Honesty time, in the last three months, I've felt stalled in my writing/like an impostor/like a second-rate writer, and I'm so talented at feeling negative things I feel them all at the same time. The good news is I've listened to at least one song from Hamilton every day.
Hamilton is a brilliant piece of historical/musical everything, and no matter how many times I've listened to it, I'm continually inspired by it. However, it wasn't until yesterday I realized Hamilton's given me more than just an fanboy addiction to be laughed at by my friends, it's taught me some crucial things about myself, my writing, and my writing career.
I'm writing these things down on the assumption that I'm not alone in feeling all these writer-y feelings. But mainly, I'm writing these things down because, maybe, if I write these things down enough, I'll start to believe them.
6 THINGS HAMILTON'S TAUGHT ME ABOUT A LIFE OF WRITING
1. "Look at where you are, look at where you started."
Writing is a linear journey marked more by small victories than momentous occasions. More often then not, we quantify our value as writers by where we are in what we've lovingly named "the process" (AKA are you pre-pubbed, agented, pubbed, or, of course, global superstar?) By using these few benchmarks as the only road signs of success, we define our writing by whether or not these benchmarks have happened. When we do this, we miss EVERYTHING else.
Take a few days simply to look at where you started. To remember where you've come from. Make a literal timeline of all the things you've accomplished in your writing: starting your first book, finishing your first book. Meeting your CP. Attending a conference. ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE BENCHMARKS. All of these things are pushing you forward, the only way you don't move forward is by doing nothing. By quitting.
If you're writing, you're making progress. If you're writing, you are victorious,
2. "I've never been satisfied."
Satisfaction is not our natural pose. We don't come out of the womb satisfied, and I'd argue the only way we can be satisfied is by choosing it despite what we think we should have.
Satisfaction isn't an achievable accomplishment, it's a daily disciplined choice. As long as we think we can "achieve" satisfaction by going just one step further, by getting that one benchmark, we'll never be satisfied.
3. "Write your way out."
Sometimes, the best thing to do when you don't know what to do is to just do something. In our case, when we're in a wordhole, the option is to just write something. Pick a story. Hell, pick 4 stories and smash them together and go. When you're in this place, the biggest hurdle you need to jump is to let that "something" you write matter. Always let what you write matter in the moment.
4. "Take a break"
If you've listened to Hamilton, then you are acutely aware that NOT taking a break gets you in deep deep ish. Feeling weak? Weary? Exhausted? Did you just finish a draft? Is writing becoming a chore? Are you feeling like an impostor? Like nothing you do is working?
Take a break.
Despite what corporate America says, rest is good. We need to be okay with more rest. Productivity and busyness is good, but it shouldn't trump rest, it should go hand and hand. Resting doesn't make you less of a writer. Set a date to come back, and in your off time, read. Play video games. Run in a cemetery. Calm your brain down enough to let the world's hidden stories inspire you again. After periods of intense emotion and creative exertion, our brains are like forests after a wildfire. You've got to let time do it's work. We've got to give the space for the green to shoot through the char. Let your weariness grow back into curiosity. When it does, that's when you know it's time to come back.
5. "The world was wide enough."
It's really freaking easy to believe that success a limited-run commodity. Our brains are set to the dials of supply and demand. If there's low supply, then the demand sky rockets, making it harder to get. Luckily for us, success doesn't bow to the rules of supply and demand.
Think about it, artists have been achieving success since art became a thing, and we're still watching success happen everyday. Taking a break or not having a book deal won't decrease your chances at success. There's a never ending supply of it. It isn't bound by the laws of capitalism. If you simply continue to do what you do, do it well, keep learning, and have a healthy view of success, there's a slice for you that can't be eaten by anyone else.
6. "The room where it happens"
You are the room where it happens. There are vital outside factors to growth, but at the end of the day you pick up the pen and start writing, no one else.
Comrades in craft, I need you to remind me of these things daily, and I hope I can do the same for you.
Until next time,