Photo by Bethany L King
Another lesson for writing from weight loss - no more excuses
I want to lose weight more than I want to eat that. My paraphrase of Kate Moss’s saying- “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
When I was fat, her saying made no sense. I thought it was another call to anorexia. The truth was, I wanted to eat garlic bread and chocolate and drink wine more than I wanted to be slimmer. That’s a valid choice, I believe. Skinny does not necessarily mean healthier. Far from it.
Only when a health scare shocked me into realising I wanted to lose weight (and my goal wasn’t to be slim, just to be kind of medium large instead of extra extra large, and I’m still far from skinny because I don’t have that tiny frame) did it make sense to me.
I had to choose- what did I want more- to eat and drink whatever I wanted, or get healthier? Because the only way to do it is to keep deciding, every time there’s a choice about what to eat or drink and I’m tempted by the fattening, less healthy option, that I want to be slim more than I want to have that piece of garlic bread, that chocolate, or that glass of wine. I want to lose weight more than I want to eat that.
How it applies to writing- I want to write more than I want to …
I can use the same thing with time management too, to help me write. When I set aside time to write then find myself frittering it way in things that aren’t writing. When I don’t seem able to make time to write at all. That’s when I need to look at what I’m doing and decide. What do I want to do more? Browse ebay, or write? Read blogs, or write? Even what do I want to do more, write a blog post or write story?
I’m writing this now in my morning pages, so that makes it okay! Almost.
But you see what I’m saying.
Some days we really can’t write. There’s just too much to do that has to be done. There are so many things in our lives, genuine, big, important things like jobs and families and other responsibilities that make it hard to write. Things we have less choice about or we feel we can’t choose not to do.
We can’t beat ourselves up about those days, though if we have too many days like that we can look at whether we do have other choices with some of those things. That’s how I ended up deciding to work part time instead of full time.
Other days, though, we could write, if we chose to. What we’re doing isn’t big or necessary or important. It doesn’t feed into any of our immediate goals.
We can mask it as a need to relax. True, we do need to relax, but spending the whole evening vegged out in front of the TV may be overdoing it! We can mask it as something that relates to a long term goal. For me, that’s spending hours looking at what houses are for sale in the area I want to move to eventually and daydreaming about what my life would be and how I’d change this house and do that in the garden.
What do you REALLY want to do? You CAN change your goal!
All that stuff is good. It’s okay to do. But if I’m doing too much of it and it’s getting in the way of me achieving my immediate goal- to finish and submit the novella by September 1, for example- it’s time to ask what I want more. Do I really want to be doing this?
If we really don’t want to do the work towards the goal more than we want to do any of that other stuff, maybe we picked the wrong goal. Maybe we picked the goal we thought we should want rather than the goal we really want.
If you say you want to be a writer and your goal is to write a novel, but every time you sit down to write you do a blog post instead, maybe you really want to be a blogger or essayist rather than a novelist. That’s okay. We need to do what we love, not what we think we should do or someone else thinks we should do. There’s an easy answer.
Be honest about what we want most and change the goal.
That way, you can be more focused on what you really want. And it’s useful to be able to stop beating yourself up for not working on that novel!
I want to do this- but I can’t! Sometimes what’s stopping us isn’t what we think it is.
Honesty is the key here. Because if you really and truly want your goal, but still aren’t putting in the work, it’s time to ask why.
Write down all the reasons.
I can’t write my story because I don’t have time. I can’t write my story because the Day Job fried my brain. I can’t write my story because I have no private writing space and my husband keeps interrupting me.
I’m reading Barbara Sher’s Wishcraft. Thirty years old and still an awesome book; wise, funny, and helpful. You don’t even have to buy it, she’s put it up online for free.
The real problem is very deep and painful and complex, and it has nothing to do with
boatsDay Jobs or rowingavailable time or seasicknessspace to write. What it does have to do with is the negative feelings that come up every time you start thinking about going for your dreams.
If every time you sit down to write your novel you find yourself doing a blog post instead not because you love to blog and you’d rather blog than write story, but because writing story feels too hard and too frightening and you want to do it but something in you just freezes, this isn’t a wrong goal.
The thought of going for what we want can paralyse us. It can bring out all sorts of painful feeling and inner conflicts. Sometimes we don’t realise that’s what’s really happening. We mask it with
excuses good valid reasons for not doing it instead.
Could be that the real reason you’re not writing is that it’s too big or too scary or too challenging.
If that’s why you aren’t doing it, a different strategy is needed. Don’t give up on your dream, deal with what‘s stopping you.
Excuse busting- the power of negative thinking
Her technique for dealing with this is surprising. It probably contradicts everything we thought we knew about the right attitude for achieving our goals. It’s got nothing to do with making ourselves do it anyway or forcing ourselves to have a positive attitude.
She calls it “The Power of Negative Thinking”.
First, we write down all the reasons why we can’t do what we want.
The reasons might look very practical and valid on the surface. But often they aren’t the real reason we aren’t doing what we want. We need to go deeper, just like we do with our characters to get at their motivations and inner conflicts. We need to explore the real feelings underneath the reasons.
It’s worth doing this, even if you’re reading this and thinking it really doesn’t apply to you.
Hint- if there’s any important goal in your life you just don’t seem able to get around to doing anything about, this process could help you!
As we dig deeper, we’ll discover the source of our resistance, and unlock the power tied up in that resistance. The power of negative thinking.
Because you’ve dug down through all those heavy layers of “I can’t,” and struck a defiant gusher of “I don’t want to and I won’t.” Depression is an energy crisis, and negativity is energy—pure, ornery, high-octane energy. It’s just been so repressed and tabooed that we’ve forgotten something every 2-year-old knows: how good it is for us to throw a tantrum. We’re all such good little girls, such brave, stalwart little boys, such polite little children—and inside every one of us is an obnoxious, exuberant little brat, just squirming to be let out. I’ve got one. So do you. That brat is your baby, and you’d better love her, because you ignore her at your peril.
The operative principle is, “Get it off . . . and then get on with it.” You’ve got to let negative attitudes and feelings happen. Only then will you be ready for positive problem-solving, planning, and action.
She goes into lots of ways to do that here, in chapter five. It’s really worth reading. The whole book is!
Basically, we need to let our inner child throw that tantrum it’s longing to have. We need to let out all those whinges and moans and complaints that “It’s not fair.” This is what’s really stopping us.
The only way that inner child can express itself right now is by sulking, refusing to do the work. It’s doing a good job of that.
Instead, let it throw it’s wobbler, then see what happens.
I’m going to try this.
If you try it too, please share how it worked for you!