In the last post I talked about the power of knowing what you want. I believe it’s the first step to being a warrior writer. It might also be the step that takes the most time. There’s a quote from Steve Jobs that sums it up nicely:
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
So don’t despair if you haven’t yet had that flash that tells you, “Yes! This is it!” While you’re waiting – and I love the phrase “possessing your soul in patience” to describe that kind of waiting – there are things you can do to prepare.
One of those things is figuring out what you need, and that’s what you need as opposed to what you want, or what’s attractive, or distractive. This is one I struggle with daily. I’m a magpie at heart, attracted by shiny things. I’m a packrat and a collector and a great considerer of what might be useful sometime in the future. It’s hard for me to get rid of stuff.
The Buddhist concept of non-attachment is one I aspire to, although I haven’t yet attained it. I think one of the ways to see a non-contemplative version of this in action is to watch – you’ll laugh – the new “Conan” movie with Jason Momoa in the title role. Just notice how many times Conan leaves behind things that he cannot take with him, or that hamper him in his goal. Armour, horses, whatever – he can abandon it immediately if he needs to. It’s the same kind of focus that allowed Tir to put his hand unhesitatingly into Fenris’s mouth.
Before my first trip to England I did a lot of craft shows – I was a printmaker at the time. There are incredibly tempting things at good craft shows, and many times I wanted to haul out my wallet. I had a mantra. “Do I want this more than I want to go to England?” It usually kept my wallet in my pocket for me.
I use a variation of that mantra when I’m tempted to squander writing time with something else. Believe me, I’m often tempted. But the question is always whether what I’m tempted to do is more important to me, or more satisfying, than writing. The answer is almost always “no”.
I’m not an ascetic – far from it – and I make time for my husband, my dog and my friends, for indulgences like coffee dates and playing with paper. I have a life full of interesting things to do, and I’m lucky that one of those is work that I believe I’ll eventually be able to live on. In the meantime, life is full of distractions, and focus is the daily work.
I meet a lot of people who say, “Yeah, I want to write, but…” After the “but”, what they’re saying can be summed up in these words – something else is always more important. That “something else”, whatever it is or they are, may truly be more important to this person, in which case what has to be discarded is the writing. But maybe it’s the other way around, at least some of the time.
Know what you need. Turn away from the rest.