We all hear about the infamous (and dreaded) “writer’s block.” But we don’t hear about a writer’s will. How do you find the will to continue writing when it deserts you? The answer is two-fold: look at how you are talking to yourself and then look at your writing practices.
Both have been central to my own personal struggles over the years. I can’t always find the will to go on. I find excuses to not write, to not plug away at a seemingly hopeless task, to not invest in my own skills or talents. Worse still, I tell myself I’m not that good, I will never get anywhere, no one will ever care about what I write, etc. I only saw my weaknesses and not my strengths. I never complimented myself and I never ever believed I was capable.
There is a hard lesson here: if you view everything through the lens of failure, you will inevitably fail yourself—not necessarily because you are deliberately causing yourself to fail, but because you have programmed your own mind to fail and to expect failure. If you mentally sell yourself short, then you will yourself will fall short every single time and instead of learning from your shortcomings, are more likely to wallow. I don’t say this because I’m a psychologist, therapist, or a counselor. I’m saying this because this is what I did to myself for most of my adult life.
But while the “golden rule” is to treat others as we would treat ourselves, we don’t talk much about how we should be treating ourselves, do we?
Part of this negativity was because of my ongoing struggle with depression—something which I will always be doing since it is, unfortunately, a disease with no cure. Writing creatively was something which left me early on and has only just started to come back. I could write analytically for a while, but not creatively. Creatively, I was dead no matter how hard I tried to come back to life. Then, writing analytically left me too. I would start, I would fail, I would become distracted, and I would give up. Most of the years where I didn’t write, didn’t create, and barely read were years where I struggled with my mental health the most, sometimes without me even realizing it.
We’re taught to not be selfish, we’re trained to share and care about our fellow man and to do so more than ourselves. But while the “golden rule” is to treat others as we would treat ourselves, we don’t really talk much about how we should be treating ourselves do we?
We talk about the pampering, the nutrition, the spa days, the makeovers, the new tool set, the physical and often vain things to make us feel good. But what about the mental and spiritual things? What about what you tell yourself in the dead of the night when the weight of everything presses upon you? What about when you feel like everything is too exhausting to contemplate? What about when you feel burned out at work? What if you can’t even find refuge in your own religious background?
These are the questions I failed to ask. Oh I asked questions in my quest to get back my will, but they were always asked in terms of the external things, focused upon me, what I should do, what job I should have, what relationship I should have, what religious service I should attend, etc. Each and every time, I failed and I was desperately unhappy even if I was, on the outside, fulfilled and I was doing all the correct things proscribed by my religion both on a physical and spiritual level. But I never once considered actually taking a hard look at what all of these externals were really doing to me—the inner me, the one I was left with at the end of the day.
Learn from my mistakes. Learn from your own. Start knowing your own worth and believing you have worth.
I wasn’t looking at my own viewpoint, how I thought about myself, how I thought about the world, or asking myself what I really, really wanted out of life. I never stopped to look inward because I was afraid I would find something I didn’t like. I detested my outward expressions of self: how awkward I was, my inhibitions, my failures, everything. I never thought to try and fix anything inside, however. I set no boundaries with myself or with others because I saw no need—I didn’t matter much in the end. It was all worthless anyway, right?
Wrong. So very, horribly, terribly, and catastrophically wrong. By moving my locus of identity and self-worth to all the externals, being a good religious person, being a dutiful daughter, being a hard worker, being a good girlfriend, being someone else’s idea of “normal,” planning for someone else’s future instead of my own, I was doing myself the greatest harm and disservice I could have possibly imagined. I wasn’t treating myself the way I wanted to treat others. So, I inevitably, inadvertently, and not always obviously, started treating others the way I was treating myself. I was living a contradiction within myself. Little wonder my will to write left me!
Ultimately, you are responsible for how you see yourself. Take it seriously.
Learn from my mistakes. Learn from your own. Start knowing your own worth and believing that you have worth. I never understood what that meant until much, much later in life. Believe me, it’s not an easy lesson to learn and the older the age at which you learn it, the more fixing you must do.
I will leave you with three practices which might help, they certainly have helped me:
- Set intentions for each and every day—these don’t have to be physical things you do—mental practices are good too. One of my constant intentions is to mind how I talk to myself and replace a negative with a positive. I personally set three intentions for each day and I start each statement with “I intend to [fill in the blank] today.
- Practice Gratitude: This particular practice has received a lot of press recently. It’s not always easy when you are suffering mentally or physically but the more you practice, the better you get at finding even small things to be grateful for. I personally try to find at least ten things each morning to be thankful for—even if it’s as innocuous as a particular shade of color in the sky.
- Practice three affirmations: I make three affirmations based upon where I want to be and who I want to be. Yes, this is a technique from the much-hyped Law of Attraction. Whether or not you believe in the Law of Attraction, practicing positive affirmations about yourself does help your mindset. Think of it as a placebo for your brain. If you are like I was, you have already given yourself enough negative affirmations. Just saying “I am worthless” is an affirmation. If you find worth in tearing yourself down, then find worth in building yourself up. For my own practice, I try to do at least three affirmations every single day. Sometimes I do more, sometimes less.
I keep these in a very special journal specifically for the purpose and I physically write them out. It’s a daily promise I try to keep to myself. It does involve discipline, but that is where Part 2 of Finding Will comes into play….
Ultimately, you are responsible for how you see yourself. Take it seriously. Get help, get healing, get right with who you are. I spent far too many years hating myself and hating myself so much I dismissed my own wants and desires, believed a bunch of lies, and gave up all the things I truly loved doing. You want your will to write back? Start with your will to see yourself differently.
If this has touched you in some way, or has inspired you to do more, I would highly recommend Dr. Nicole LePera’s How to do the Work. She has some solid advice for how to recognize your own negative patterns of thought and how to heal from them. It’s a good place to start for anyone, regardless of you religious affiliation, political stance, or cultural background. You may not agree with everything she says, but her practical advice invaluable and has helped me dramatically in rediscovering myself as a writer, as a person, and as a future authoress.