Recently I had a conversation with someone, and in the midst of that conversation, I realized how in recent times I’ve frequently said the phrase “I need a win,” and how true that is for me.
The more effort I put into something, the more invested I become, the more I want to receive a return, some form of validation, proving that I was right to invest. Granted, not everything works out, but there is a way in which, just as we need a certain amount of resources to sustain ourselves physically, we need a certain amount of mental/emotional support in the form of success.
This past summer I attended a talk where someone discussed how many recreational activities (notably video games), are built around guiding audiences towards a success, while simultaneously convincing the audience that failure was a very real possibility (when the reality is the experience was designed to end with a successful outcome).
At the time the speaker was extolling the virtue of experiences that actually allow audiences to fail (i.e. escape puzzle rooms), and while I agree with what he said, I think it’s also important to recognize that we need a certain amount of success in our lives, and writing can be a very long road, with many setbacks, before we can achieve that long sought-after outcome.
Granted, my natural reaction to a negative outcome is to double down, to invest more time and energy, so that I can validate that setback by succeeding at a later time, but much like gambling, the act of doubling down also compounds the investment, and the frustration if another setback is encountered.
Writers often talk about the importance of breaks, the need to “live”, and I agree, but I also think there’s a strong need to engage in activities that grant us that feeling of success. For some it may be some form of crafting or creativity that we choose to engage as a hobby, for others it may be a game of some sort (video, card, board, dice, etc.).
Part of the challenge is the all too common guilt that writers feel when we opt to spend time not writing, particularly if we feel that our writing goals are very far away, but the truth is we need that time away. It’s part of the process to get to where we need to be (mentally and emotionally) in order to write. Similar to how an athlete must rest after a strenuous workout, not as a reward, but as an essential step, giving the body time to recover, so that they can put forth their best effort once again.
But time alone is not always enough. Sometimes I need to feel the tension of doubt, the “fear of failure”, and the release that comes with success, the mental trophy of “I did it.”
Hopefully, someday, writing can be that for me. Sometimes it gives me those feelings now, but writing a fickle thing, and sometimes, when writing needs “more”, I need to take a step back, and engage something simpler, and once again become the version of me that can write.
Writing is a long journey, and even as we push ourselves, we also have to pace ourselves. Mental and emotional health are easily dismissed, but every bit as critical as physical health.
Do I love to write? Yes, but that doesn’t make it any easier, and it doesn’t mean I always like it. I want to keep writing. I want to spend more time writing. I want to earn money through writing so that I can spend less time “only earning”, but as part of my writing process, I have to keep looking for other activities that can also grant me that feeling of “success”, so that I can use to tide me over, to “refill my cup”, so that I can pour it back into writing.
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