Do you have too much discipline? Writing and OCD.
This post is written especially for my dear Daily Prompts subscribers.
A writer asked me what to do about writing prompts when they gather in his inbox every week. He works long days; his writing time is mostly on weekends.
"Like everything else in my OCD world, everything that was once glittery and enterprising becomes a leaden chore. Before your 10-minute writing prompts fall into this familiar trap, I felt the need to ask your advice – I may not be alone.
By letting them "accumulate," [am I] feeling the weight of the prompts, the pressure to complete them as if I'm being graded by an invisible parent? Or is each one like the train? If you miss one, it's gone – but another will come by soon enough. What do you think?"
Such a great question.
Some writers have to learn how to cultivate discipline – the daily prompts help with this, obviously. But for writers who have lots and lots of discipline – for those of us who can be dogged and unforgiving about the way we approach daily tasks – I'd like to look at writing practice in a different way.
The daily prompts are, indeed, like a train. They come every day. If you miss one, you do not have to check it off your list before catching another one.
In fact – and I'm revealing this secret only because I believe it may help with OCD tendencies – there are a finite number of prompts. They will repeat every 3 years. I wrote a new one every day for 3 years, and then I thought: that's probably enough.
I schedule the prompts to go out daily, but if you miss one, not only will another fill its place, you'll have a second chance to get it later. More important: you could write the same prompt every single day and you'd come up with something new each time.
It's the practice that counts, not the prompt.
The prompt is only there to trigger your practice, however that looks for you.
There's nothing wrong with writing for an hour on Saturday instead of 10 minutes every day. Yes, it's worthwhile. I actually like the 5-6 prompts in one day habit. It could be an even more fierce habit than 10 minutes a day, depending on your state of mind. It all depends on your state of mind.
As long as you're connecting with your creative, receptive state of mind as you write, your writing is worthwhile. However long you do it, however often you can manage it in your life. It's the practice that counts. It's your state of mind that counts. Only you can answer this honestly: are you using your overactive and bossy left brain to support your right brain by making you write the prompts, or is it acting more like a dictator and taking the gentleness and uncertainty and playfulness away from your creative process?
Writers, pay attention to this. You don't want to start banging your daily prompts down only because you must. check. prompt. off. list. This is a writing practice – not a chore. Occasionally remind yourself – if you're the dogged type – that your writing practice is not really about being productive.
I do want to provoke a bit of that – the accountability part is important for any creative endeavour, or we just won't do it – but please take time to enjoy the writing.
I changed the way I sent out writing prompts because the way I used to do it was becoming less glittery and more to-do for me. I was becoming dogged and unforgiving, and it interfered with the curiosity and play that started the project. This doggedness creeps into my fiction writing (and revision!) more often than I'd like to admit. I have to keep reminding myself that the heart of why I do what I do is because I love it.
Bottom line: do whatever you need to do to keep your writing habit glittery. Put a fence around it. Protect the sparkle. It's not the prompts that matter: it's the sparkle.