Yesterday I was invited to lunch with a friend whom I met when he was an editor at a major metropolitan newspaper I freelanced for and one of that newspaper’s columnists.
The columnist (let’s call him/her V), whom I consider successful, has had a column for many years but is bored with her job (she may be a she…then again, she may be a he…). What she’d really like to do is write a screenplay or a book or something else! Instead she comes home and spends her night watching TV. She says she knows all she has to do is DO IT, but she can’t. Something holds her back.
What motivated you to finish your book? V asked me.
I looked beyond the basket of bread. The restaurant was crowded with a couple hundred people, probably. Frank Sinatra crooned beneath the din of voices.
We remember different motivations at different times, but yesterday, what came to mind, and what I said, was, My mother and father were unhappy when they died. I didn’t want to die with a load of regrets. If I didn’t get this book published, I would have always regretted it.
But how’d you do it? V said. How’d you make yourself do it?
I made myself stay in the chair, I said. You gotta stay in the chair.
I know, V said. I know what I have to do but I don’t do it. Instead I turn on the TV.
Do it first thing in the morning, I said.
I don’t want to get up at 4:00 a.m., said V.
Leave your house, I said. Change the environment. Do your “other” writing someplace other than the newsroom or your home–someplace where you can attach your creative persona.
I know I need to do it. I just don’t, V said.
You ever have a critique group? One writing buddy?
V started joking about therapy, which is when I said, I know just the therapist for you and talked about friend, author and LA therapist, Dennis Palumbo. V joked some more.
I tried seeing the blockage in V. Maybe it was success. V is doing so well as a writer on staff, why hassle it? Yet, V longs for the fire again, the fire that is sparked when your writing moves you, when you are drawn to the chair because your writing is on fire.
This all struck me as an interesting quandry because V has a job writing a column. How many writers would love that? And yet V is bored and just can’t motivate him/herself to do the creative writing she/he constantly thinks about.
V is funny and talented and if only he/she would do it, V’s sorta downbeat (but funny) demeanor would transform.
Stop thinking too much, I said. Freewrite. Don’t think.
Yeah, I think too much, said V.
Here’s your prescription, I said. Read the chapter in Pen on Fire on freewriting and every day, get out a timer and write for 15 minutes. Stop thinking.
I know I should, V said.
Do it, I said. And stop thinking, too.