• Chris OBrien

Three stages of writing: I'm doing it just to do it

Updated: Jun 25

"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

There are millions of writers but only a few will reach the level of fame and success of James Patterson, Stephen King, or JK Rowling.


This means, for the overwhelming majority of us, there's a moment when it sinks in: I'm not going to be a famous writer. My books probably won't become bestsellers. I'll always need a full-time job.


The same "reality-check" moment happens with sports or music or wanting to become the President of the United States. And no matter how big or unrealistic the dream, it's never easy when we hit one of these realizations. There's a sadness and it's made tougher because no one wants to feel like they're throwing in the towel. Keep dreaming. Keep pushing. You're almost there!


So what happens next? What happens after I didn't get my "something else." Or I got my "something else" and it wasn't fulfilling.


Option 1: You can walk away. Decide writing is not worth all of the time and energy. The letdown hurts too much.


Option 2: You can double down. Put in more hours. Focus even harder on big dreams of the something else.


And then there's Option 3. The moment when a writer says: To whom shall we go? What else would I do?


This is like the guy playing basketball on his lunch hour. The woman going to a yoga class before work. The mom sitting down at the piano for an hour in the evening, just for the sake of doing it.


The result of letting go of the "something else": More freedom in your writing. More joy. A love for the process itself. You also will become more open to feedback and editing from others, because your focus is all about improving the story itself. Feedback and notes sting when you're pursuing a something else, because it feels like a direct hit on our pride. But Feedback doesn't sting in Option 3 writing since our entire self-worth is not wrapped into it anymore. The something else isn't dominating the process.


The Option 3 writer isn't as concerned with their work being good or bad, because they know they'll be right back at the laptop the next day. Back in the lab. Doing the work they love to do. This increases creativity. Gets rid of writer's block. The Option 3 writer rarely feels stuck.


It's hard. The road that leads to Option 3 comes with some heartbreak and disappointment. And even when a writer reaches this point, it's still hard not to keep chasing the something else. The something else will remain shiny and will keep inventing new ways to appear more fulfilling than the work itself.


It's a hard road. But it leads to the most fulfilling times you'll ever have as a writer.


When you're doing it just to do it.


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