• Chris OBrien

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

"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 Stephen King or JK Rowling.

Which means, for the overwhelming majority of us, there's a moment when it sinks in: I'm not going to be the most famous writer of all time. Or: I'm not going to make a living at this. I'll always need another 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 hitting these realizations. There's a sadness here and it's made tougher because no one wants to feel like they're throwing in the towel. We want to find extra motivation. Keep dreaming. Keep pushing. You're almost there!

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

Option 1: You can walk away. Decide it's 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 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 Option 3: More freedom in your writing. More joy. A love for the process itself. You also become more open to feedback and editing from others, because your main focus is on improving the story itself. Feedback doesn't sting because your entire self-worth is not wrapped into your writing 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 shop. Continuing to do 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 you get there, 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.

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

Doing it just to do it.

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