Wednesday, February 15, 2012

When Want to Becomes Have to

Copyright Square-Enix.  Source

Pressure makes diamonds, or so the saying goes.  But here is an interesting fact: pressure also leads to declining performance.

Let me give you a scenario which is applicable to me and might be applicable to you.  Let’s say I have no job and rent that needs to be paid.  I have no skills (other than writing fiction) and/or contacts and can get no job.  I decide that I can sell short stories for a living.  What happens to my stories?  They never get written or they are crap.  What happens to my motivation?  It declines steadily until I dread the return to the empty screen.

Writing is supposed to be fun.  Not all the time, but it should at least have the capacity to excite you from time to time.  If this is not the case, one of two things is happening.

One, you don’t like writing.  Two, you’re putting too much pressure on yourself.  Pressure you can’t handle.

If your next day’s meal depends on how good your story is, it is likely that it’ll break away some of the allure of writing.  This is a hard subject to accurately determine, since each person’s level of stress-handling is different, but the fact remains.  If you have to, you have less inclination to want to.

When you do this for a living, how do you counterbalance that problem?  You drop the importance scale a bit.  Stephen King says that if getting your kid to baseball practice is just as important as finishing your draft, there’s a lot less pressure.  Make sure you find time to write, but don’t make it so important that you can’t fit anything else in.

You need a bit of pressure and challenge (say, a wordcount for the week), but when I want to becomes I have to, there is a problem you should look at.

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