“How to Write a Lot” (Even though you won’t) pt. 2

So how might this apply to what Silvia’s doing/not-doing in his text? Well, he keeps trying to make it sound easy, like anyone can do it. Yet, everyone knows that not everyone will do it. Somewhere in that construction, there’s this nagging question about whether or not EVERYONE can do it, since not everyone does. That can often lead to doubt about whether or not I can do it. And I’ve got to tell you that doubt is the poison pill for any plan that requires patience, hope, and hard work. And I think becoming a writer requires all of these things. Maybe doubt has a role in all that. Maybe doubt needs to be acknowledged and accepted as inevitable. Incorporated into the plan. I dunno. I haven’t been successful yet.

For me, it comes down to desire. Maybe that’s too dramatic. Maybe “want” is a better word. I think there are different ways of wanting. I was a smoker for many years; now I’m not. I’ve been quit for more than three years. Not a single puff, not even close. It feels great. What’s hard to figure out, though is that I tried several times to quit before it actually worked. I’ve thought about it a lot since then. Maybe there’s some secret to this experience than might inform other things I’ve wanted, but failed to achieve, especially those that seem like they should be so easy.

There were several times in my life that I tried to quit smoking. I told myself… “One day at a time.” “Hour-by-hour.” And so on. But that didn’t work for me. Thinking about it in those small terms made failure seem small. And recoverable. It made it possible to put it off. I’ll start in an hour, right? But that made the quitting “work.” It made the not-having a cigarette some sort of suffering or punishment. How motivating is that? It’s problematic to think of the hard work as something to get through to the good things. It keeps them separated. Suffer now to get the goods later: better smell, better health, more dating prospects, save money, freedom from addiction, etc. All very good things. So why do people still smoke? I hate to say this, but it’s because smoking is actually pretty great. It tastes good. It’s social. It gives you something to do with your hands, it’s a hobby if you’re a connoisseur. For me, there were two things I had to get right in my mind before I could quit. The first was to accept that I was going to live the life of a smoker or non-smoker. I had to think of smoking as the whole game. Not just the pleasure, but the drawbacks, too. I was either “in” or I was “out,” no in betweens. Smokers smoke. Non-smokers don’t. Don’t get confused. It’s simple. But you have to accept that it’s simple, and promise yourself you’re not going to lie to yourself about it. The other thing I had to accept was that I was a non-smoker as soon as I quit smoking. At that point, I had to choose to be a smoker if I was to have another cigarette. That’s a big decision. I had to be honest with myself that one cigarette was the whole smoking lifestyle back again. Not just a single cigarette. Maybe the most important decision I made about the whole process (I’m not sure who gave me this advice, but it was smart) was to get my mind straight about all of this while I was still a smoker. That way, my mind could do its work without the additional load of the quitting itself. As my chosen quit-day approached, I actually started looking forward to quitting. When the day actually arrived, I was ready to see myself as a non-smoker. I was already living the lifestyle of a non-smoker. Immediate reward (albeit in my head). But that meant success everyday. Not punishment, but the reward of actually living as a non-smoker.

So what’s the big deal? The same as always. The logic was simple, but the least important part of the process. It was getting right emotionally that made it possible. Desire is emotional. You need an emotional plan, not just a logical one. You need to choose to want. You need to commit to making that choice to want. It’s different that choosing to not smoke. Choosing to not want it is far more powerful.

I wonder if the same type of emotional construction might be possible in terms of production, rather than eradication? What’s the right emotional plan if I want to be a writer everyday?

[I’m going to keep pursuing this train of though with my next post. It’s going to be about something I learned as a potter’s (pseudo)-apprentice.]

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