When seeking guidance, don’t ever listen to the tiny-hearted. Be kind to them, heap them with blessing, cajole them, but do not follow their advice. —Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype
It’s hard work—this writing thing. Dreaming up whole towns, knowing where folks gather for lunch and what sidewalks are cracked. Creating people who are rich enough that our readers will fall in love with them or get angry at their bad behavior. And on top of that, we have to make up stuff for these characters to do in this new world. If we’re lucky, we’ll create something so convincing that our readers might even dream about these fictional beings.
If you’re a nonfiction writer, don’t worry—I know you work hard, too. You’re always trying to think up clever ways to explain stuff to people. Your brain is busy making metaphors, connecting the dots between the crap of daily life and the wisdom that comes from coping with it. How is the washing machine overflowing this morning a lot like life? What wisdom did you draw from that work party? Or perhaps you are still processing that article you read over the weekend. In time, all of it will come to use—somewhere, in some article or book.
All this imagining and connecting takes up a whole lot of brain space. That’s why writers must curate what comes into our brains. Don’t clog up your brain space with too much bad news or poor writing. Keep clear of negative voices. Complainers, criticizers, and naysayers all pollute your precious brain space.
Try this: take a week-long sabbatical from external noise. If you can, eliminate social media, phone, and email contact. (I know! I’m asking for a miracle!)
Spend the week experimenting with input: what sorts of reading, music, art, television, and movies nourish you and your creativity?
When your social media sabbatical is over, consider:
+What voices you are longing to hear again.
+What voices are you not looking forward to hearing again?
Reconnect only with the voices and input that works.
Finally: if you can’t do the experiment—and I know that most of you can’t—consider what toxic or troublesome voices you can let go of. Do it! And as you take on new voices, choose the ones that improve your life in some way.
Your turn: How do you curate input?