By Christine Carron
The other day I watched a special episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee from 2015 where Jerry Seinfeld visits with then President Obama in the White House. In the second half of the interview, after Seinfeld cheekily points out that he’s made way more money than Mr. Obama, the former president asks Seinfeld how he has remained grounded (i.e., not an entitled jerk) in the face of his extreme fame and fortune. Seinfeld’s answer, “I fell in love with the work.”
I’ve been thinking about that answer a lot. What keeps bubbling up for me is the notion that the opposite is also true. That falling in love with the work is the key to maintaining one’s equilibrium (and good cheer) in the face of lack of fame and fortune while on the writing adventure.
So much about the writing adventure is out of our control. We cannot control agent decisions, publisher decisions, book reviewer decisions, customer purchasing decisions, and on, and on, and on. But we do have one-hundred percent control over how we engage as partners to our writing. When we build good partner skills and habits, we are training ourselves to fall in love with our writing again and again and again.
Here are five tips for being a loving partner to your writing:
If you want to fall in love with your writing, show up for it. Consistently. I am not one to impose a “you must write daily to be a real writer” rule on anyone. But I do assert that regularly showing up for your writing—however you define regularly—is a baseline criteria for writerly love.
This one is all about writing what you want to write. Writing is awesome, but it’s not for the faint of heart. And sometimes you will have to date a lot of writing forms to figure out which one(s) rocks your world. Don’t lose heart if some leave you cold, but definitely stop engaging with them if they do.
If it turns out you end up in love with, let’s say, obscure poetry forms like aubades, or eclogues, or ghazals, then spend your writing time whispering sweet nothings to those aubades, eclogues, and ghazals until they blush. Love them up.
If you can't stand thrillers, don’t suffer through writing a thriller because you think that will be your ticket to fame and glory. There are no guaranteed tickets to fame and glory on the writing adventure. Except on the express train to your own happiness, and you are the only one who knows what platform that train is leaving from. Get to that platform.
This part is basic, but since we humans have a biologically-real negativity bias, it is really good to clearly state this tip. Often. So: Be kind. Stop dogging yourself or your writing. You are on a journey of growth, of creativity, of courage, and of self-discovery. That is so cool! Right?
So why are you allowing your Inner Meanie to have so much air time? How we talk to ourselves is a behavior. A learned behavior. And if you are going down a negative self-talk rabbit hole, that is a learned behavior . . . of your Inner Meanie.
So instead of adding more fuel to its fire, stop. Tell Inner Meanie to pipe down. Then strategize. Brainstorm. What are ways you can choose kindness today toward yourself and your writing?
If you draw a blank, take this action: Catch your Inner Meanie in one of its mean moments, and then set a timer for two minutes and say the word, “mean” over and over out loud as fast as you can until the time is up. Try it—actions speak louder than pesky inner voices—and see if your Inner Meanie loses some of its oomph.
Note: The goal of this exercise is to purposely create semantic satiation so as to short circuit the Inner Meanie monologue; i.e, take away its confidence-tanking power.
This tip is about caring enough about your writing to learn. To be vulnerable. To grow. So take a class, read books, study books, find great critique partners, watch videos of your favorite authors talking about their process. Actually, watch any artist talk about their process, like this video of Seinfeld talking about his Pop-Tart joke. Cross-art pollination is cool!
The do-right-by-your-writing growth possibilities are endless, so you can totally find ones that hit your learning sweet spot. And the double win: Your writing will be ecstatic over every action you take.
I mean the basics of physical self-care here: Sleep, Movement, Nourishment. You are no good to your writing if you’re exhausted, stiff, hungry . . . and likely cranky to boot. So ask yourself: Are you getting enough sleep? Moving your body in ways that feel good to you? Eating and drinking in ways that support your writerly dreams and writerly stamina?
If your answers are either No, or I don’t know, pick one of these areas and commit to making one micro-step of positive change. What if the best thing for your writing this week is to go to bed a little earlier? Or to take a hike? Or to eat more broccoli?
Or, maybe you have been rocking your sleep, movement, and nourishment lately but have been super strict. For you, the inspired move for your writing could be to treat yourself to a cupcake. Who knows?
Oh, wait, YOU know. Go make it happen.
And there you have it. Five tips on how to be a great partner to your writing, which will help you fall in love with it over and over—and ensure that your writing keeps falling in love with you with equal abandon. Such a mutual love fest won’t guarantee Seinfeld-level writerly fame and fortune, but it will keep you warm and cozy on the adventure. Sweet!
The Goodjelly Prompt of the Week