Tuesday, June 23, 2015
A Philosophy For Writers
The quote above is good advice for everyday everything, but let's narrow it down to our writing life.
Yesterday: Whatever you wrote 10 years ago or last week is a thing of the past. If you've sent a story to an editor weeks or months ago and are still waiting to hear, there's nothing more you can do about it. If you entered an essay in a contest two months ago and suddenly thought of another angle or something wonderful to add, it's too late. You can't ask for your entry to be returned for revisions. The one thing you can do with what you wrote yesterday, that has not been submitted, is to revise and edit it until you reach satisfaction. Well, as close as you can get to satisfaction. I'm not sure writers are ever totally satisfied.
I was in a small discussion group yesterday. The question asked was If you could do something over again in your life, what would it be? The answers given were not about huge life-changing things. Some were quite minor in importance. At least of minor importance to the people listening. But to the person giving their answer, whatever it was that they wished they'd done differently was a big deal. The group concluded that many of those life events are seen with a totally different perception now than when they happened. What we have written long ago is much the same. We are older and, hopefully, wiser; we have added more experiences to our lives which in turn reflect in our writing.
Yesterday is gone. It's best not to dwell on it. Time to move on and chalk whatever you wrote and maybe regret to your youth and inexperience. It's done. It's finished.
Today: Today is your day! Use it wisely. I read a biography of Barbara Bush several years ago. One of the best things I read in the story of this former First Lady's life was her approach to every day. The gist of what she said is this: Each morning, when you wake up, you have a choice. You can like what you do that day or hate it. She went on to say," I choose to like it." Attitude is the keyword here. If you get up in the morning and hate the thought of working on a difficult chapter, it's probably going to be a miserable chore. If you tell yourself that you are going to conquer the problems with that chapter today, chances are the writing will work out better than if you go with the negative attitude.
I know what you're thinking--easy to say, not so easy to do. Keeping that positive attitude is not a given. It takes work, especially if you're more often a negative person and want to make some changes. It doesn't happen overnight. You might have to start over each morning until it becomes a habit. Success depends on how much you want to change.
Live for today by writing the best you can. Write and rewrite until you like what you've written. If you like it, chances are a lot of readers will, too.
Tomorrow: The quote tells us we can't control tomorrow. That's partially true. I think we can control what our plan is for the next section of our writing journey. We know where we want to go and we are aware of what needs to be done to achieve our goal. What is not under our control are the bumps in the road that we meet as we move along our writing path. Each one may set us back a bit, but there are ways to overcome and move on.
Once again, a positive attitude will help you get past those bumps in the road more easily and faster without any scars left on your psyche. You may not be able to completely control tomorrow but you can certainly learn to deal with it.
Don't spend today worrying about yesterday. Mark it as past history. Don't spend today worrying about tomorrow. Meet tomorrow when it comes. Write for today. That's what you have in your hands right now.