I was in the early stages of dating my now husband, and I was throwing a fit.* It was something that I knew was bad (for me and for us) and it made me feel horrible. But it was something that had worked in the past with my ex; a terrible dynamic that won me the comfort of attention, even if it was negative. So here I was, practically flopping around like a fish out of water, gasping angry breaths.
My boyfriend paused and looked at me for a long time. Then he quietly asked, “Are you having fun?” He didn’t say it in a mean way and I didn’t sense any judgement behind it. He sincerely wanted to know: was I having fun? Like, the answer really meant something him. I stopped stamping my foot, stood still, and mirrored his calm demeanor. It didn’t take me long to grasp the obvious lesson. The answer, of course, was no; I was not having fun. In an instant the thing I thought I was mad about vanished because I could clearly see that it didn’t matter. I smiled, we hugged, and we went on to have a great day. I never threw a fit like that again.
That moment changed everything for me. I’ve never forgotten it, and I’ve applied it to many other scenarios since then. Mad at traffic? Eh, just enjoy some music while I wait. Hurt by someone? Don’t carry a silent grudge. Pause with compassion and see if we can get to the root of it. And so on. All while keeping the central goal in mind. Are we having fun? If not, let’s find a way to get there!
(I initially Googled "writing journey," but then this popped up and, needless to say, it's perfect!)
It occurred to me – finally! – to apply this to my writing as well. For so long I’ve approached my practice with a whip in hand. I’m not good enough. I’m not trying hard enough. I’ve wasted so much time! I’ll never get published. Who am I to think this could be my career? It’s too late! And this is all before I’ve barely sat down at my desk with my coffee, or even written a paragraph! Needless to say, it’s:
d. A waste of precious time that I could use to actually be writing
And no, this mental lashing was definitely not helping me have fun. Then I started thinking about the beautiful, simple lesson my husband taught me all those years ago. (I was going to lie and say, “I don’t know what made me think about it.” But that’s not true – I totally know why I was thinking about it: from reading Jessica Simpson’s memoir Open Book about her emotionally abusive relationship with John Mayer. Yep! Like I’ve said, no shame in this game. I’ll gladly take inspiration from pop culture. Trask Radio, baby!)
I know you’re like me – passionate about writing. We are all on the path; no matter where we are, from established writer to newbie, we all have the great binding force of being in love with a muse. Writing is the thing that brings me the greatest joy, so why would I come at it with daggers, like I’m entering a war? Who would want to hang around for that?
No. Viciously beating myself up and then expecting to sit down and create is most definitely not the way to have fun. So what does feel nice? It feels great when I take the time to breathe and approach my practice, and myself, like a friend. Or, even better, like the love of your life who’s waiting to give you all the gifts, if you’ll just let it. Greet your writing like the great love that you deserve.
1. What does your desk look like? Take some time to create a space you love being in!
2. Light a candle for a bit when you write.
3. Create a small ritual each time you sit down to create.
4. Meditate for a few minutes before or after your writing day.
*A note: This incident was 15 years ago, so don’t be too worried about me, my husband, or my immaturity. I’ve grown leaps and bounds since this, I swear!