When pilots learn to fly, there are two stages to their training: operation and instrument. The first gives them license to fly in clear weather, and the second allows them to fly in weather with low-to-zero visibility. Pilots flying in bad weather without this training often rely on their own senses over their instruments to determine whether the plane is right-side up or upside-down. Called “flying by the seat of your pants,” this practice is incredibly dangerous, and unfortunately has been the cause of many accidental deaths. In our culture, this phrase has become equivalent to relying on unstable stimuli (like emotions or impulses) to make decisions.
My method of writing is not unlike an inexperienced pilot in low visibility. My senses tell me that if I continue to write like I do, I will eventually become a better writer. My instruments tell me that there are two underlying attitudes that confuse my desire to write: distractibility and self-esteem. Left unchecked, these could cause the destruction of my writing development, catapulting me unsuspectingly into a mountainside.
Distractibility, at least for me, is primarily driven by how I prioritize. In choosing to write this blog post, I am choosing to not do other things that need to be done. Choosing to not to start dinner for my hungry husband who is due home, to not clean my bathroom, or to not go exercise has respective consequences that often overwhelm the benefit of writing. Choosing to write over any of these things makes me feel guilty—as if I’m wasting my time or being selfish with it—and as a result, any writing I do is less productive.
Lack of focus also causes distractibility. The motivation to take abstract thoughts and characters and bring them to a fine point of clarity with the written word is immense. It takes an incredible amount of mental energy that I sometimes just don’t have at the end of the day. Especially when there are so many other things that my overtired mind drifts toward naturally—television, friends, or sleep—just to name a few.
Self-esteem, or confidence in your own writing, degrades when we compare. When I read published writers’ works, I’m often discouraged by the inferiority of my own writing. When others decline to read my fiction pieces for their own reasons, I invent reasons of my own. They are disinterested because my writing is uninteresting. They enjoy reading for a little while, but my writing quality lacks the sparkle that makes them want to keep reading. Instead of cracking down to practice the strengths of other writers and address the critiques of those who read my stuff, I tend to stop writing. Unfortunately, confidence in writing doesn’t come by not writing. Getting that fact through my thick skull is a difficult task.
Creativity in writing is stifled by inconsistency. It requires discipline in addition to inspiration. It requires listening to the instruments’ information that conflicts with your inner ear. To enact these principles, I need to hammer them down from the abstract to the practical.
To be more consistent, from this point onward I will push myself to set measurable goals, break them down, and tackle them with the same vigor I have for my other responsibilities. This will be a stretch for my creativity as well as force me to draw more inspiration from my everyday life. Bear with me as I push forward toward achieving my proverbial instrument license, and we will fly together.