So often, when you've been a creator for long enough, you get familiar with the reality of writer's block, or burnout, or the awful self-loathing process in which you kiss your confidence goodbye. Am I a good writer? Is it even worth it to finish this? Why do I do this to myself? I've asked myself all of these questions, more-so recently than any other time in history, when I'm so close to being done with the process altogether. I'm right there, on the last few parts of editing before publication begins, and yet I keep contemplating whether or not it's even worth it. I have written an entire book--or, more realistically, 5 entire books! I know I'll never give up, but some days, I really think I'm in way too far over my head.
If you've ever experienced something similar, allow me to introduce the Dispassion Project. What is a Dispassion Project? Hush. I am about to tell you. It is a totally worry-free method of creativity in which you give up all emotional involvement. That doesn't mean you don't enjoy it or that it's a boring thing to do. In fact, I've found that it's just the opposite. I've been working on one, myself, which is how I came to this discovery altogether.
Let's think about what a Passion Project is, for a moment: it's something you're deeply attached to. It's that Magnum Opus, the long winded story you're constructing piece by piece, every last bit intentional, every small detail as important as the overarching plot itself. Or it's that painting you've been working at for months, or the screenplay you're fighting for. It's the baby you want to bring into the world. The perfect piece of art. You see, your close attachment to that project means you want everything to be completely perfect. That's natural. Even when we know it can never be perfect, we keep fighting to make it happen. That's how I ended up with a manuscript that needs to be split into 5, and that took me over 6 years! The truth is, I'm still not satisfied with it. I became too aware of outside things like marketing and manuscript size about halfway through, and then I was skipping plot points for reasons that had nothing to do with the story I wanted to tell, and it actually damaged my story in the end. Now that I'm trying to go back through and polish off what'll be the first book, I'm getting caught up in all of the difficulty and the errors and the challenges of shifting a story back into a perfect place. It's... A lot. It's overwhelming, to be honest, and it feels like a big part of me fell out of love with writing. Like I only do it out of habit at this point. But I'm not! And neither are you! We're still in love with our craft, we just aren't nurturing our process correctly. We're not creating anymore; we're refining. It requires a different level of attention, and it's much less fun to go back and pay attention to things that require major changes.
I tried everything to get myself back into enjoying that process: I stopped typing and started writing by hand, I read a chapter only to understand the plot points I needed and then rewrote with more freedom, I took myself into nature and focused on what I saw. I tried it all. Some of it worked, for one day, and then I'd hit another wall and it would be impossible again... The truth is, that isn't healthy. That just burns you out, and that's exactly what I ended up doing. I needed to take a day off for every day I tried to write, and sometimes I would battle with myself over whether or not it was acceptable to be playing a video game or watching a show instead of reading or trying to write. My self-esteem was at an all-time low.
What changed? My focus. I stopped writing that story. I stopped editing the first installment of my massive story, where everything mattered, and started writing something else.
It all started rather abruptly, you see, and it has only been a few days. I was driving home, listening to a new song I was given, and I was inspired by the feeling I got from that song. I went into my notepad and typed out a small paragraph, and then left it alone until I got home. I wasn't actually planning to make a story out of it; I just got hooked on this one line that the paragraph was a centered on. I thought of the potential for a story, and rather than sitting on it, I threw myself in front of a pen and paper and started writing. I didn't care for lore, or what the story had to be about, or what the future was going to entail. I just wrote. I wrote for four hours straight and finished the first chapter of this story. That is the Dispassion Project. A project that uses the fuel of a whim--something formless. The type of emotion that you could describe as pure passion, where there is simultaneously no attachment but also nothing but interest. I could not let myself be bothered by small, stupid things, when I was chasing the story unfolding live before my eyes. I was documenting the genesis of a new story. I was writing something I was watching based on what it was, not what I wanted it to be.
You see, I have written a little more of this story every single day since, and I have not stopped, and I will not stop either. I am going to keep writing this story to kill the part of me that believes I can't. I'm going to keep writing based on this amazing inspiration, without any regard for the result, knowing it may never turn into a published book, and not caring. At this time, I'd also like to thank a great friend of mine, who, when I had admitted I didn't know if I could bring myself to keep writing something so innately depressing as this story, told me to get it out of my head and onto the page. Would I ever really have thought about the story again if I just gave up on it? Probably not. Maybe passingly, but putting myself through it is a means of catharsis. I am discovering writing again. I am detached from these characters, and now so much more familiar with them.
By going through this process, I'm reintroducing myself to the way I like to write. I'm recalibrating myself so I can go back and view the harder stuff with more precision. After all, writing is a perishable skill! Use it or lose it!
I believe this type of exercise can be used for any form of creation. If you're a painter, paint nonsense. Use bad brushes. Do whatever it takes to remove any and all belief that the project is worth anything. Whatever your field is, do something that is not connected to your goals. Just mess around. Make mistakes. Focus on just doing it rather than what that means.
You need to let yourself fall in love with your craft again. Step backward into the realm of familiarity. Set simple goals that you can complete rather than overwhelming yourself with complicated resolutions. All of these are things you can do in your passion projects, but a Dispassion Project forces them on you. Just start with an idea--an idea you'd never otherwise use, even--and dive right in. If you hit a wall, who cares? This doesn't matter. If it works, amazing! You just did something!
I will say, I'm still writing in the world of my main series for my Dispassion Project, but it's so unimportant that I'm throwing in things I didn't fact-check, adding dialogue that doesn't feel perfect, and just trying to get the story told. That's my entire goal, because in the end, it doesn't have to become anything. And if I really like it and think it fits, cool, I'll publish it!
So yeah, that's where I'm at, and I'm operating entirely on inspiration right now. It's like a vacation that also improves my performance. I'm having a blast! I'm letting myself feel happy, and sad, and judgmental, and I'm doing it all with the feeling that it's just me who is going to read it. Honestly, I feel like I can't put into words exactly how to do it or how incredibly it has been able to put me back in place, but I know that it's working. I am healing. I feel like I'm capable of writing again.
So yeah! That's all I got for you today. Please let me know in the comments what you would do to spark up a Dispassion Project for yourself. What are some tips you might have? What are some good prompts?
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