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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.

Housetraining Your Writing

Nothing demonstrates the Poop Principle better than housetraining – your puppy or your writing.

When you get a puppy, you know the poop side of the Love-to-Poop ratio is going to be high. For a while it seems like all you do is take the puppy outside or regret not taking the puppy outside!

Fortunately, puppies are so darn cute! They wiggle their way right into our hearts because they increase our oxytocin level. Oxytocin is the “love hormone” or “cuddle hormone” so the love side of the ratio gets a huge boost at the same time.

We get that housetraining effect with some stages of a writing project. Some phases just fit our personality and style better than others. Moving through a stage that’s not a natural high for you will make you feel like there’s a lot more poop to pick up.

You might think the Poop Principle means you should brace yourself, hold your nose when you need to, and just get through it so you can get to the parts of writing you love.

Be Careful What You Assume!

Anticipating that a particular writing project, phase or task will be poop-intensive can make it so. We get what we expect because our beliefs determine our thoughts, our thoughts determine both our mood and our actions, which determine the outcomes we get, and the outcomes reinforce our beliefs.

For example, if I focus on having to pick up the poop when I walk my dogs and how much I hate that part, how bad it’s going to smell, and how gross it is and all that, I can’t enjoy the walk, let alone feel the love.

If I give all my attention to the poopy part, I don’t have any attention left for noticing how beautiful the park is, how my dogs make my heart swell, how good it feels to move my body in the fresh air.

Don’t count the poop before it’s hatched. Life is much more rewarding when we focus on the love.

Remember the Love!

Spend at least 5 minutes a day remembering why you love writing in general. Remember why you started this particular project in the first place. What was it you originally loved about it? What grabbed you and wouldn’t let you go?

Take time every day to revisit what gives you joy. Make a point of reconnecting with your sense of purpose for this project. But also be sure you let yourself have fun. Be silly or irreverent with your writing or with the topic. Spend a little extra time with creative play, aka Process.

Love brings us back day after day. Of course you need habits, persistence and commitment to get through the difficult parts, but without love, we’d never start the journey. And without love, we can’t finish it.

What do you love about writing and your current project?

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3 Comments on “Housetraining Your Writing”

  1. Lorraine November 17, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    Cool! That’s a clever way of loonikg at it!


  2. Michael Kelberer November 9, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    Hi Rosanne,
    Really enjoyed the poop sequence, and comparing writing to dog-owned really cemented it for me.
    While reading today’s post, I realized that highest on my poop list (maybe because I’ve not gotten far enough along to write query letters or get rejections) was writing first drafts. And that’s really time consuming.
    Then I thought, how about if I disassemble “writing first drafts” into constituent parts. Some parts (sitting and noodling, having some actual inspired language appear out of the blue) I actually enjoy. Mostly what I hate is re-reading it and realizing that it is, like it’s supposed to be my rational brain says, sh*t.
    So, using your formula from the previous post, what I can do is spend way more time noodling and letting the words flow, and less time re-reading.
    Done and done.


    • rosannebane November 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

      Glad to hear it Michael! Thanks for highlighting the importance of breaking big or daunting tasks into manageable pieces


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