By Shawn Coyne
Published: May 17, 2013
If you‘re like me, you want to clear your desk every night before you head home. You want to make sure that anything that might impair you that evening at home is off the to-do list and out of your mind. Then you’ll be able to relax without having unresolved work issues hanging over your head.
Now this is a very good strategy to rid you of repetitive paperwork/accounting/office management. But it can be the death knell for creative work. Forcing yourself into making a decision about a particular project just to get it off your desk will bite you in the ass later on. I can’t tell you how often I’m haunted by the consequences of my hurry up and move on decisions. If you see me walking down the street cringing, you’ll know I just remembered one.
And don’t forget business decisions are creative work too.
Whether or not you should make that call and press for better terms with that vendor may seem like a run of the mill decision, but it’s not. You need to creatively think about what it is that decision will do for you. You may win a marginal short term victory, but your vendor may hate you for being such a penny pincher that she does the least amount possible to keep you happy. Your inventory is mishandled so your customers return more goods and are dissatisfied etc.
Making the call and pressing for a reduced fee may be the right choice. But until you sit with the problem for a little while and map out the pros and cons of a decision, you’re running on “first draft-itis.” And no one should see your first draft of anything.
Why do we do this?
We do it to avoid confrontation. It deflates our anxiety, gives us “thank God I got that over with” relief.
It’s important to remember though that life is conflict. It just is. These are why stories, things built on the bedrock of conflict, are so important to us.
That doesn’t mean that it is all about screaming or passive aggressively getting your way. It means that in any human interaction, there is a clash of one kind or another. We communicate in order to figure out where we differ (where should we go to eat?) and then we confront the controversy and make it go away (how about a Mexican restaurant?). If you both love Mexican food, problem solved. If one of you wants Sushi, then there’s stress.
The courage to do nothing is all about remembering that you don’t know everything. You are capable of changing your ideas about things. You can hold two opposing thoughts in your head without jumping off a cliff. Really you can. You can hate taxes and also believe that the government should raise them to help people incapable of taking care of themselves.
Posted in What It Takes
ADDITIONAL READING » ON WRITING
by Mamet, David
Technically this isn’t a book about writing. It’s about Tinseltown and David Mamet’s love-hate relationship with it. But, along with Mamet’s witty and cantankerous evisceration of show biz, Bambi vs. Godzilla delivers masterly and extremely useful insights on getting movies made, surviving criticism, paying the rent and in general surviving Hollywood while retaining some scrap of sanity and integrity. Mamet is not just any writer. When he takes on a subject, you get it in context succeeding context—commercial, aesthetic, moral, ethical, legal, Talmudic, Tantric and Vedic. It’s like reading Thucydides if he’d loaded his stuff into a ‘65 Mustang and split for the Coast.
by Phillips, Larry W.
Papa never actually sat down and wrote a book about writing. Rather, editor Larry Phillips has compiled 140 pages of hard-core Hemingwayisms from the author’s books, stories, and letters. Great material, particularly the fragments of correspondence to Scott Fitzgerald.
by Lukeman, Noah
As an agent and editor, Noah Lukeman read thousands of manuscripts from aspiring writers. He got to where he could tell in the first five pages if a submission was worth his time. In this gem of a book, he tells you the most common mistakes writers make—and how to eradicate them from your manuscript.
by Williams, Nick
A no-nonsense how-to manual and psych-yourself-up kit, for those of us who sometimes need a swift kick in the butt to get us going.
by Steinbeck, John
When he was writing East of Eden, Steinbeck kept a journal—just a few pages each morning, which he’d scribble as a kind of warm-up before turning to the actual manuscript. Fascinating insights into the writer’s life, inside and outside the covers of a book.
by McKee, Robert
I always say that McKee is not only the best teacher of writing I’ve ever seen, but the best teacher of anything. I’ve taken this three-day intensive course twice—and I’ll take it again. Yes, McKee has been spoofed (in the movie Adaptation) and lionized (in a New Yorker profile.) But that’s because he’s the best. Full disclosure: McKee and I are friends. McKee wrote the foreword for The War of Art. McKee teaches this class in cities all over the U.S. and Europe, even as far away as Israel and Singapore.
by McKee, Robert
This is the book that goes with Robert McKee’s Story Seminar. Terrific for writers in all media, but take the “live” McKee first. You’ll get more out of the book if you’ve heard the man deliver his stuff in-person.