it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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if you live for something, you're not alone.

One of the things I've realized that I need to work on in order to develop a healthier relationship with my job involves certain toxic aspects of the professional writing/publishing culture that I've done an overly good job of internalizing. And I'm trying to scrape it out of my soul, because in the long term it winds up being the opposite of productive when dealing with a creative career.

Some of that is a competition thing: "Writer X turns in three books a year and I'm a slacker if I don't, too!" And that's not great, honestly, and the sheer pressure to produce isn't great, either, and doesn't necessarily lead to good work. One has to think up new things to say between books, after all, or one ends up writing the same book over and over again. No use in that.

I think there's a certain bravado of culture among may writers that is actively toxic in a lot of ways. And it's tied to the NaNoWriMo kind of mode of "produce a bunch of stuff really fast, lather rinse repeat" pressure, and also the "THIS JOB SUCKS AND WE'RE WARRIORS FOR DOING IT" thing. It's this weird Puritan machismo in suffering.

I mean, you don't learn to write well by turning out 50K in a month once a year. It's the two pages a day or whatever that get you there. Constant practice, as with any art. And mammals don't respond well to punishment for performance. If we do a thing and the result is horrible, we generally avoid doing that thing again.

So when we punish ourself for performing by setting ourselves unreasonable goals and having impossible expectations and never acknowledging our successes? Cue anxiety and avoidance behavior.

Seriously. From now on, if I get some writing done, I'm not going to bemoan how insufficient my effort was. I'm going to have a piece of chocolate instead.

If you work for yourself and your job sucks, it might be because you have a shitty boss. Or it might be because you are suited to different work than what you're doing.

I have literally dig ditches for a living (and mucked out stalls, and done several other extremely physical and occasionally nasty jobs), and I suspect most of the people who are like "hur hur sure writing isn't hard, try digging ditches," probably have not done both. The thing is, they're both hard. Digging ditches is physically exhausting and can be quite painful, especially in hot or cold weather. But while it's meticulous work (This surprises people who haven't done it, but ditches are dug for reasons, and those reasons affect the way they slope, or how the sides are shaped, and digging ditches does in fact involve a certain amount of work with a plumb line and a level. These days they probably use lasers.) it doesn't necessarily use a lot of executive and creative function the way writing does.

Writing requires mental rest.

Digging ditches requires physical rest.

And I'm totally talking about myself here, because I absolutely have fallen into the anxiety-driven must-produce thing.

And you don't build a career by SUFFERING THROUGH THE AWFULNESS. That's different than having the discipline to get your work done.

(Comments are turned off because I am traveling and don't have time to moderate.)

Tags: writing craft wank

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