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To Be a Great Writer, Ride The Beast

ride the beastWhen I have conversations with people interested in publishing a book, or those who dream of becoming consistent writers, there is almost always a hint of shame in the air.

These conversations usually include fragments like:

“There was  a time in my life when I was writing every day, and then I just stopped.”

“I really want to finish my memoir/novel/screenplay…someday.”

“I usually just wait until I feel inspired, but lately I just haven’t felt it.”

Even though I often hear people say, “write when you feel it,” I disagree.

Writing isn’t about waiting around for Inspiration.
Writing is about riding the Beast.

Who is the Beast, you ask?

The Beast is that nasty voice in your head that says things like:

UGHHH, I don’t want to do this.
I’m bored.
Nothing’s happening, I don’t think the Muses love me anymore.
What if I never write a great piece again? What if I never publish anything great?
I just want to give up and watch TV.

I deal with the Beast on a daily basis. When I sit down to write, he’s in my head, whispering mean things. He’s trying to make sure I don’t write.

The great Steven Pressfield calls this force Resistance (with a capital R), and describes how to deal with it in his must-read classic, The War of Art.

The War of Art changed my life, because it was the first time someone ever honestly talked to me about this force. As Pressfield describes it, Resistance’s number one goal is to stop us from creating.

And the best way to kill the Beast, I’ve found, is to ride it out. 

How does one ride the Beast?

  1. Sit down.
  2. Get far away from anything that will distract you (other people, your cell phone, Facebook, TV, the internet, the kitchen sink full of dishes).
  3. Set a timer for one hour (or more).
  4. Start writing.
  5. When the Beast starts yammering, keep writing.
  6. Keep writing.
  7. Keep writing until the Beast shuts up.
  8. Keep writing, and feel the exhilaration that comes when you can’t hear the Beast anymore.

When you first start writing, the Beast will be in your ear, shouting at you to quit. He may be all you hear. But as you keep going, eventually you’ll shake him off, and then you’ll slay him. When he shuts up, you’ll be free to write.

If you’re still having trouble 30-40 minutes in, try writing positive affirmations over and over again on the page. Every time you think something negative about your writing, counter it with something really encouraging.  Guess who thinks that’s cheesy: the Beast.

It might be painful to sit still without distractions for a hour to write. Guess who’s making it painful: Mr. Beast. He’s a sneaky little mfer. Just when you think he’s not there, he pops back up.

Ride the Beast. Slay that #$!#*!@)!. You have it in you. It’s on the other side of just a little bit of writing.

And when you start to feel negative about your writing again, or you notice yourself not writing, lather rinse and repeat those steps above to slay him again.

 

 

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