This is just what you needed, right? Another website by some self-important artiste transmuting his narcissism into the written word.
Oof, my apologies. That’s not very kind at all. Come on, brain, we’re better than that.
Speaking of my illustrious, troubling brain, when I quit my full-time job to “play at being a writer”, as Bukowski would have called it, I quickly realized that if i could just get my mental health on lock then i’d be a better writer. As I’ve grown (as both a writer and a person), I’ve tried to keep three maxims in mind to make my life better, and I think they can be applied to writing as well. And the great thing is you can start doing each one of these things today, right now! Are you ready? Do you have your notebook and pen ready? No? Well, go get it! I’ll wait. 🙂
Welcome back! The three maxims are:
- Be kind
- Be well
- Be yourself
Simple, right? Well, the words are simple, but if you have the brain of a creator then you know how difficult it is to be kind to yourself.
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You get an idea. You’re all jazzed about it. You sit down to work it out. Then, for whatever reason, the excitement evaporates into a heavy cloud of self-doubt that rains nasty, degrading self-talk on you.
Why are you even trying?
You’re such a dolt to think this is a good idea.
What the hell is wrong with you.
Why don’t you just go smoke some weed, you know that’s all your good for.
God, you can’t even use the proper you’re, and you want to be a writer?
Just go have a wank, at least you’re good at that. Pull up the ol hub and get to it. Oh, pregnancy porn? Again? That’s weird. You should call your mother more. Great, now you’re thinking about your mom while you’re wanking. Enjoy!
Does that sound familiar, or did I get way too specific?
This was me for a while. I’d have an idea (sometimes sober, oftentimes under some influence), I’d feel like I was living in the vortex of infinity and then I’d sit down to expand upon it and a small, but rather loud voice in my head would needle at me until I stopped and did something else. And those were on good days. There were some days (many days) when that voice would get so loud that I couldn’t even get to my desk before it was on me.
Why bother trying?
You have nothing of value to add.
Just go back to sleep – maybe this time if you’re lucky you won’t wake up.
This negative self-talk has plagued me for as long as I can remember and it wasn’t until I had a literal sit down with my inner critic that I was able to get this unhelpful habit under control. I’ve got an entire post planned about that, but for right now I just want to say that your inner critic only says these things to keep you safe. I know, it’s weird to hear these things and think they come from a place of caring, but that’s just how the critic works. It is my intention to help you learn how to talk with yours so it helps you. With enough practice, you may even get your critic to be kind to you. But it starts with you being kind to your inner critic first.
Being kind is likely easy for you. I’m sure you’ve held the door open for a stranger, or said excuse me to get through a crowd, or wished the toll worker a nice day on the interstate, or comforted someone having a breakdown in the stall next to you in the bathroom. Being kind to others is a natural thing. Why do you allow yourself to believe you’re any less deserving of that kindness?
You don’t have to answer that, but I want you to think about that. Think about what you believe.
Speaking of beliefs, before I even got my inner critic to work with me, I believed that I got more ideas when I was under some kind of influence. I have a manuscript languishing in revision hell about an unnamed narrator with a drinking problem who hates his office job (soooo original) who gets caught up in some strange happenings on the dark web. There are parts of that manuscript that I wrote completely tanked because I believed I had to be drunk to get out of my own way to feel the things I wanted to convey. It came as a complete shock to me when I realized I was writing this as a way of coping with my depression. There were weekends where I’d put away a case of Yuengling by myself, but once I realized I wasn’t David Hasselhoff, I set the intention to start taking care of myself. I started becoming more aware of what I put into my body.
Then, weed became my vice because it’s natural, maaaaaan (so is poinson ivy, but I digress). I noticed I’d have what I thought were really great ideas while I was high (highdeas?) and so I believed if I was chronically high (I see what I did there) then the good ideas would never stop. But if you’re high it’s difficult to take those ideas and expand them into something good, unless you’re Willie Nelson. Fueled by weed or not, a good idea is just the start of anything.
Every thing is a thought before it’s a thing, and it takes some work to take a thought and make it a thing. Sometimes it’s easy to make a thought a thing, like if you have a thought about making a nice MLT there’s very little skill involved with making a sandwich. But I doubt any of you have mutton in your fridge right now (unless you’re from Butler) and maybe your lettuce isn’t as crisp as you’d like and your tomatoes aren’t perky. So now the making of this thought into a thing is gonna take a lil more work. You gotta go to the store and get the fixins, but muttons r us is closed because of course it is so you decide to get Subway because you hate yourself and in the end you realize that you forgot the point you were trying to make…
I believed the story I was telling myself that I had to be high to have good ideas, or I had to be drunk to be engaging, or I had to rail cocaine in dive bar bathrooms to have a good time. The brain is a vicious feedback loop. If you tell it this stuff, it’s going to keep seeking out opportunities to allow the propagation of these situations. But these situations cost money and I’m
cheap frugal. Ideas, however, are free (it’s actually very cheap to be a writer, paper and pens are hella cheap). To be well, I had to get rid of the things that weren’t serving me.
So I started experimenting. I set the intention to eliminate my vices. I thought, what if that’s just an unwell story I’m telling myself – that I need some outside influence to awaken these ideas within me. Maybe it was arrogance, the idea that I didn’t want greatness to come from without. That same thinking kept me away from therapy for years – it’s my brain, I should be able to handle it. But, if I had a faulty heart (in a medical way, not a philosophical way), you can be sure I’d be the first to wanna party with cardi(ologists). Your brain will believe whatever you tell it.
If you tell your brain you’re a failure, it will believe you’re a failure.
If you tell your brain you’re ungrateful, it will make you believe you’re ungrateful.
If you tell your brain you’re unworthy or undeserving of love, it will make you believe you’re unworthy or undeserving of love.
If you tell your brain you can’t have any ideas unless you’re inebriated, it will make you believe you need to keep yourself inebriated.
With the help of therapy and reading a lot of books about the mind and habits and acceptance, I came to learn that I get to control my life, not my brain. I can ask it to tell itself a better story. I can ask, what if you have ideas all the time, regardless of whatever state you’re in? What if being well allows you to be not just a better person, but a better writer?
Getting high, getting drunk, they’re fine. I’m not making a moral judgement here. It’s great being high and having ideas you’re jazzed about. Everyone’s creative method is different, but right now at this point in my writer life, I don’t see the value in alcohol or marijuana (but check back when they legalize cocaine – it’s 2020, the rules are made up and nothing matters).
The funny thing is I started to believe these new stories, and it didn’t take as long as you might think. I started jettisoning what wasn’t serving me. I started to believe that I had greatness inside me. Like, deep belief, like the belief that you know the lamp is going to turn on when you flip the switch or the belief that you know McDonald’s milkshake machine is going to be out of service. I began to believe that I was awesome and anything I perceived as a setback or failure was just a learning opportunity on my journey to becoming even more awesome and if my brain would only step aside, then I could bask in the awesomeness of everything that the Universe (or Source or the Force or Allah or God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster) had prepared for me. It’s been a process (I allowed my brain to put off writing this post about a month) and I don’t claim enlightenment, but I do feel every day that I’m doing what I’m here for. And while that can change from time to time, as long as I’m being true to myself – my essence – then I know I’m on the right path. Or should I say the write path.
Which brings me to my third maxim, and the reason why I started this site in the first place – be yourself.
Writing is something I’ve always done. The first story I remember writing was a sequel to Jurassic Park in first or second grade. I was on a date that wasn’t really a date and when they asked me when I knew I wanted to be a writer I smiled and allowed my arrogance to answer – I don’t think I ever had a choice in the matter. Being myself is being a writer. But I’m not letting that small thing define my entire personhood. I am vast and I contain multitudes. I know this because:
A. They sometimes rage inside me and make quite a racket, and
B. I am a child of the Universe, and the Universe is vast and contains multitudes.
The Universe doesn’t spend time thinking about what it is – it just is.
So just be. Be yourself.
If you want to be a writer, be a writer, but don’t for a second believe that you are so small and insignificant enough to only have one signifier. You can have as many as you want – the Universe is abundant; there’s plenty to go around.
Be yourself by writing about what resonates with you. Listen to your heart, not your brain. Your brain can make you believe anything. Tell it you want to believe what your heart tells you and listen to it for a while. In ancient China, they believed the heart was where consciousness came from. They may have been on to something.
If you’re being yourself, chances are you’re being well because your best self is a healthy self. If you’re being yourself, chances are you’re being kind because you know that to be kind to others is to be kind to yourself.
Be kind. Be well. Be yourself.
Right now, to be my fullest self, I have to acknowledge the belief that there is some connection between expanding one’s consciousness and expanding one’s skills as a writer. It’s my intention to explore that connection here. Some days may skew more toward writing. Others might delve into more spiritual mumbo jumbo and woo-woo. It’s not my intention to convert you to my spiritual beliefs (they’re mercurial at best). All I hope is that if something resonates with you (whether that’s writing or spiritual, or both) that you get curious about why and explore that. As I like to say, find the woo-woo that works for you, and you know that’s good advice because the best advice always rhymes.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope it brings value to some aspect of your life.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go clear my browser history.
Remember – Be kind. Be well. Be yourself.