How to weather the rain in your writing life

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Do you avoid your work because you fear a link between negative emotions and writing? If so, you’re likely losing the chance to achieve something really meaningful.

I recently spent five days camping in the San Juan Islands in Washington State. It’s a beautiful part of the world – verdant and filled with natural harbours. (The photo, above, is by my husband.) But it rained every day we were there.

Not that I’m unfamiliar with camping in the rain. And not that I loathe it. If you have good gear – and we did – it’s surprisingly tolerable. Especially if the worst rain occurs at night, when you’re already under cover and snuggled in your sleeping bag. I even considered the hammering sound on the tent’s nylon to be a kind of a white noise that helped lull me to sleep.

We travelled with another couple and as the four of us sat around the campfire one evening (it wasn’t raining then, at least), our friend Janet observed that camping  forces you to really experience the weather. “You sometimes don’t notice the rain when you’re in the city,” she said. “But when you’re camping, you have to deal with it.”

Was she playing a verbal game turning lemons into lemonade? I don’t think so. She was making an almost Buddha-like observation about dealing with suffering.

Who wants wet feet? Or to eat lunch in the rain? Or to push water off the tarp over your head (and have some of it run down your sleeve)? No one! If we have the chance to avoid these negative situations, of course we will.  But if we have to deal with them, we can discover our own defining moments. And that made me think about writing, too.

Many of us are scared by some of the defining moments that writing presents:

  • Frustration.
  • Fear.
  • Anger.
  • Not knowing what to say.
  • Feeling lost.
  • Being bored.

Who would willingly subject themselves to these negative emotions? Not us! We’d rather feel comfortable and happy; entertained and diverted. But by ignoring the negative, we’re losing the opportunity to achieve something really meaningful: Changing frustration into triumph. Turning fear turn into assurance. Resolving  anger into calm.  Switching incoherence into expressiveness. Pivoting from lost to found. Transforming boredom into excitement.

Confronting the negative — just like confronting rain — gives us strength. It teaches us the small adjustments we can make to survive the experience. In rain, that would be using plenty of tarps, having a Goretex parka and employing a secret stash of clean, dry socks. In writing, it might mean using the pomodoro, stopping editing while we write, and using mindmapping.  If we can learn to tolerate the negative, then we can become far more powerful.

My latest trip, which represented the only time I’ve spent in a tent in the last five years, reminded me how much I love camping. Now, I’m going to ensure we camp somewhere interesting at least once a year, maybe more often than that.

I already write every day but if you don’t, consider making a commitment to doing so for at least 10 minutes five days a week, no matter how you feel. If you can develop the habit of pursuing your writing goals, regardless of your emotions, it will be a core defining moment for you. This will have a positive impact in other areas of your life – from your other work, to your parenting, to your relationships with friends and your partner.

And, by the way, if you want to write a book, please consider attending my Thursday, Sept 19 no-obligation teleseminar about my new one-year program, Write a Book With Me. There’s no charge for the teleseminar; you just need to register in advance. Even if the time is inconvenient for you, sign up anyway because that way you’ll receive a copy of the recording.

How do you deal with the negative emotions that you churn up when writing? We can all learn from each other so please share your thoughts with my readers and me by commenting below. (If you don’t see the comments box, click here and then scroll to the end.)

Photo courtesy Eric Watts

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