Every day, I either write one to three pages or rewrite what I wrote the day before. Currently, I am writing the 69. page of my notebook now, and I feel empty. Although I have many topics to write about, my mind is blank in all of them. Whatever subject I picked, no words came out.
I'm not tired. I woke up around 6.30 a.m., the same as each day; no difference in my 6-7 hours of sleep. I had my cup of coffee just like yesterday. Yet, something is different.
Today, I don't see myself entitled to write about anything. I think that if I put word after word, everything will be contrived, not trustworthy. This feeling nudges me to read and research more. Feeling inadequate always pushed me to learn more about the topic I'm interested in.
Not being able to write about things that I care about is nothing new, not to me and not to others. Many great (and not-so-great) writers face this challenge.
Many people think of practice as something they do when they feel motivated. The deliberate practice is something you do even though you feel absolutely shit, unmotivated, uninspired, sick, or like me, entirely empty. This situation is not unique to writers.
It is also visible in basketball players. Every shot a basketball player makes has hundreds, if not thousands, of failed attempts behind, and the precision comes from practice and commitment. That's why Michael Jordan or Kobe (R.I.P.) were great players. The dedication led them to wake up at 3 a.m. and go practicing every, single, day.
Extraordinary things don't require exceptional techniques but doing the same ordinary things over and over and over again until you perfect it. The misperception of exceptionalism causes a lot of stress, even still on my empty brain. Although I know showing up every single day makes the most significant difference, my brain and soul have an embedded systematic issue that I can't get rid of.
My embedded issue is that I want to be great, perfect at many things. I was good at what I did for a long time: software engineering. Of course, I wasn't a 10x engineer; I was barely a 2x engineer. But I felt sufficient enough, adequate, and at the same time, average. I pushed myself to learn to be good at it. Now, that has fallen off.
I'm still an average software engineer who doesn't write code anymore but writes about code and software engineering. The challenge of writing about tech and leadership is that, like everyone else, I feel that I need to be good at them to write about them.
Let me pause and coach myself: no, you can also write to learn, as Zinsser said in the book Writing to Learn.
Yes, yes, I know I can write to learn. But which topic do I want to learn more about than others? The central question of a multipotentialite. Welcome to my brain, folks!
Here I stopped writing, and I came back here after a while when I had the same thoughts again. I wrote the following paragraphs at that time to coach myself.
Stop! You're doing it again. When you start writing about a topic, it doesn't always come from your brain. You will, of course, research and learn. Then you can write. Now I returned to this page from page 92 in my notebook, so you had 23 more pages to write, and you did it. Again, the challenge is writing every day, even if you don't feel like it.
To navigate the routine, you need to create other habits around it. The writing has to be part of other stuff you do. Getting up early, meditating, having a coffee, having a walk, or many other things has to build up the writing part. Whatever you do, stick one habit to another. Then you will be able to write—word by word, or as Anne Lamott put it, bird by bird.