Brendan Burchard is a #1 New York Times best-selling author (his books include Life’s Golden Ticket, The Millionaire Messenger, and The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives that Make You Feel Alive) and so I thought it would be a good undertaking to tap into his philosophy and infuse it into the process of writing, in particular the process of writing books.
As it turns out, his book The Motivation Mandate asks of us 3 questions that are pertinent to not only writers, but everybody, questions that reflect on how we can find our Personal Freedom through our craft and daily activities.
Let’s now examine each of the questions raised and determine whether they can help us.
Q1: Did You Use The Time Gifted You To Be A Purposeful Being?
I’m going to tweak the question slightly for our purposes and ask:
Do you use your time to write purposefully?
The question is actually asking us as writers to develop a deep understanding of our Why? That is, our purpose, our reason for writing. Writers on the whole are reflective by nature, examining their own behaviours and beliefs, scrutinizing the collective behaviours of society and others, trying to understand why we, as human beings, do what we do, think what we think, and say what we say. A good understanding of humanity makes for a good writer, not to mention a good story.
Understanding why we write, understanding what the purpose of our words actually are, however, goes beyond the literal interpretation of a writer’s work. A writer’s purpose transcends the literal meaning of his or her words. There’s a reason for the saying, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’ The pen is the medium through which ideas flow and are passed on from person to person, generation to generation, for good or for bad.
The power of the sword, of brute force, although may be initially effective, is limited through the passage of time. Just take a look at Japan and the USA. Once mortal enemies, still within living memory, they are now allies and thriving business partners. Ideas, however, can span millenia. Just look at the idea of democracy, still as vibrant and alive today as it was when it was first conceived in the streets of Ancient Greece.
Our Why? is our purpose, our reason for being who we are and doing what we do. Writing as a ‘purposeful being’ therefore means we write for a bigger reason than ourselves. It means we strive for a cause, whatever that cause is, that we ‘hitch our wagon to a star’, to coin a phrase from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Q2: Did You Follow Your Own Path And Make Your Time Count?
This question is reasonably self-evident:
Have you followed the road less traveled?
As a writer or artist trying to master their craft it’s important to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Part of distinguishing yourself is creating a unique identity, a unique voice, in your writing. It’s having the courage to stand up and say, ‘This is me! I’m different. Take me or leave me.’
A deeply ingrained part of human nature is the need to belong. In fact, one of the 3 fears we are born with is the fear of abandonment, which in later years of childhood and adulthood transmutes into the fear of rejection, of being unworthy, of non-acceptance.
One of the hardest things to do therefore is to put ourselves in a position in which we open ourselves to rejection, ridicule and scorn. It’s much easier to tow the line, to go with the crowd, to do as others do because then at least we don’t have to feel isolated and abandoned.
Writing is personal, and because it’s personal it is also a vulnerable endeavour. Giving your work for others to read, work that you’ve put your heart and soul into, leaves you as much open for criticism and scorn as it does for praise. But this is where inner strength comes to the fore, the strength of character to say, ‘Take my writing as it is, or leave it.’ The strength to quash the temptation to follow where others go and instead take the road less traveled.
How Faithfully Did You Tend To The Dreams Sowed In Your Soul?
This question is really about one thing:
We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t procrastinate, so the question isn’t, ‘Do you procrastinate?’ rather: ‘How much opportunity has procrastination stolen from you?’
How much opportunity in wasted years? How much opportunity in earnings? How much opportunity in self-worth and respect?
Writing is a way of life, a way of thinking, a way of being. But it is also a way of doing. It is action, it is habit, it is actually doing what’s necessary to get the words out of our heads and communicated to others through the medium of the written word. Without action, there is no writing.
Procrastination, however, is a killer of action. As such, it is a killer of writing. We procrastinate for many reasons, but usually underlying those reasons is a fear of some description. Fear of failure. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of rejection. Fear of success, even.
I myself procrastinated for 15 years before I wrote my first book, The Golden Chalice (actually, it was called The Naked Soul back then, but that was changed later after a major rewrite). The cause of my procrastination was the fear of rejection, of nobody liking what I’ve written, of readers laughing at my story (yes, the famous quote from Groucho Marx comes to mind, “From the minute I picked up your book to the minute I put it down, I was convulsed in laughter. Someday I intend reading it.”)
I told everyone and anyone who’d listen that I was going to write a book, but I didn’t. I just invented more and more excuses as to why I couldn’t write my book, avoiding at all costs solutions to why I could write it. I had too much study to do, I told them. I was working too many hours. I wanted to travel. I had every excuse under the sun, and it cost me 15 years in lost opportunity.
So, as writers and artists, The Motivation Manifesto raises 3 important questions we need to ask of ourselves:
- Am I committed to writing with purpose?
- Am I following my own path?
- Am I allowing procrastination to kill the dreams sowed in my soul?
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