I am not in control.
You are not in control.
This may be the most important thing I’ve learned as a writer. It’s what I would tell anyone who creates anything. Whether you’re writing a blog post, preparing a sermon or painting. It doesn’t matter if you’re a kid who is making masterpieces out of stuff that’s lying around or whether you’re a seasoned novelist who has written 20 New York Times’ Bestsellers.
You aren’t in control. And as soon as you realize that, the sooner you can start making some really great stuff.
Even when you come up with an idea. It’s not really your idea. Yeah, you were maybe the one who one who write it down or had an inkling to suggest something, but honestly that doesn’t mean it’s yours. Where did it come from? That’s what I like to call an elusive question. One that the more we attempt to answer, often the further we are from finding an answer.
Consider this in some ways, an elusive blog post.
When I write I often try and have some ideas or seeds ready to go. So if I’m out and about and I notice something or hear something or wonder something, I will jot it down. It doesn’t matter what it is or whether it fits into something that I’m already working on or whether it’s interesting to anyone else. If it hits something in me, I’ll make some sort of record of it. Maybe I’ll take a picture and make a note and reference it in Evernote.
I’ll usually give it a tag of some sort e.g. Elaine’s Freakout or Franco, General Hospital or Numb Slog.
Descriptions and tags that right now mean nothing, but someday may just be the missing piece of the jigsaw that I’ve been looking for.
Remember to make a note about whatever this thought that comes to mind is, even if it’s 3:25 in the morning. This is so important!! I’ve had ideas that I’ve thought were genius and I wouldn’t need to write down, disappear like a dream. There are foggy memories of having a great idea that become faint mirages. Something but now nothing.
I’ve thought of jokes in my sleep that I literally remember thinking I can’t wait to tell Britty this joke when I wake up and realizing the joke is terrible. Remind me to tell you my Brad Pitt joke next time I see you.
But it doesn’t matter. I wrote it down. It may come in handy someday, even if just to use in a blog post about how crap an idea it was.
Nothing is wasted. Everything is sacred to the writer.
Then maybe later I’ll be writing a blog post about a particular topic and I’ll review my tags and I’ll see if there are any interesting connections. Connections that if I was trying to intentionally arrive at, would never stick. But when my stance in the world is to be alert to what’s going on around me, you’d be surprised at the things that fit together eventually.
Also, it doesn’t have to be good. In fact, it should probably be really shit. That’s where the good stuff tends to come from. Another in fact; usually the things that you think are really great and are going to go viral, don’t get much response and the things you’re so embarrassed about sharing, resonate on some weird level with people.
The best ideas too, come from the least expected places. Often I do my best writing in the shower or sitting on the toilet. They common factor here is not some weird fascination I have with my bathroom but that it’s here that I’m often disconnected from my phone or my computer. Those things become a distraction where Twitter stops me from pondering and being in awe and just being silent.
The silence is where the best noise comes from.
I don’t understand it either.
Again, we’re not in control.
And that’s it really. Sure we need to actually sit down every single day and do the work. And sure, we need to edit it and maybe we can to learn to find our voice by taking a course. But the ideas, rarely come from simply trying harder.
And the more you do this, whether you’re any good at it or not, the more you’ll want to let go. The more value you’ll see in those frustrating days when everything you write is just BLeurgrhhgreathhgghhghsdgjh!!!!! It’s not a waste of time, it’s necessary. Like a good sculptor, our job is simply to chisel away until we find something that has been there all along.
We’re not creating it so much as we are discovering it and giving voice to it.
That’s the important work.
Because in there, when you least expect it, is where you find the great.