Don’t Even Think About It
It’s really easy, when you’re trying to become a better writer, to screw yourself up so completely that you just stop writing. I know because I’ve done it to myself.
So how do you hone your craft and sharpen your story without losing your mojo?
You take care of the muse, the creative spark, the seeds of inspiration in the subconscious, or what Stephen King calls “the boys in the basement” and Jennifer Crusie calls “the girls in the basement.” About a year ago, the girls in my basement were looking pretty traumatized. I figured my basement needed some work so that it seemed more like a playroom and less like a dungeon. I figured the girls needed some professional help.
Creativity coach Eric Maisel gives week long, intensive Deep Writing workshops in various exotic locales – San Francisco, Paris, Prague…Rhinebeck. I took his course a couple of years ago, (in Rhinebeck, not Paris or Prague) and learned some very useful lessons.
For example: There are thoughts you should not dwell on, even if they are true. A sampling of Bad Thoughts:
Wow, there’s a lot of writerly competition out there.
Writing a novel is hard.
I don’t know if this novel is going to sell.
Damn, the competition is all younger/older than I am.
I don’t know if this is the right novel for me to be working on.
How can you tell when a True Thought is also a Bad Thought? “You can tell what the next energy is after that thought,” says Maisel. “It’s the energy to leave the work.”
Maisel says that just because a thought is true doesn’t mean that you have to entertain it. You may think that you are doing yourself a favor by facing up to the grim fact, but what you’re really doing is terrorizing the girls in the basement.
Maisel’s strategy for derailing those runaway trains of thought: Stop and remind yourself, “That thought does not serve me.”
We can’t always stop ourselves from thinking Bad Thoughts, of course. But we can stop ourselves from pulling them up chair, brewing them a fresh pot of coffee, and giving them a home alongside the girls in the basement.