Thursday, December 29, 2016
They say it takes about a month to change a habit.
That's why rehab centers use a 28 day program. A month is roughly how long it takes for the body and mind to adjust to a new set of rules and circumstances.
There's no real cure for an addiction. The best therapists know that replacing a bad habit with a new obsession is way more effective than simply denying an urge that will no doubt resurface.
The reason why most drug addicts go back to taking drugs is that, even though they may have rid themselves physically once, their situations, their daily lives, their friends and influences conspire to get them back on the road to their ingrained obsessions.
Our brains are chemically designed to associate pleasure with familiarity. This is why self-destructive behavior can be so frustrating to observe - and counter.
This is why too, if you sometimes have a defeatist attitude towards your writing - one that may tell you that you'll never succeed and that writing is a waste of your time - the attitude will resurface.
It's not really that writing is a waste of your time, it's just that you've trained your mind to become comfortable with that fall back notion.
The only way to counter negativity is to consciously dismantle the things you tell yourself and replace dark thoughts with positive ones.
Do this for a month and it will become a habit.
Cynics will say this is too easy an approach. I would argue that cynicism is the comfort zone of the underachiever and can spread like a virus.
This is why success gurus will tell you to avoid negative people.
We all have synaptic paths in our brains that are well traveled. Failure can often seem inevitable and our minds recognize this reality - and will find ways, facts, and means to endorse this crude simplification in our subconscious.
But that's the lazy way to approach the problem.
Reality also tells us that many people succeed despite huge odds, through luck or determination and persistence.
We need to train our minds to accept that despite the experience of the majority, there are those that rise above the mediocre and persist in their belief that anything is possible.
History is abundant with examples.
Edison, Einstein, Shakespeare, Da Vinci, all the way up to the present time. Dan Brown, Stephen King, JK Rowling. All experienced the idea that success was for others - but still they refused to accept they were wasting their time.
Theirs was a higher calling. The work was not just the means to an end, it was the end itself.
A great artist's work becomes his obsession, his primary motivation - his reason to be.
I often get emails from writers who have lost touch with their muses, or have let their daily lives get in the way of their dreams.
They speak as though this is be expected, that somehow it's acceptable that our goals are there to be quashed, abused, and ignored - most often by ourselves.
But rather than endure what we regard as reality and the nature of things, we must rise above these attitudes.
Writers don't always succeed because they're lucky or have rich benefactors that enable them - or have more time than the rest of us.
Successful writers succeed because they make time - even when they have busy schedules or day jobs or children and a hundred other pressures.
You might even say they don't succeed in spite of these extra pressures but because of them.
Pressure and the ability to find time to pursue a dream as well is the mark of a committed artist.
To be able to change your brain into seeing the value of your work in the midst of everyone else's negativity, cynicism and yourself being just plain too busy should be your real goal - every day.
If you don't have the writing habit, and you want to be successful writer, you've got to force one onto yourself.
Make a time each day, and stick to it.
Find a place to write, even if it's perched on the edge of your bed, and go to it, everyday.
Give your creativity time - and give yourself time to write.
Beg, borrow or steal the time if necessary.
Do this for a month and writing will become a habit, then an addiction, then an obsession.
As it should be for you.
Whatever you do...
Thursday, December 1, 2016
I recently conducted a survey of certain of my Writing Academy students - via mail. You know, using real post, with stamps!
I did this to find out specifically what OFFLINE writers feel about writing - to see whether their worldview was different from the thoughts and feelings of ONLINE writers.
I think you'll be surprised, shocked even, by the results.
(Big mega shock: 73% of OFFLINE WRITERS don't use the Internet at all!)
Right. The first thing you have to remember about surveys is that the data may not be a totally accurate reflection of reality.
Most surveys are, in fact, just a reflection of the kind of people that fill out surveys!
For instance, this survey was sent out to thousands of writers, of whom only 10% responded.
Therefore the views of this other 90% might be completely different from the hundreds that took the time to mail me their answers.
Having said all that as a qualifier, here's what I discovered.
Only 14% of people who considered themselves writers had ever got paid for what they'd done.
7% considered themselves a professional.
Just 6% said it was their goal to write for a living.
A whopping 51% considered themselves to be enthusiastic amateurs - the rest wrote only occasionally.
61% said their main interest was in fiction, 33% nonfiction and 10% picked out poetry as their main focus, with smaller percentages spread over a wide range of areas.
A fact that shocked me was the genre most respondents were interested in was Children's and YA fiction - at 21%.
Romance came in second - 16% with Mystery and Suspense third - at 14%.
Only 4% said they were interested in writing Thrillers.
Smaller percentages were recorded over a wide range of genres - everything from Horror to SF to Fantasy to Biographies.
It surprised me that only 7% were interested in writing anything they considered 'literary'!
44% had never taken a writing course before taking one of mine.
Only 6% were involved in a writer's group and only 6% had ever used the Internet to find writing help.
What I found particularly interesting is that almost to a man, all of the professional writers had paid for writing services in the past, from Net courses to correspondence, to MS assessment or even mentoring.
This confirms my experience, though - the writers most likely to succeed are those that actively seek out - and pay for - resources designed to help them.
Also fascinating was that 51% said they wanted 'advanced writing tips' while only 26% wanted help with the basics.
Curiously, it was mostly the 'enthusiastic amateurs' who wanted 'advanced tips' whilst the professionals still wanted help on the basics!
Bearing in mind that most of these respondents had never used the Internet, it was interesting how much respondents were willing to pay for writing courses.
35% said they would pay up to $500 for a good course, 33% up to $200, and 17% up to $100.
17% said they'd be willing to spend over $500!
A mere 1% said they thought writing courses should be free.
Finally, 46% of writers said they wrote purely for pleasure.
42% said their main goal was publication and, also interestingly, 13% said they were writing for posterity.
Well, I hope you've found these results as fascinating as I did - it certainly provides real insight into how offline writers - as a community separate from online authors - see themselves.
Till next time,