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Why You Don’t Write and What You Can Do About It

To begin, tell me a little bit about yourself. How many of these have you experienced in your writing life during the past two years? I’ll include checkboxes so you can keep track.

Never finding the time to write
Making the time but not writing
Dreaming of writing but never getting started
Starting but never finishing
Starting but never finishing that one particular piece
Thinking you can do it without help
Thinking you’re beyond help
A love/hate relationship with your writing
Focusing on unhelpful criticism and ignoring positive feedback
Focusing on positive feedback and ignoring constructive criticism
Wanting to write deep but writing shallow
Writing for others instead of yourself
Writing for money but not treating it like a business
Reading about writing instead of writing
Seeking out feedback before you’re ready
Seeking out the wrong level of feedback
Ongoing health challenges like
    Unexplained fatigue (physical or mental)
    Mysterious illness (a neverending or recurring cold or flu)
    Injuries (constant little accidents)
    Addiction of any kind (substance, activities, self-destructive habits)

How many did you check? Type the number right here:

Is it more than zero?

If so, you’re facing Resistance.

I’ve written nearly 20 books and 200 songs in the past 11 years. I checked 17 boxes. SEVENTEEN.

I’m facing Resistance.

You’re facing Resistance.

Resistance? What’s That?

According to author Steven Pressfield in his seminal work The War of Art Resistance is the mental and emotional pushback we feel when we dare greatly by creating something. It is our unconscious mind protecting us from the “danger” of emotional vulnerability. It manifests in all the ways in that checklist above, and more.

Resistance is a bully. It will stand in your way and stop your progress. It will knock you down and hurt you, emotionally, even physically.

Resistance strikes nonfiction and fiction authors alike. (Memoirists, are you hearing me?) Writing a business book is still a creative endeavor and will expose you to the associated fears.

It will stop you from writing using the tools you checked off in that list above.

It’s Not Just You & I

“I was ashamed. I have spent a good many years since—too many, I think—being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who as ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent.”

“. . . in my heart I stayed ashamed. I kept hearing Miss Hisler asking why I wanted to waste my talent, why I wanted to waste my time, why I wanted to write junk.”

Who was this loser?

Stephen King. Stephen 350 million books sold King.

This is a quote from his On Writing which, although not precisely instructional, is the most inspiring book I’ve read when it comes to staying the course as a writer.

This is the quote that gave me my writing life back. I’ll tell you that story someday.

Our innate desire to have our work respected can lead to problems if we put what others believe about our “God-given talent” ahead of what we want to write. It’s one of many ways Resistance twists natural feelings into quicksand.

What’s a Writer to Do?

You cannot defeat, once for all time, Resistance. It’s part of our mental and emotional makeup. We can, though, make it irrelevant. Note that I can’t say “ignore it” because you can’t ignore a bully. But if you defuse them, do things to take away their power, they are no longer a threat. Like the bully at school (or, frankly, in the office) they still show up every day. But we don’t have to keep giving them our lunch money.

Being a writer is hard. You don’t have to do this alone.

Too many writers are facing the emotional struggle to write without the support they need. After years of writing about it, I’ve created a forum to help writers and artists deal with writer’s Resistance.

It’s not going to be a collective moan-fest or even chat-fest. Instead, it’s a guided learning environment, a community of writers making a safe place for some “you’re not alone” emotional support. It will also cover practical and actionable tools and processes to get you writing and keep you writing.

Membership is $5 per month or only $25 for the whole year. Questions? Comments? Shout ’em out below and I’ll answer every one.


Creativity Hallucination and Subsequent Punishment

Some raw unpolished thoughts on the article Secrets of the Creative Brain by Nancy C. Andreasen, subtitled A leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity shares her research on where genius comes from, whether it is dependent on high IQ—and why it is so often accompanied by mental illness.

Andreasen writes: I’ve been struck by how many of these people refer to their most creative ideas as “obvious.” Since these ideas are almost always the opposite of obvious to other people, creative luminaries can face doubt and resistance when advocating for them.

Powerful realization from that: much of my reality feels like hallucination because I’m the only one who sees it. When you go through life seeing things no one else does, and being mocked or pitied or shunned when you admit it, it’s no wonder we lose our emotional and mental balance.

Continue reading “Creativity Hallucination and Subsequent Punishment”


A Myth and a Puzzlement

I’ve often heard creative folks claim that producing art quickly or in bulk leads to lower quality.

It’s not true.

Creativity is like a muscle. Use it more, make it stronger.

Yes, muscles get tired. When’s the last time you spent so much time in creative pursuits that you were in any danger of creative burnout?

I just spent February writing 25 songs besides working on my novel and writing here and at my personal blog. Being more creative leads to being more creative. I’ll be physically exhausted long before I’m creatively exhausted.

Quality? Sure, some of the songs I wrote aren’t keepers. That’s the nature of the beast: not every song is. But when I write 14 songs in a month, 3 or 4 are excellent. When I write 25 songs in a month, 7 or 8 are excellent. Not only more excellence, but a slightly higher percentage.

I believe that if I wrote 100 songs next February, I’d create 20 or more that were as good as anything I’ve ever written.

Are You Not a Writer?

The first thing writers tell me when I say “blog weekly, two or three times if you can” is “I don’t know what to write about.”

You’re a writer, aren’t you? If the goal is to get people to part with their money for your writing, how about showing them, often, what you’re capable of?

Wrote a nonfiction book? Blog about all the stuff that didn’t make it into the book, about everything you’ve learned since it was finished.

Fiction author? Easy: make up new fiction. No, I didn’t say write a batch of deathless prose every day. Just write.

Blogging regularly is not that hard—you’re a writer.


Imposter Syndrome

The group of mad songwriters I’m hanging with this month have a thread with 100+ posts about imposter syndrome.

Every artist who’s ever created something they feel strongly about has also felt like a fraud. Who am I to pretend to be an author? Who am I to pretend my songs are worth your trouble to spend 3 minutes listening?

John Lennon anguished about his lyrics. Stephen King is, to this day, ashamed of his subject matter, still smarting from a teacher’s disdain for the junk he wrote.

I have reached a point where I’m confident about my song lyrics, and getting there about my books. Every smart writer I trust has said they learn to ignore feedback except from very specific people in very specific ways. Not the 1-star haters on Amazon. Not their Best Beloved (though mine is my first audience, but her one and only job is to smile and pat me on the head; we both know her job doesn’t involve anything like honest criticism, that comes later.)

I don’t believe in the anguished lamenting artist who must bleed and die to create. We choose to do this. On some level we’re driven to it; I don’t think I’d be happy if I stopped writing novels. But no one makes me do it, and a lot of folks never feel the joy of publishing a book or performing a song they wrote. I get to make art, and I’m happy about it. It takes work, though, to focus on the positives when Imposter Syndrome and Resistance strike.

Next time you see someone doing something creative, whether it’s performing in public or just sketching a doodle in the park, thank them for daring. They can always use the boost.


Creative Trip Around the World

In this week’s 21st Century Creative podcast Mark McGuinness and guest Laurie Millotte discuss creating a global business. Laurie’s challenge to listeners was to create a round-the-world trip based on your creative desires. Here’s what I wrote:

Before Best Beloved and I spent a year traveling the US and Canada doing house sitting, we’d already built a location-independent business. As a result, we’ve already done a fair bit of traveling. But this week’s challenge has me thinking.

1. San Francisco. The entire city, but especially the waterfront and the trolleys, fire up my creativity. I’d want to start my trip with a total immersion in a city that has always inspired me.

Continue reading “Creative Trip Around the World”


The 21st Century Creative: a podcast worth making time for

For the 3rd Monday in a row I’m taking more than an hour to listen to a podcast. I generally have little patience for podcasts; most have a very low signal-to-noise ratio. The 21st Century Creative, hosted by Mark McGuinness of Lateral Action, is all signal, no noise.

His first two guests were Scott Belsky of Behance and 99U, and Steven Pressfield, who doesn’t do interviews anymore—except when he does.

Eschewing the rush rush syndrome everyone thinks is appropriate these days, Mark takes his time, 60 to 90 minutes. Each guest ends the show with an artistic challenge; participate and you can win nifty useful books (and, not incidentally, grow artistically and personally.)

Make time for the 21st Century Creative podcast. Your art deserves it.


Giving Readers Their Money’s Worth

During our year-end sabbatical and post-mortem/planning episode, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to do all I can to separate my art from money matters. This past year related issues brought me closer to abandoning writing than anything ever has in the past.

I’m planning on writing like mad, but I’m planning on giving it all away. Take money, marketing, business out of the equation so I can create without feeling the obligation to give people “their money’s worth” which is a phrase I haven’t been able to get out of my head for years.

Artists who make a good living learn to separate these issues, the art and the business. Great thinkers I’ve followed like Mark McGuinness at Lateral Action, Hugh McLeod at Gaping Void, and Bob Dylan at everywhere, have all managed to do this at various levels. Maybe I’ll get there after while.

For now, anyone who signs up for my newsletter will get every novel I write, free, including those already published.


Let’s Build a House! (Why Planning will Make Your Writing Life Better)

Fair warning: if you are committed to the spontaneous pantsing version of writing, please don’t read this. You won’t benefit, I won’t benefit. If you’re open to having assumptions challenged, read on. To the end. Don’t read the first 80% and quit or you won’t get the point.

What is a House?

Though wildly different around the world, all houses share certain characteristics. Let’s explore the ins and outs.

  1. Roof — Without a covering, it’s a yard, not a house.
  2. Floor — It may be dirt, but it’s not water or air. If your residents are standing in a pool up to their waist, or swinging in hammocks 30′ aboveground, you’ve built something other than a house.
  3. Privacy — Roof but no walls = carport or equivalent.
  4. Toilet — Yes, in some parts of the world this is not inside the house. If you live in one of those places, you may dispute this requirement.
  5. Services — Electricity. Running water. Drains. See above note for quibbles.
  6. Egress — Without a door suitable for us humans to enter through, it’s not a house, it’s something else.
  7. Lighting — Even if it’s windows and skylights, there’s a way for light to come in.

You may dispute any of these if you choose to live in the house yourself.

If you plan to sell the house, or even sell time using the house (called “renting”) I defy you to leave any of these out and still succeed.

build-a-house
Continue reading “Let’s Build a House! (Why Planning will Make Your Writing Life Better)”



Show, Not Tell — Another Exercise

ElbertIt’s no secret when Elbert is at a party. Those plaid shirts are hard to miss. He’s not a bad chap, really. Some of his witticisms are quaintly amusing.

The glasses aren’t bad, though wire frames might be less geeky. Though with that hair, it’s hard to say. Could be quite stylish if it were brushed once after he gelled it.

Jeans are acceptable party wear, I suppose, though I’d have opted for something pleated. To each his own. At least jeans and plaid go together, usually.

It’s nice to see someone that age retaining their youthful sensibilities. Most folks his age would have settled into more mature dress and grooming. That, um, quirkiness is just part of his appeal to most people.


Adding Songwriting to the Creative Mix

FAWMEvery year I spend some time in February mixing with the folks over at February Album Writing Month.

Every year, I notice that stretching to do more creative work makes me even more creative. It fires up things in my brain I forgot were there. It dredges up old feelings and new thoughts.

What it doesn’t do is use itself up or run itself out.

If you’d like to hear what I’m doing musically, head on over. While you’re there, look through the songs and see what others are writing. The library grows by about 500 songs most days during February, and most have demos you can listen to and even download. I’ve discovered some of my favorite artists on FAWM; regular folks who love making music as much as I do.

P.S. Ginger is off to the editor tomorrow and will be ready for y’all to buy before month end.



Does Your Writing Come From You or Through You?

The HillsideI’ll state right up front that while I believe all art is a divine gift I do not believe in a literal Muse who is responsible for my (or your) art.

But sometimes, it certainly feels like what I create is coming, not from me but through me.

In those moments what arrives in my fingers is closer to the truths I feel than when I’m using my head, obviously and overtly making stuff up.

I once spent a week carefully crafting a complex 7-minute long Arabic trance instrumental. It’s all kinds of fun, and the Little One still loves to listen to it.

Most folks pay little or no attention to it. It has no real depth, no emotional tug.

On the other end of the spectrum is my song The Hillside which, once I realize what these three repeating chords meant, these dead simple chords anyone could play, the song flowed in minutes, all but one word which was supplied by Best Beloved. Continue reading “Does Your Writing Come From You or Through You?”


Art is Love: The More You Give Away the More You Have

bucket at the wellSince I’ve started a daily routine of writing come what may, I’ve noticed something.

The more ideas I spit out, the more I have.

In the past week, I’ve written 1,000 words a day on the sequel to Through the Fog. Another story forced its way into my head, and I’ve managed 1,000 words a day on that one as well.

The past few Februaries I haven’t participated in February Album Writing Month. But this year I’ve had so man song ideas I can’t bottle them up. Four written and recorded with another well on the way. Since I spend the 3rd week of every 3rd month writing 3 songs with my buddy Terry, I’ll be doing that whether I push for 14 songs at FAWM or not.

The well doesn’t run dry, it refills itself. The more art I create, the more wells up to be created.


Hankering for Hunkering

I need to force myself to take some time off.

I am an obsessive person. Choose your personality type terminology: INFJ, 4 with a 5 wing, or Catalyst. That means I only have two settings: off, and AS MUCH AS THERE IS.

I don’t start a book unless I know I can finish it in one sitting.

When my entire music collection was vinyl, I listened to albums all the way through. I never, ever, skipped songs I didn’t like.

Continue reading “Hankering for Hunkering”