It’s no secret that I have my share of anxieties and hang-ups when it comes to writing. I’ve blogged about it before here and here. But one advantage of having an occasionally difficult relationship with wordcraft is that- every so often- I stumble on to some great solutions.
One of the best creative solutions I’ve run into is something that I refer to as the One Book Principal, and it is based on simply repeating the following mantra (say it with me if you like!) “I am not a writer; I am just one book.”
What does this mean? Why say it? On the face of it, this statement literally means : “I am not a person who writes, but rather a product.” But that’s a literal interpretation.
For me, the One Book Principal is a reminder not to worry about my writing career and not to worry about what I call myself. It’s a reminder to not get hung up on that age-old question: “Am I really a writer?” Instead, this principal tells me: “Hey dummy! It’s about the book. Just finish this book and do it right! The book is the only thing that matters right now!”
The “One Book Principal” is a very handy device, and whenever I think of it, it does two important jobs for me.
First off, I can use it during times when I’m feeling down about how successful I am. Like almost every writer, my dream would be to support myself from writing and related activities, but dwelling on this ideal can get depressing. The “One Book” mantra helps to rescue me from this feeling of being inadequate. It suggests, politely, that I take my hurt feelings, shove them in a nice box, and get on with the whole point of this exercise, which is to keep crafting my book. Or less politely: “Shut up, sit down, and write the next sentence.”
Second, the One Book Principal also does a great job of keeping me from being distracted by alternate projects. Like so many other creative people, I wish you could juggle 100 projects. And I know- believe me, I know- there are people out there who can do it. There are writers out there who can turn out two novels a year. I’m not one of those people. I found that when I work on more than one book at a time, the quality of my writing suffers. But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming. It doesn’t stop me from distracting myself with the 100 bright, new , shiny books that I have half-formed in the Library of Incomplete Works that I keep my head. The One Book Principal keeps me grounded and- if I’m on my game- pushes those distractions aside.
Finally, it doesn’t have to just be about books and writing. You can apply to almost any art. “I am not the dancer. I am one dance”. “I am not a rock star. I am a person recording one record.” It’s a safety plan for creative types. And I hope you’re out there, finding your own mini-mantras!