“Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it ought to be done whether you like it or not. It is the first lesson that ought to be learned and is probably the last lesson a person learns thoroughly.” Thomas Hunley, British biologist
“The quality of writing I do on the days I don’t feel like it is just as good as the quality of the writing I do on the days I do feel like it. John Kenneth Galbraith
“Act differently than you feel.” Ed Agresta
It happens to all of us and to the best of us, just as it happened to John Kenneth Galbraith — a gifted and prolific writer. Sometime today — or sometime soon — you aren’t going to feel like writing. You may feel tired. You may feel discouraged. You may feel unhappy. Or you may feel just plain lazy. Or you may be a NaNoWriMo-er and feel overwhelmed by its daily word count.
Whatever the feeling that washes over, you have two choices: You can give in and stop writing — or not even get started — or you can act your way out of it and keep going.
“Act differently than you feel” — this advice by motivational speaker Ed Agresta is priceless: We need to manage our feelings instead of letting them manage us. Feelings are like the weather — they’re fleeting: they come and go. And yet, so often, we think of them as solid, a brick wall that we’ve hit and can’t pass through.
So what’s the key to overcoming those powerful, pesky feelings that wash over us and get in the way of our writing? Acting differently than we feel. “Action changes attitudes,” says my good friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert.* Over and over again, I’ve found this to be true. If I keep writing in spite of a passing feeling that wants to shut me down, the feeling passes and my work goes on — it’s that simple.
We all find ourselves stymied by a feeling that threatens to short-circuit our writing. When this happens, one of the best and simplest strategies is to invoke what Rob calls, “The 15-Minute Rule.” Promise yourself that you’ll keep writing for 15 minutes and then stop if you still don’t feel like it. At the end of that time, more often than not, you’ll have broken through the barrier or the inertia and you’ll keep going (see also, 15 Minutes).
One of the biggest benefits of breaking through to the other side is the empowering realization that you actually can break through — that you aren’t a slave to passing feelings. Write on!
*Check out Dr. Rob Gilbert’s wonderful Success Hotline: 973.743.4690.