A Love-Hate Affair with Words
Once, not long ago, I received fan-mail from an unexpected source: Doroteia, a Portuguese student. (In all honesty it was just a LinkedIn message, but hey it’s my blog) She was battling writer’s block, as she was finishing her master’s thesis about network corruption. Little did she know that seeking advice from me, an admitted sufferer of this affliction, was like asking a carpenter for rapping tips. But bear with me, this is what I answered.
For the Love/Hate of Writing
When some people speak of writing, it’s as if they’re describing a lifelong, passionate romance. They paint it with shades of sweet melancholy, as if they’ve found their soulmate in words. Personally, my relationship with writing is more of a toxic dance with a narcissistic lover. She takes endlessly, rarely giving in return. After countless tries, failed attempts, and footing the bill for her drinks, she occasionally throws me a bone—a good sentence, a well-crafted chapter. My muse, no better, enjoys lengthy vacations and pops into my life at her convenience.
Always Be Writing
So, how did I manage to write two books and maintain a weekly blog amidst this tumultuous affair? Well, the first trick is to commit to never stop writing. This doesn’t mean whriting non-stop, as some early morning zealots do. I’m not one of them. Instead, I write almost daily, even if it’s just for five minutes. I wholeheartedly endorse the five-minute-a-day approach. It accumulates into what I like to call “compound text.” Just like compound interest, it leads to exponential growth, and before you know it, you have 20,000 words under your belt. The key is to never stop writing.
Crappy Words Are Your Friends
Much has been said about perfection being the enemy of good. What if those seemingly crappy words aren’t signs of bad writing but prerequisites for greatness? What if you’re not allowed to write anything good until you’ve penned some lousy stuff? That’s essentially the writing process in a nutshell, for many of us, unless your name happens to be Stephen King or Ernest Hemingway. Crappy words are the rites of passage for successful writing. They’re the raw materials that feed the writing factory. Without them, no book ever sees the light of day.
You Are a Writer, No Matter What
One of the biggest hurdles in writing is grappling with the fact that you’re probably not a writer by trade. As a lobbyist, I sought solace in EU SUPERLOBBY because no one questioned why I was writing a book about lobbying. It bolstered my reputation as a lobbyist and gave me newfound confidence. With “Lobbyist van Zeeland,” I ventured further out of my comfort zone. Yet, even with two published books, I grappled with imposter syndrome. It wasn’t until the media started introducing me as “Lobbyist/Writer” that I felt comfortable embracing that identity. Here’s a reassuring fact: in a wealthy country like the Netherlands, only about 20 to 30 authors make a living solely from writing, in a population of 16 million. So, either no one is a writer, or we all are.
Embrace Your Procrastinatio
Here’s advice you won’t hear from any productivity guru: enjoy your procrastination. Take that nap, stroll in the park, or whip up an empanada. Heck, tidy your room for the umpteenth time. While procrastination may be a symptom of mental stress (or even a disorder), that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the downtime. It’s human nature, after all. So, go ahead and indulge in your guilty pleasures or bake another batch of empanadas.
Doroteia did complete her thesis, albeit not without struggles and missed deadlines. But she persevered. After defending her thesis, she invited me for coffee. As we walked through the streets of Amsterdam, we discussed writer’s block. I confessed to battling my own version of it. Her response: “Maybe you’re trying to write what you think people want to read.”
As for Doroteia, she never found her way to Brussels or The Hague. Instead, she pursued her passion and opened a food truck, now gracing festivals near you.
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