[Tipster] The Writing Life vs. a Writing Project

tipster post Nov 12, 2021

In this edition of Tipster, we consider the mentality of a writing life versus a writing project. 

How you think about writing matters.

I have no scientific data to back this up. But my sense is that folks who want to make writing a part of their life for the long haul make greater progress than those who think of their writing only as a project to complete.

Let me try to explain.

Let's say you want to write a book. You wake up one day and think, "Hey, a book would be really good for my business. I'm going to publish a book."

Or, you may say, "I really want to write a memoir. I'm going to publish a memoir."

That is "project-based" thinking.

You have a project in mind. And the completion is the publishing of the book or curriculum or whatever it is you are creating.

There is something wonderful about a project. There is a beginning, middle, and an end.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this thinking.

The Trouble with a Project Mentality

One potential challenge with a focus on a singular writing project, however, is that you might feel like a failure when you don't make progress. You stop. And never restart the project.

Frankly, life is full of obstacles that prevent us from completing our projects.

I have a friend who lost almost a year on a writing project because his mom died and then so did his mother-in-law.

Life is real. And projects get delayed.

If you are primarily project focused, you may stop growing as a writer.

You may shut down all your writing until you feel you have time again to work on that specific project.

You hope for a future when the deck clears and the "time is right."

The Writing Life View

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott talks about the difference between writing and the business of publishing. The two are not the same.

Often, the project mentality overly focuses on the publishing aspect - the end goal.

Goals are good. Publishing is good. Not publishing is not good.

But if you have a "writing life mentality" - you see writing as part of your life.

* You'll continue to read, even while you're stopped in the middle of a project.

* You find the time to write a blog post, even though the larger project is dead in the water.

* You prepare for a presentation (which always includes some form of writing), even though the book is off the table for now.

Make writing a part of your life. Don't think of it as a mere project.

You are a writer. A writer writes.