Monday, October 19, 2009

12 Weeks to Becoming a Less Neurotic Writer

by Becca Simone

Writers are neurotic. Isn’t that a given?

I’ve been in this industry for years, have dealt with my share of ups and downs, roadblocks, writer’s block, every type of block you can imagine. I’ve seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows.

I’ve seen success come easily to some, while for others—like me—every step is a well-fought battle. The longer I write, the more I understand why many writers before me have turned to alcohol, drugs or other addictions. Luckily, my only addictions are chocolate and Cheetos—good for the soul, bad for the waistline. My body’s saving grace is that my “other” job is fitness trainer and instructor (ie: I get paid to work out). Otherwise my fanny would be the size of Europe. As it is, it’s merely the size of a small country, not a continent.

Usually, I can handle the craziness. Sometimes, however, this business just makes me want to dig a deep hole and hibernate in it. I think anyone who writes can probably relate.

I hate feeling this way, so I’ve decided to do something about it. Looking back on my personal life, the time I felt most grounded and centered was when I had a regular yoga and meditation practice. Looking back on my writing life, the time I felt the least neurotic was early in my career when I didn’t know any better. It wasn’t long after I’d started writing that I read the fantastic book The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. It’s a 12-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks.

So…for the next 12 weeks I plan to combine the above efforts and share them with you on this blog. I’d love it if some of you wanted to travel this path with me, but feel free to just live vicariously through my craziness.

Here are some of the tasks “required” in The Artist’s Way:

A daily 20-minute walk outside. This will (hopefully) clear the head, work the body, bring oxygen to all the cells, and help me work through any creativity issues I might have. I plan to kill two birds with one stone and bring my energetic German Shepherd puppy with me. He’s 95 pounds of pure Tasmanian Devil.

Daily “morning pages.” This is stream-of-consciousness writing, like keeping a journal. Do this first thing upon waking up, every single day. I started doing Morning Pages about 10 years ago and have been pretty good about keeping this up. My day just doesn’t feel right unless I’ve written my 3 pages. I never go back and read them. And when my notebook is full, I shred it.

A weekly “artist date.” For at least one hour weekly, I’m to do something or go somewhere that feeds my soul. By myself. This could be browsing at a local antique store or flea market. Taking a hike along the river. Browsing a used bookstore. Driving some back roads and exploring the countryside. Whatever.

As mentioned above, I feel best when I practice yoga and meditate. So, I’m adding those to my daily and weekly To Do list.

Yoga – 2-3x a week. I teach one yoga class, so I’ll need to add one or two more practices on my own.

Meditation – this is the hardest for me. It’s really difficult to sit with my stillness and not have thoughts racing through my head at a million miles an hour. So, I’ll start slowly. Just 3 minutes of stillness, focusing on my breath. Every day.

Week One
Artist’s Way—“Recovering a Sense of Safety”
Basically, Ms. Cameron is saying that many of our blocks are due to fear, and only we can determine what we’re afraid of. My favorite quote from this chapter is, “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”—Joseph Chilton Pearce. I take this to mean that as I’m writing and working on my WIPs, I shouldn’t be so worried about it being “good” or “sellable”, but instead focus on getting the words down on the page. And to enjoy the process.

She says if we’re blocked in any area of our life, it’s probably because we feel safer this way. Hmm. She suggests writing down all our negative beliefs about our creativity (in this case, our writing) and then turn those around and make a positive affirmation out of each one. “Negative beliefs are exactly that: beliefs, not facts,” she says. “The world was never flat, although everyone believed it was. You are not dumb, crazy, egomaniacal, grandiose, or silly just because you falsely believe yourself to be.” Whew! That’s good to know.

I’ll check back here in a week to let you know how it’s going. Unlike with personal training, where I can measure my clients' before and after stats like body weight, body fat, and inches, there are no measurements with this plan to tell me if I’m less neurotic. I guess I’ll just have to go by how I feel. Is my internal editor a bit quieter? Am I being more productive, with less time just staring at my blinking cursor? Do I still feel like crawling into a hole and hibernating? Am I enjoying this process again?

Think about joining me. We can be crazy together.

Becca Simone's first erotica release, MIDNIGHT TREAT, is available now at The Wild Rose Press. Her characters aren't nearly as neurotic as she is.


Christine Bush said...

Ok, I'm there. I haven't thought about The Artist's Way in years, and it's WAY past time. Good idea. A little less neurotic sounds good.

Christine, a brand newly signed Wild Rose Press author

P.L. Parker said...

I kind of like being neurotic - keeps away the crazies - LOL.

Cari Quinn said...

Oh, this is a great idea, Becca! :) I've been meaning to read The Artist's Way for years...sounds like a fabulous book.

Lynne Roberts said...

Wow Becca, I'm right there with you. I get so busy sometimes I feel like I'm not giving anything 100% of my attention at any one time and then that leads to self-doubt. I'm pledging to the walk and the meditation... and the artist date.

Thank you for an awesome post. I think I need to read that book. : )

Marie said...

Great idea, Becca. I haven't done The Artists Way in years. I'll do my best to keep up.

Becca Simone said...

Christine--less neurotic does sound good, doesn't it? And welcome to the Garden, by the way. I notice you just signed. What line??? Congrats!

P.L.--I don't mind a little bit of crazy. It's when I'm feeling a lot a bit crazy that I get concerned. :)

Cari and Lynne--yes, you do need to read the book. But it really helps to DO the book, too. It's a bit time consuming but SO worth it.

Marie--I'm so glad you're going to do it, too.


Lia Slater said...

Neurotic? Me? Okay, I admit it! Glad I'm not alone. Great advice, Becca! I look forward to seeing your updates.

Scarlett Sanderson said...

I'm terribly neurotic, to the point where I can't write :p Silly I know, but as soon as I start typing I cannot stop all the negative thoughts racing through my head!

Becca Simone said...

Lia--I say we embrace our neuroses! :)

Scarlett--I'm at that point right now, where I can't even type because I'm convinced it's total crap before it even hits the page. I get like this periodically, and it always requires me to take a step back and breathe, so to speak.

Jana Richards said...

Becca, I'm glad I'm not the only neurotic writer out there! I've tried to do the exercises in The Artist's Way. The morning pages were brutal. They bring up all kinds of feelings that sometimes you don't want to think about but probably should. I'll be with you in spirit as you go through your 12step program. Keep posting the link so we can keep up with you.


Becca Simone said...

Jana--I hear you on the morning pages. Some days for me they're just like a running To Do list. "I need to this, I should really do that." But SOME days...yikes. Every other word will be the F word. Or a total pity party. That's why I shred the notebooks when I'm done. If I died and my family read them, they'd think I'm psycho. :)

But I couldn't start my day without them. They really help me work through writing issues and personal issues. I can't count the number of times I've had an epiphany because of something I wrote.

Catherine Bybee said...

Oh, sorry I'm late with this one Becca. Looks like we're all nerotic here. Good to know I'm not alone.

Becca Simone said...

Hey Catherine, nice to *see* you here. Yeah, I think we're all a bit neurotic. Honestly, if I ever became "normal" I'd probably feel abnormal. You know?