Back in our 'hippy' days, my husband and I were 'seekers'. We studied so many Eastern and Western spiritual paths, we could have become smug. We went so far as to give up all our stuff and go to an ashram in Arizona with our two year old. To make a long lived life short, no matter what we studied, it always boiled down to three actions to have a calm, spiritual, happyish life: eat good stuff (see Longevity Kitchen by Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson), meditate (any kind that works for you), and exercise (whatever kind keeps you moving 30 or more minutes per day without causing the dreaded ennui). All of which helped lead us to right thought which is everything.
And so it is in writing. No matter how much I write (a lot of skits, poems, songs for school; guest blogs-only two so far; letters; essays and stories-not yet published) or how much my friends write (and get published--Sunny Fraizer, Christy Bristol mysteries and Che Gilson, Carmine Rojas, Dog Fight) it all seems to come down to the same things:
1. Positive self-talk. Tell yourself what you want to hear: "I can...", "I am...", "I will..." Forward thinking. See yourself where you want to be whether it's giving a book talk for your newly published book or going on a spending spree with your earnings, or sitting at home reading an e-mail from a friend thanking you for writing. Revel in even the thought of success (no matter how you describe it to yourself) not failure.
2. Ignore the 'shoulds', even those that come from you. You are you and it is okay to write how much you write each day, how many websites you peruse, how many contacts you make. Your style, your format, your energy. You will know when it's time to try something else. You can listen to 'experts' without shoulding yourself to death, Assimilate what you are told then decide what you will try. "If you want to be successful, you need to write six (five, ten, one, etc.) hour per day" is merely a suggestion. No matter what you think success consists of, there is more than one way to achieve it.
3. You don't have to be the best writer in order to make a living writing. If that were the case, there might be a hundred or so writers per generation and as you all know, that is not the case. Like any other joyful work people do, you learn your craft, practice, and keep learning.
4. Focus on the joy of writing and you will have the energy and clarity to see opportunity. Focus on what you want out of writing, not what you don't want.
5. Be prepared to be challenged, to move out of your comfort zone. Whether you see success as making a living writing, writing for your own edification, or writing letters to the editor, there will be opportunities to move beyond where you are now.
No matter what you are doing, whether it's writing or doctoring or whatever, making your life successful (however you define that) will usually consist of positive self-talk, focusing on the joy of the job rather than 'shoulds', realizing that you don't have to always be the best to contribute, and being prepared to be stretched beyond where you are.
Hey, mostly, just write!
Pendrah Gilson is a native Montanan, one-time teacher on a Native American reservation, GATE teacher/trainer, VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts Resource Teacher), 'regular' teacher, now a sub trying to be a retired person so she can write and do other stuff.