In the 1990s and early 2000s, it seemed like every sitcom featured jokes about a man’s inability to commit to long-term relationships. Fear of commitment was so passé that it was the butt of every joke on shows like Friends and Seinfeld.
I never understood this.
When I was in high school, I broke up with a girlfriend because I didn’t see myself marrying her. That’s a pretty tall order for a teenager. What’s the point in dating if it doesn’t result in marriage? I thought.
Then I got married.
At age 20.
Thankfully, Natalie and I have been married for nearly twenty years now. But what I had to learn through those twenty years was that the wedding day wasn’t the commitment. On our wedding day, we vowed to commit, but the actual act of commitment happens day-by-day, minute-by-minute, even. We make a choice to commit to things that we love, to the things that we care about.
Marriage, then, becomes this sort of discipline, this practice, that two people come to over and over again, constantly trying to make it work. The outcome is not something in the future. We don’t look at the marriage and say, “Yup, I’m working on this so that fifty years from now we’ll look back and say, ‘that was great!’” No! We are working for today.
Writing is the same.
In writing, we are often seduced by the product. We say, “Yeah, I’m gonna sit here and write so that a year from now I’ll have that book finished.” There’s nothing wrong with this attitude. We all have goals. But writing, like a long-term relationship, is a long game: it requires patience, it requires practice, it requires commitment.
All the most inspirational books about creativity agree with this position. The most foundation book on creativity for me, without a doubt, is Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. For $12.95, it’s a steal, but I can save you that cash, if you like, and give you the in nuce version right here:
- A monster called “Resistance” lives inside each of us.
- Resistance works to keep us from doing stuff.
- The only way to defeat Resistance is to get off your ass and do stuff.
That’s pretty much it.
Likewise, if you check out Seth Godin’s The Practice: Shipping Creative Work, you’ll find something very similar. (Godin’s epigraph even includes a quote from Steven Pressfield, so you know these two guys are in conversation with one another.)
Being a writer, ultimately, is nothing more than committing to putting words on the blank page. Doing so creates a feedback loop, but with one caveat:
The more focused you are on results,
the less likely you are to commit.
Our culture is built around results: we look to outcomes to shape what we’re doing, to figure out whether our actions were effective. Creativity doesn’t care about outcomes. Creativity cares about your butt in the seat. The muse visits those who are willing to invest the time. When we invest the time, when we commit, our craft improves, our output improves, results will come. For some, they come quickly, for others slowly. Those results have nothing to do with genius. They might have something to do with luck. But they definitely have to do with the commitment to show up, day-after-day, and commit to the practice.
Therefore, if you’re looking to write (or do anything else creative), then you’ve got to ask yourself: Am I committed? The answer to this complicated question can be found in a simpler question:
Did I show up today?
If you’re showing up on the regular, if you’re really committed to your practice, then you’re a writer.
On a recent episode of Town Square with Ernie Manouse, I heard Dr. Claudia Kawas talk about the benefits of exercise for those who are looking for longevity. She said that study-after-study showed that exercise helped people live longer. Namely, exercise, of any kind, for 45 minutes each day, led to maximum impact. (NOTE: As she put it, you could exercise for 45 minutes or for 4 hours, the results would be the same in terms of your longevity.)
45 minutes! I bet the same is true for writing…
Can you find 45 minutes to put into writing? It may be 20 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch, and the other 15 minutes after the kids have gone to bed. Whatever. Can you do it? Can you make that commitment?
Focus on that. The outcomes will take care of themselves down the road. For now, your joy is to write. So, go enjoy!