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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.

Keep the Poop Principle and Writer’s Block in Their Place


The previous post 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.

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

Love-to-Poop Ratio

Blue and Kelda

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.

This 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?

Step 1: Identify What You Love

You already have your Writer’s Poop List, now you need your Writer’s Love List. Include all the things you love about writing and being a writer.

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

What brings you joy and satisfaction? What makes writing bliss for you?

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

Step 2: Calculate the Love-to-Poop Ratio

You might have a pretty good idea of how much time you spend with things on the Love List and things on the Poop List and think you’re ready to calculate the ratio.

But a funny thing about the brain is that we remember scary or painful experiences in more detail than we remember pleasant experiences. So your impression of how much time you actually spend with the poop may be inflated.

I recommend you keep track of the minutes and hours for a week or two to see how accurate your original estimate is, then recalculate the ratio if necessary.

Step 3: Which Ratios Lead to Writing Resistance

If you’re spending 70-90% of your total writing time 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 a little more often.

On the other hand, 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.

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.

Next post we’ll take a look at what to do when you’re house-training your writing, that is, when a phase in a writing project is poop-intensive the way house-training a puppy is.

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3 Comments on “Keep the Poop Principle and Writer’s Block in Their Place”

  1. Mary Gunderson November 4, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    Brilliant!

    Like

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  1. Housetraining Your Writing « The Bane of Your Resistance - November 8, 2012

    […] demonstrates the Poop Principle better than housetraining – your puppy or your […]

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