I wrote today. Not just a few lines or a poem or some other small thing to distract myself. Nope, today I sat down and wrote a whole chapter. It felt great to step back into the world I’m creating and make discoveries.
Today I discovered that Elita (a character in a novel I’m writing), despite her brilliance, has very low self worth. She wants to be valued but can’t see the value in herself so can’t understand how others would see it. So, to fill her need to be valued Elita works hard to create something that will be recognized, and then through that recognition she can feel vicarious value.
I didn’t know that about her when I came up with the story idea. I didn’t even fully understand that part of her character when I outlined the novel. This particular character trait only came out after I wrote a scene and Elita did something I didn’t expect. So I asked myself why she would act that way? I asked my creative mind what her motivations were and without even trying I had the answer. I just had to open myself up and ask why. Super exciting.
Another great realization? Writing is a great source of cheap therapy for me. In writing the chapter today I realized that I share more of Elita’s self worth issues than I had ever thought possible. In my case rather than wanting to be valued, I fear that I’ll fail at what I really want to accomplish. I’ve known that about myself for a while. But I recently discovered (thanks Elita!) that this fear of failure causes a few of my other flaws. For example, I tend to over work. I am so afraid of failing that I think I have to take on more and more work so I can control my environment. (There might also be some value judgment there, but one thing at a time.) I’m willing to invest a great deal of emotion and energy into my work, but I tend to avoid doing work that I really care about. Why? Again becasue I might fail.
What really sucks about this habit is that I love writing. I really enjoy it. When I write I’m happy. So of course I have a real fear of failing at it and when I take a break from writing my fear of failing at it makes for forget the big happy feelings I get when I write. Then I assume I must have imagined those happy feelings and imagined that I have any real ability. When those thoughts set in it takes a herculean effort for me to start writing again. I think I’m going to have to put a big sticker on my fridge (next to the picture of me in a bathing suit – no I don’t want another serving of ice cream) that says “writing makes you happy”. Either that or find a way to afford real therapy…
We all have bad habits. Most of those habits are rooted in a reward system. We choose to take an action becasue that action gives us something we value. For example, if you procrastinate you might be giving yourself time because you feel overwhelmed by taking on a task. Or, you may be worried about failing. If you smoke the reward may be the chemicals themselves, or the association with relaxation. You get the picture. Think of a habit you have, one that you would like to change do a mind map. You are not looking for solutions or reasons, just associations. Spend five minutes mind mapping the habit, then step away. Come back in an hour and look at the map looking for the reward. What do you get out of your habit? Now ask yourself why you think you get that reward. It may sound like an intimidating task, and I’m not asking you to change yourself, just to open yourself up to the question. Once you have an answer give that attribute to a character and free write a scenario where the character is manifesting the habit, then explore if their reward for the behavior is the same as yours. You might be surprised. Happy writing.