Every writer, whether they're starting the journey or standing atop the bestseller lists, feels like a hack at some point. Like an imposter, a phony, a gigantic fakeball loser. It might happen once a month or once an hour. The point is, it will happen.
If Woody Allen is correct and “80% of success is showing up,” the other 20% of a writer's success must be correlated to their stockpile of courage and the strength of their underpants.
[Y'all know about my obsession with the Undie-verse, right?]
I'm sure we're all well-acquainted with the tricks our writer's brain has up its sleeve. The torturous, defeating messages it sends out when we sit our butts down.
- I'm too tired.
- I'll do this after [fill in the blank].
- This book is crap.
- No one will buy this.
- No one will read this.
And the #1 favorite from the top of the post:
- I am such a hack.
These messages are where those titanium underpants come into play. Your courage and your willingness to make mistakes is what will keep you in that chair, even when you're squirming against whatever doom and failure happen to be chasing through your psyche that day.
Neil Gaiman posted this wish for his readers a few New Year's Eves back:
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.
So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.
Isn't that awesome???
All the great minds of our time embrace mistakes because they embrace learning. They dare to suck, and that's a beautiful thing. That means if we get in the habit of just showing up, we will eventually achieve excellence, right?
If you don't believe me, look at our pal Laura Drake here at Writers In the Storm.
When I first met her, she was clawing her way through her first full-length novel with a cardboard hero and a plot that resembled Swiss cheese. It didn't matter. Because she had tenacity. She had a dream, a strong work ethic and underpants just like those glittery babies up above. (Okay, maybe she wore cotton, but it was strong cotton.)
Laura showed up every day before dawn, facing down that "You Suck" voice because she had a dream. She attended her monthly writing meetings and took every class Margie Lawson offered.
Seven books and several years later, she is about to publish the book of her heart because all that chair time and effort and classes were about this book. THIS was the book she wanted to be good enough to write, because this book is for her sister.
There's a lot to be said for just showing up.
Elizabeth Gilbert's (incredibly amazing) TED talk references these two elusive ideas - the concept of "showing up" and the creative muse.
Gilbert believes the importance of showing up is this:
Whatever creative gorgeousness there is in your universe needs your fingertips to help it into existence. If you don't show up to the page, that beautiful cranky bipolar muse is going to go show up for someone else who is doing the work.
She expressed it this way:
"And what I have to sort of keep telling myself when I get really psyched out about [writing] is don't be afraid. Don't be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be.
"If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment through your efforts, then Olé! And if not, do your dance anyhow. And Olé! to you, nonetheless. I believe this and I feel that we must teach it.
"Olé! to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up."
Just showing up can be an act of great courage. Even if the only thing coming out of your fingertips is crappy writing and hangnails - especially if that's where you are - showing up is an act of defiance that will pay off. That kind of iron will is what forges successful writers.
Sometimes you have to channel social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, and fake it till you make it.
In fact, at the end of the snippet below she says, "..don't fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize."
Note: Cuddy's entire TED talk is here, and is worth your twenty minutes to watch (and the two minutes afterward you will spend pretending to be Wonder Woman).
Here's hoping you show up to your writing in 2016, in some cute-but-mighty underpants, in time to catch the gorgeousness and get it to the page. At the very least, I hope you make some incredibly grand mistakes.
Do you make New Year's resolutions? What are they for 2016? What is your greatest writing challenge? And do you have any inspirational quotes to share?
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About Jenny Hansen
By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes news articles, humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18+ years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.