Thursday, July 5, 2012

Free Yourself of worldly addictions

Tip: Free yourself of worldly addictions: Remember that eight addictions really boil down to four - material acquisitions, happiness, sensual pleasures, and approval. The more attached you remain to these, the more you will remain in a stressful outcome-orientation, not only in your writing, but even in the more important art of living as well.

Top: Joseph Sesisto in his book Write for Your Lives

How it Works in my Life: This is a good one to remember especially when you're in first draft. Those attachments to outcome can really screw up a good approach to a story. So how do I work with this EXTREMELY normal desire to be wealthy, happy, satiated and famous? I try to think of the piece that I'm writing as its own thing. Like a child who needs some guidance but for whom one doesn't (I hope) think 'oh this kid is going to be a famous hockey player and keep me in caviar, champagne and roses' but rather - what is the best I can give this child - the best attention, the best reserve so I don't live through her, the best of who I am?

I want to examine the myth of happiness in particular. Yesterday on CBC, Jian Ghomeshi was interviewing Toni Morrison for a special he was doing on The American Dream. He asked her what she would change and she said that in the American constitution the line 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' had always bugged her. She said that apparently Jefferson had wanted to put in the pursuit of property but someone had dissuaded him. She thought that this feeling that most Americans held (and most Canucks too) of believing that they had a right to feel happy and that if they didn't they should spend more until they did was a faulty notion. It makes people unable to stand frustration and quite frankly - if we can't stand frustration we aren't going to be any good at writing. Best forget about it if you are addicted to happiness. There is a ton of waiting around or doing the heavy lifting in writing. One doesn't (or this one doesn't!) sit at my pristine desk overlooking the calm waters of Lake Happy Camper while tapping out perfect prose that is immediately taken from my hands by slavering publishers.

Here is the statement that Sesisto suggests you say to yourself regarding happiness:

"Yes, I prefer happiness, and I don't particularly like unhappiness! But, I can tolerate some unhappiness and sometimes even some fairly heavy doses of unhappiness and frustration for the purpose of benefiting others. For example, through the completion of a manuscript that is going to be of help to a lot of people. Paradoxically, with my belief that I can tolerate unhappiness and that it's acceptable, I will wind up being happy and joyful because of the resilient mindset that I will develop with my writing."
Now - perhaps you aren't writing to benefit others, or don't think you are, but even if you are writing books that you think are pure entertainment, I would say that is of benefit to others.

How do you deal with your attachment to shiny outcomes when you are writing?


Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - Oh, you are so right about how important it is not to be attached to an outcome when one's writing. I think one of the hardest things to do is to put aside one's own expectations and let the story grow, while at the same time structuring the story so that it hangs together. Such a hard balance!

Liza said...

If we try to "control" a story, then the results in most cases will lead to frustration and...perhaps unhappiness. Most times, my stories tell me where they want to go, then suggest some means by which I get them there. I'm usually proud of us both when we get there.

randi lee said...

I heard this quote somewhere and it really stuck with me: "Be yourself and listen. Don't write for the critics." It freed me up as a write and helped me realize that by limiting myself to expectations I'm doing just that: limiting myself.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Oh, this is a tough one. For me, I try to block out any expectations and any thoughts about outcomes. I focus on what I like to write and what my readers like to read. And I try to think about my characters and how they would act ordinarily...the things they would do and not do.

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