Dude. Stop yelling at the cat.
Why do you write? Why do you make things? Why create stuff?
To win fame? To impress people? To earn a living? Just because it’s fun? All of the above?
Most of the time — for ego-based reasons or financial reasons or both — we don’t write JUST because it’s fun. No. Nuh uh. That’s not enough. We want (no, NEED) our projects to be a serious financial, social, personal and professional “success.”
We place so much “pressure” on our writing to “perform” in a specific way.
“This piece of writing MUST translate into money, attention, fan mail, appreciation, fame, opportunities, etc.” we think, secretly and privately, in dark, frightened moments. “Or else, all of this work is just a waste of my time.”
That’s an awful lot of pressure to place on a poor little piece of writing that just wants to be born and find its way in the world. An awful lot of pressure to place on yourself, too.
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this painful situation in her latest book, Big Magic.
Gilbert says (I’m paraphrasing) that when you place tons of pressure on a piece of writing and you NEED it to perform in a specific way OR ELSE, it is kind of like screaming various demands at a cat. The cat doesn’t understand what you’re talking about. The cat doesn’t know how to give you what you want. The cat just thinks you look mean and crazy and wants to hide under a sofa.
Like most people, I swing between various emotional states.
Some days I pet the cat.
Some days I yell at the cat.
Some days I’m in love with writing for the sheer joy of writing, feeling very Buddha-like and unattached as words pour through my fingertips.
Other days I wait anxiously to find out if something I’ve written has helped a client to have a six figure product launch or secure a book deal or a screenwriting deal because if not, obviously I have failed as a human being.
Other days I frump around because nobody seemed to enjoy my latest blog post as much as I thought they would.
Other days I close my keyboard and consider becoming a hairstylist.
After reading Gilbert’s book, though, I’ve become delighted by the “cat metaphor.”
Now, on tough days when I am being so hard on myself, so hard on my writing, so relentlessly demanding and rigidly fixated on specific outcomes that I want and maybe can’t have — on tough days when my ego feels like a bottomless pit that will never be satisfied — I can laugh at myself a bit more. I can say to myself, “Dude. Stop yelling at the cat.”
(Except I’m allergic to cats, so in my mind, I imagine an adorable Shih Tzu puppy. And then I immediately want to stop yelling at that poor puppy! She just wants to love me and play with me! I couldn’t possibly keep screaming at that little sweetheart. That would be so cruel and unreasonable.)
Are you having a rough day where you feel invisible, untalented, and annoyed because the world isn’t rejoicing and throwing parades in your honor every time you publish a new blog post or release a newsletter or book?
Are you placing heavy, strict, unreasonable demands on your writing, insisting that it “perform” for you or else?
Are you yelling at yourself, yelling at your creative spirit, and yelling at your work like a mean, abusive boss who is never satisfied and never will be?
I have one piece of advice for you (courtesy of Liz G):
Dude. Stop yelling at the cat.