Your journey starts and ends in the middle.
This is so great. Really hit me at the right time. I’m in the middle of many things now, in a grind, and struggling to embrace the adventure. Thank you for the encouragement and support for a stronger mindset 🤙🏼
Writing doesn’t take me there every time, but when it does it’s really great.
Solid pen wisdom, Brian. Thanks
Best article on writing and creativity that I’ve read in years. Thank you for reminding us of the very best reason for writing - the joy of doing so.
Fantastic piece, Brian. I recently read Seth Godin's "The Practice", recommended to me by a fellow writer. It shocked me to discover how programmed we are to view success as "rewards and outcomes". When rewards and outcomes are the things we have ZERO control over. This is why goals like "getting an agent" or "writing a best seller" can be dangerous to our journeys. It's the things we CAN control - sending out x number of queries, finishing draft two of a project, getting the first ten words of a story idea on paper- that should be the reward.
My favorite part of reading about other people's success stories (once I check my envy/ego at the door) is learning that every big break is preceded by countless failures. It takes guts to succeed because you can't be afraid to look like an ass first. Often. And potentially for a very long time. 💝
Thanks for sharing this, Brian. I write, but just for fun (my main pursuit is woodworking). However, for the first time ever, I’ve been sharing my writing publicly and it’s been a terrific learning experience. It’s not about the end product (the essays) or even getting lots of views--for me it’s become a meditative pause that allows me to reflect on my woodworking and how I’m spending my days. A chance to slow down instead of just going from one project to the next. And I think I’ve become a better writer in the process, which is satisfying (could be deluding myself here, but delusions are a big part of happiness, right?).
Thank you! A great reminder.
Brian, this was excellent! Thank you for the concise summary of the motivation issue in writing. Your mention of Flow reminds me of work I did many years ago with young students creating interactive games on the computer ( Csikszentmihalyi , etc). Also, I used to write music when I lived in Hollywood. It was a creative activity I enjoyed very much because a composer could live with a song as long as needed, and then throw it out there for others to enjoy. I find writing articles on Substack is a very similar experience.
Another insight from your story has to do with sharing. I have friends who regularly share their work by sending out emails, but generally receive very little feedback. Author-Reader interaction is more visible on Substack, not only because of the "Comments" option, but the "Opens" data as well. For me, it is more important to know that my work is being read and enjoyed, than to accumulate large numbers of followers who may not be reading anything at all.
The one sentence that I appreciate the most from your article is: "In order to do this, an intentional focus must be put on the craft itself."
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Brian, Your explanation of "in the middle" is such a fine addition to the literary term "in media res". The latter, as we know, is where the best stories begin. Your explanation here on the writing journey in the middle so finely done that I am tempted to add only this: The "not knowing" while we're there is key to invention. We all need to go with that and discover as we journey. xo ~Mary
Nicely done. Every conventionally successful writer I know writes because they have to. Not have to financially. Not have to for attention. Have to because it comes from their soul. It’s a passion, writing. Sure, sometimes it’s harder to get the words down on the page, but if you’re struggling to write consistently it might because it’s more of a hobby than a passion. There’s nothing wrong with that. But understanding the difference can help.
‘Sincere American Writing’
Great words of wisdom, but one word sums it up: craft. It’s the focused, flow state inducing journey, not the destination that leads to honing your craft and taking your writing to a whole new level.
This is helpful. I tend to prefer short fiction in part because novels take forever to write. I've been working on the same book since 2020, and the only reason I haven't thrown in the towel is because I'm convinced it will be a great story once it's done. However, I do sometimes wonder if it will ever *be* done.
As much as I like Substack, it does emphasize “end results”: subscribers and money. That is their business model. It can be hard to ignore those stats. 🤣 But I have never “had to write.” I write because it is a creative outlet, I enjoy it, and I enjoy having an audience for it. If I wasn’t enjoying the process, or had no readers, I would quit. It certainly doesn’t pay enough to grind away at it with no joy. I am the same with music. I enjoy the process. Learning, practice, songwriting, arranging, performance. All of it. If I didn’t. I wouldn’t do it. I recently “retired” from a band I had been in for 15 years because I had grown tired of it. But I also started another band I am enjoying. I had a strong passion for writing for three years (wrote a novel, novella, and hundreds of stories), but it has ebbed. So I write less. My creativity goes where it wants to go. I just follow it. I guess that is my flow. 🤓
Good points made here. The primary goal of any writer should be to leave a worthwhile body of work behind.
I've never thought of writing and the connection with the growth mindset. I was brought up thinking that the bright flashing young literary star like Fitzgerald was the only model to follow. The reality is so different!