Life doesn’t just happen… We have to make it happen.
We don’t just get the things that we want… We have to work for them.
How often do we forget these truths?
How often do we find ourselves going through the motions of everyday life, wanting something more from it, but doing nothing to make it into something more?
How often do we spend our days feeling trapped—locked in an endless routine that takes us nowhere? How often do we find ourselves thinking “what’s the point?” How often do we consider giving up and doing something else?
This is what it’s like going through life without direction.
It suffocates you. Saps your energy. Steals your joy. Encourages you to be lazy. Sucks the fun out of your day. Piles on mountains of stress and anger and frustration.
But worst of all—without ambition, or goals, or something for you to work for—without direction, you might as well be 40 years old, living in your mom’s basement, spending your days munching on puffy, cheesy, deliciousness, and watching re-runs of old cartoons, because your life is going nowhere.
Living without direction isn’t living life at all—it’s just existing. It’s not the way anyone should ever want to live—period.
It’s okay, don’t worry. I’m done preaching now.
I only brought up this disturbing mental image to illustrate something that you might not have thought of before…
If this is what having no direction does to your life, what does having no direction do to your writing?
Do you really want to let your writing spend its days lazing around and eating puffy, cheesy, deliciousness? No. No you do not.
Photo courtesy of: flicker
Stop me when this starts to sound failure to you…
Our writing doesn’t just happen, we have to sit down and make it happen.
But we can’t just bang out a masterpiece in one sitting. No, we have to work hard for it.
We accept this to be true, but how often do we let ourselves complain? How often do we whine that it should be easier?
How often do we find ourselves faithfully going the motions of writing, but wanting something more from the experience?
How often do we procrastinate when we should be writing? How often do we wonder if we’re even good enough to do be a writer? How often does the thought cross our minds that were just wasting our time?
How often do we feel like giving up?
Having no direction kills your writing in the exact same way that having no direction “kills” your life. Slow, soul crushing, suffocation.
Scary, right? But that’s not the end of it—what makes it even worse, is that so many of us (myself included) are constantly losing our way. We spend way more time trying to write without direction than we realize.
This sounds like a serious problem, doesn’t it? That’s because it is!
Think back to the image I painted of a directionless life. If you let something like this go on without fixing it, it will kill you… er, I mean, your writing.
It will kill your writing.
So what’s the solution then?
Simple enough: get some direction and find a way to hold onto it.
Ask yourself: what do I want?
Is it to write a book? To tell a story? To express yourself? To gain understanding? To gain a substantial following of self-absorbed and emotionally unstable teenagers? Maybe you just want to write something?
As a writer you could want any of these things.
It’s important though, that you know what you want most from your writing. How you approach your writing, and the direction in which you take, it will be largely determined by what you really want to do with it or get out of it.
Spend some time thinking about this. Write down your answer in a journal (or if you don’t have a journal, on a piece of paper that you can keep safe).
Next ask yourself why you want whatever it is you want.
Knowing “why” you want something is just as important as knowing “what” you want.
And that’s for one simple reason: knowing “why” gives you the clarity of knowing your true motivation.
What’s your true motivation? It’s the thing that’s inside of you, completely independent of any outside factors, that drives you to write even when you don’t want to. It’s the first spark that inspired you. It’s the one thing that will keep you going when everything and everyone else fails you.
Having the clarity of knowing “why”—your true motivation to write—makes answering those hard and discouraging questions that you ask yourself much easier; and can even turn something that’s trying to discourage you into something that actually encourages you.
For example—how you answer this question “Am I just wasting my time? Who would want to read this anyway?”…
- Without the clarity of knowing “why”— “I don’t know. Probably no one.”
- With the clarity of knowing “why”— “No! And it wouldn’t matter anyway—I’m doing this because I love it and it makes me happy, not because I need some one else to read it.”
… can either crush your motivation, or it can build up your motivation. Without knowing your true motivation, it would be hard to keep your ordinary motivation to write from being squashed.
Spend some time thinking about this. Write your answer for “why” just below the one for “what.”
Finally, it’s time to take action—ask yourself: how am I going to get what I want?
This is pretty straight forward. Make a plan.
Ask yourself the following questions—and keep your answers simple and actionable (so that when it comes time to do take action, you’ll actually take action). While you’re answering them just remember to keep in mind what you want want to do and why you want to do it.
- What can you do right now to get what you want?
- What can you do tomorrow to get what you want?
- What can you do a week from now to get what you want?
- What can you do a month from now to get what you want?
Write your answers to all of these questions below your last two answers.
All that’s left is to show up and follow through!
Make something happen.
You made your plan, now follow it.
It’s going to be hard work, but not nearly as hard as you would think.
Because you know what you want, you’ll have something to work toward. Because you know why you want what you want, you’ll have the motivation to keep working until you get it. because you know how you’re going to get what you want, you wont get lost along the way.
And because you wrote all of your answers down (you did write them down, right?) you have something to remind yourself in the event that you do accidentally forget.
Congratulations! Your writing now has a direction and can stop eating delicious cheesy snacks in your moms basement!