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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Poop on Writer’s Block Part 2: Love Brings Us Back


Part 1 invited you to write your Writer’s Poop List of the things you don’t love about being a writer. So why do we deal with all this s**t?

Why do I pick up what a friend euphemistically calls “recycled dog food”? Because I love my dogs and that is part of having dogs to love.

Likewise, we put up with the writer’s poop because we love writing.

Love-to-Poop Ratio

I could write pages about why I love my dogs, but I won’t bore you. All you really need to know that picking up poop takes less than 15 minutes a day. That leaves me with 23 hours and 45 minutes of unadulterated joy with my dogs. That’s an outstanding ratio of love-to-poop.

What’s your ratio? How much time do you spend doing what you love with your writing compared to the time you spend picking up writer’s poop?

Writer’s Love List

Make a list of all the things you love about writing and being a writer.

What excites you? Intrigues you? Challenges, engages, rewards, pleases you?

What brings you fun, joy, pleasure, satisfaction? What is so much fun or so rewarding about writing that it’s bliss? What brought you to writing in the first place?

What do you love about your characters, topic or audience?

Remember these things that you love. They will keep bringing you back to your writing.

Healthy Love-to-Poop Ratio

How much time do you spend in the love part (i.e. I do this because I love it, because it’s fun, because it brings me joy) compared to the poop part (i.e. I do this because I have to, because it needs to be done, because it’s what responsible people do)? If you’re spending 70-90% with the love and 10-30% with the poop, you’re doing very well.

If you spend less than 10% with poop, you either have a high tolerance for poop (stuff that bothers other writers just doesn’t affect you) OR you’re not challenging yourself enough. This might be the source of your writing resistance. Just because I don’t like writing query letters doesn’t mean I don’t need to do that. It means I need to make an extra effort to get started on that.

If you’re stalling your progress as a writer by avoiding things on your Writer’s Poop List, you need to stretch yourself. Hold your nose and pick up the poop.

Spending less than 70% of your time in love with your writing can also be the source of writer’s resistance or even full-fledged writer’s block. (I think one of the primary reasons diets and budgets don’t last is because we see them as 100% poop clean-up and there’s a limit to how long we can hold our nose and force ourselves to do something completely distasteful.)

However, there are some phrases in the development of a project when there’s just a lot of poop to get through to get to the other side. The publicity end of publishing a book is not a source of joy for me. But it is a necessary part of getting my book into the hands of writers who can really benefit from it and that I do love.

These high-poop phases are analogous to house-training a puppy; there’s an awful lot of poop (and pee) and it seems like all you do is take the puppy outside, but once you get through this, there will be years of pay-off.

Remember the Love

When you’re in a high-poop period, it’s vital that you spend at least 5 minutes a day remembering why you love writing in general and the project you’re working on in particular.

Take time every day to revisit what gives you joy. (Allowing myself to cluster and freewrite about dogs and poop was my return to joy – it’s fun to write this kind of silly stuff!)

Remember that it’s love that brings us back day after day. Commitment and discipline and even habits are significant, but without love, we’d never start the journey. And without love, we can’t finish it.

[Go to the next installment: A Habit of Love]

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    […] Poop on Writers’ Block: Love Brings Us Back […]

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  3. Poop on Writer’s Block « The Bane of Your Resistance - June 27, 2011

    […] [Go to the next installment: Love Brings Us Back] […]

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  4. Poop on Writer’s Block Part 3: A Habit of Love « The Bane of Your Resistance - June 27, 2011

    […] Writer’s Block Part 3: A Habit of Love (In Part 1, we identified the Poop Principle; in Part 2, we saw how love brings us back to our […]

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