slump." If you're there simply because "practicing is too hard" then you need to push through. Everyone is crappy at first, but you WILL improve with practice. It may not be easy to spot day-to-day, but go ahead and check out what you made a few months ago; a year ago; a few years ago. See the progress you've made then?

Anyway, I'll trust you guys can use your judgment to figure out which advice is "hard to swallow, but needed" and which is "harmful and should be ignored." I'll also trust that you guys will know when you're "avoiding practice" and when you "need to step away from your talent for a while."

Just know that I do have faith in you and your creative dreams. Push through, look for encouragement, but don't fret if you have to put it on the back-burner for years on end. You are still that creative, and you'll enjoy it all the more once it's a passion again. 

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