Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why not gaze down?

Sometimes writing can be a frustrating experience.

You get bogged down in Act II. You discover that you don’t really know your characters. You’re not sure what the hell the book is about anymore. The outline or plot board seems an insurmountable task. The new ideas attacking your psyche seem much more interesting. Your muses shut up and hide.

I’m pretty sure from reading what other authors have to say and from talking to my writing group that these truths are fairly universal.

How do we get past them?

Well, that little gem of a writing book that I picked up to inhabit part of my sacred space – both the current traveling one and the soon-to-be permanent one – makes a great suggestion. The book I picked up is
The Pocket Muse Endless Inspiration: New Ideas for Writing by Monica Wood. It’s a collection of anecdotes, encouragements, simple prompts, and clever pictures to get the writing juices flowing, to gently tap the muses and say, “Um, could you get back to work?”

One page was titled “Memo from the Department Of Attitude Adjustment.”

Here are the profound words from that page:

“Sometimes it really does seem as if everyone you know is more successful than you. Sometimes it’s all in your head. And sometimes, alas, it isn’t. But while you’re standing on a lower rung of the ladder of success, looking longingly upward, somebody on a rung lower still is gazing longingly up at you. Why, oh why, do we always gaze up? Why not gaze down once in a while? Is unhappiness merely a function of comparing ourselves to the wrong people? Remember when your biggest goal was simply to begin? Just that? Go back there and look up again – AT YOURSELF.”

(Yes, the quote came complete with a cute, but different picture of a dog looking up, so here's one for added effect. The link for rights to use this picture was broken. If it's yours let me know and I'll give you credit or whatever.)

Is unhappiness merely a function of comparing ourselves to the wrong people?

Writing isn’t a competition. When we treat it as such, the muses simply wear out. They aren’t into competition. They’re into creation. It isn’t how can I catch up or surpass so-in-so. It isn’t: I can or can't write better than her. It’s simply this story, this idea, this instance with the muses. It’s a ladder we climb as a journey and an experience, not a race.

I for one think stopping to look down is a healthy step. Look how far you climbed. The ground is a long way down there now. And, yes, the top may still be out of sight, but would you turn around now? Would you just stop? Nah, you’ll keep climbing because that apex (if it’s there) is much closer now. However, I like to think that once you get to the top of this ladder, it really is just the starting point on another. It’s the climb that counts.

Anyway, that’s my 2 cents. Hopefully, it was encouraging to you. I know it was to me.

Glance down. Then move up one more rung today.