I took a week's hiatus from the podcast and blog to work on some of my own writing. During that week, I realized that I have competing desires of wanting to keep producing these podcasts/blogs, and wanting to have more time for my own writing projects.
For the past year, my priority has been Blockbuster YA and I’ve gotten to work with some amazing writers and fantastic stories and have loved every second of it. But it’s also made me want to spend more time on my own stories. I’ve decided that at least for the next six months, I want to prioritize writing again, so I’ve decided to turn these podcasts into bi-weekly episodes for the time being.
There is still a waitlist for Advancing Authors, our group writing program, so if you want to get more of my time, more workbooks, and more podcasts, that’s going to be the place to get it.
But competing desires is the topic I wanted to talk to you about today, so this actually lends itself quite nicely to today’s episode.
Where I see this struggle come up most often (especially for for first-time authors) is the desire to write competing with the desire to not write.
What this often looks like, is a short period of time where you write consistently, immediately followed by a long period where you find yourself not writing as much as you want to be.
In your head, you find yourself thinking thoughts like,
"I work better in the morning, I’m just going to rest tonight instead.”
“I sat all day long already, I want to do yoga instead".
“I had a long day and I want to relax.”
"I worked all day, I want a break."
So you do these other things instead of writing.
It feels great in the moment, but afterwards, you berate yourself for it. You end up feeling miserable, and you're angry at yourself for giving in to your other desires over the one to write.
You might start questioning your desires and your commitment. Clearly, you just don’t want the goal badly enough, right? You find yourself asking questions like,
“How can I want the finished novel more?”
“How do I create a good enough reason to write more?”
"Why am I so lazy?"
"What's wrong with me?"
"Do I not want it bad enough?"
The more you ask those bad questions, the more you get bad answers that leave you repeating the same cycle.
We don't realize we have competing desires.
What’s actually going on here is that not that you don’t want it badly enough, or that you don’t have a good enough reason, it’s that you have competing desires.
This is probably going to be news to you.
The only thing you think you want is a finished novel. When actually, if you’re not writing it, you want something else more.
This is really important to recognize and honour these desires in yourself. If you are currently struggling to write, then admit it – there is a part of you that doesn’t want to write.
What we fail to recognize is that the part of you that wants to do these other things (instead of writing) does have a good enough reason. It wants rest, warmth, food, and comfort for your survival.
Remember, survival is the desire of the primitive brain, and nothing else is more important to it.
What do you think about the part of you that wants comfort over writing a novel?
Most of you will say, “I don’t want to listen to that part of me. I only want the one that wants to write a book.”
And that's a problem.
Why is it a problem? Because we dismiss that primitive part of ourselves. We decide we don’t like that part of ourselves. We blame it for holding us back.
When we don't honour these primitive desires, we don't acknowledge ourselves. We don't listen to ourselves and we drop into judging ourselves instead.
“I don’t want that version of me that wants to relax, they’re lazy and I hate that they are holding me back from my dreams.”
If you treat yourself that way, and just try and push away these desires that you have, you can’t expect yourself to have your own back when it comes to other desires, like the one to write.
If someone came up to you and told you, “Get your butt off the couch and start writing!” You wouldn’t jump up and be like, “Absolutely! Thank you for the motivation!” You’d probably be like, “No, screw you, you jerk.”
The more you push against your desires the more you are creating a combative relationship with yourself. You will never get to the finished novel in this kind of relationship – because it’s forced and miserable.
This relationship offers no cooperation because it has no compromising, connection, or love, between the two parts of you that want different things, for good reasons.
How do you treat that part of you that wants to indulge in comfort?
Do you like them?
Try thinking of that version of you with some compassion. If I think of the part of me that instead of writing, wants to have a bubble bath while watching Drag Race, I don’t hate her. I’m like, "Oh my gosh of course, how adorable. That sounds wonderful."
This may blow your mind, but the fastest way to get that finished novel is by loving that part of yourself that doesn’t want to write.
If you try and battle that part of yourself, you’re going to have to write with willpower, and you won’t have enough. Though willpower can get you places. Anyone can write using willpower. But it’s going to be a temporary result. If you want to be a full-time writer, you’re going to have to learn different, sustainable techniques and adopt a new attitude. You’re going to have to have connection, love and understanding with yourself to create habits that last.
You will always have that part of you that wants to indulge in comfort. If you yell at that part of yourself, dismiss that part, and treat that part terribly, it’s not going to cooperate with you.
Your real issue here is your relationship with yourself and how you feel and think about yourself during the times you are not writing.
When you truly love yourself, you will understand that you have both these desires – the desire for comfort, and the desire for evolution and growth. When you can integrate these two desires, you will create a result that you can have forever. You can also create that published novel and many more.
Thinking back to that period of time when you were in the flow of writing, you probably thought you had a good relationship with yourself. But had you really loved your whole entire self, you wouldn't have those long periods of not writing and wishing that you were.
If that is you, it’s because you still think, “When I have the book, then I’ll love myself.” But that’s not how it works. External things don’t cause self-love. You have to do that work on loving yourself now – your whole self, including the parts of you that you don’t currently approve of.
You are acceptable either way, writing or not writing.
You can’t say, “I want to write a book and I don’t care about any part of me that doesn’t.” You have to look at both desires. You cannot reject those parts of yourself.
Ask yourself: How can I take these two desires I have, and make them work for me with kindness and love?
The answer may look like this conversation with yourself:
You get home from work, you’re tired but have scheduled time to write. There is a part of you that wants to write because you want a published novel but another part of you is saying, “I’m tired, it’s been a long day, I don’t really want to write today.”
You respond, “I hear you. I get it, relaxing does sound really nice. But here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to write 1000 words and then we’re going to go on the couch, make some tea, and watch Netflix for the rest of the night.
That is so much more loving - and so much more fun.
The next time you hear your primitive brain telling you about something it wants to do, hear yourself out. Listen to the desire and honour it. It doesn't mean you always have to oblige to the desire but you can at least understand it.
Love and understand all parts of you, and be willing to have compromises and conversations on your way to writing your book.