This was my favorite part of Julia Cameron’s THE RIGHT TO WRITE (which I am about to finish after I write this post). She says:
For a writer, personal drama is the drink of creative poison. For a writer, the willing engagement in power struggles is an act of creative sabotage
This is the truth. We are living in world of crazy people–all people are crazy. It’s true! All people are self-absorbed. Especially artists. Especially talented ones. You included. Me included. That doesn’t mean we have to contribute to the world’s craziness. Our writing can and should bring order to this–help us process and perhaps contribute to the eradication of all hate and harm by acknowledging hate and harm, by getting a handle on it. If you must act on drama, journal about it. Save it for your characters’ conflicts.
We don’t have a choice about whether drama will get into our lives but we can learn how to deal with it before it takes over us and prevents us from writing. Here are three ways we can keep drama from interfering with our work:
1. Do our best to avoid it.
We can start by being careful how we handle other people–especially in romantic/physical situations. In all of our relationships, romantic or otherwise, avoiding drama looks like keeping other people’s best interests at heart. Pretty simple. This doesn’t always work, though. People lie. People keep important information from us. Even so, a lot of drama can be avoided if we go at the world with our best intentions.
2. Be aware of our own power trips.
Writing can help us acknowledge when we feel powerless. Sometime we will. This is just going to happen. But by acknowledging this, we can prevent ourselves from using whatever power we have to harm others.
Do harm to your characters instead. It will make for a much more interesting story.
3. Rise above criticism.
People are going to say mean things to us, or mean things about our writing. Not all criticism is constructive. But an important aspect of being a writer is having a thick enough skin to sort through criticism and pull out the constructive stuff.
4. Remember that people are time and energy.
Avoid the ones that waste your time and energy. That doesn’t mean you have to be mean to them. (See #1). Be respectful. Love everyone. Even so, loving everyone doesn’t mean handing over your time and energy for them to sabotage it. Sometimes the most loving thing you can to for a person is to leave them alone to their own devices. Loving someone sometimes means acknowledging that you can’t fix them. It means letting them learn how to fix themselves after you’ve treated them with your best intentions. Ultimately, you choose who you spend time with and who you think about.
Got drama? Shake it off. Bring it to God, if you are prone to do such a thing. Acknowledge when you need to ask for forgiveness from folks. Don’t expect anyone to apologize to you when they have hurt you. No matter what, know that you are bigger, more complex, more beautiful than whatever is trying to get in and sabotage your work. Ultimately, we decide what to worship (what to give power to).
For more information, listen to David Foster Wallace’s speech to Kenyon College: