Anyone else a huge fan of inspirational quotes? These are the six that have stuck with me and actually changed my writing process, how I structure my days, and how I stay sane running a writing-based business.
“Eat a live frog and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” — Mark Twain
Mark Twain completely changed how I structure my day with this concept. I used to put the tasks I disliked most, or found most difficult, towards the end of the day. I thought if I could get all the easier, more enjoyable ones done, I’d feel like I had momentum going by the time I got to the tough tasks. However, I found I was usually more mentally fatigued by that point, and even less enthusiastic about the to-do item at 3 p.m. than I was at 8 a.m. Now, I put the “frog” on my to-do list as task No. 1. Once it’s done, everything else feels like much smoother sailing.
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” — Pablo Picasso
Muses are part of mythology for a reason. You know the writers who keep pen and paper on their nightstand so when brilliance strikes in the dead of night they can write a passage? Or those who are just living their lives and a story comes to them like a flash of lightning? Yeah, that’s not my process. I don’t just get inspired and write feverishly for hours until a masterpiece sits before me. I have to be butt in chair, hands on keyboard before any sort of magic can occur. Even then, the mysterious magic of inspiration is rare. It’s mostly just about writing — the literal act of writing — and returning later to edit and refine the result of that writing, that yields a story.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk on this topic is excellent, too, if you’re looking for further comfort that even the most successful writers don’t consider themselves geniuses, but have to work like a mule to see a story to fruition.
“The first draft is nothing more than a starting point, so be wrong as fast as you can.” — Andrew Stanton
Following up on the idea of just sitting down to write, this quote helps me let go of my perfectionism as I’m moving through a first draft. It reminds me to get my ideas onto the page so I don’t lose them, even if they come out totally heinous on the first try. The faster I can get it all wrong, the sooner I can work to make it right.
“The writer is the one who is not stopped, or even fazed, by failure.” — John Dufresne
Dufresne’s TED Talk is chock full of quotable moments that bolster me when I need to keep writing, even though I hate every word I’ve put on the page so far. This line reminds me that a total failure of a draft isn’t the demise of a story, but the beginning of a good one, if I keep going.
“Be kind, but with spine.”
I don’t subscribe to most inspirational Pinterest graphics (re: rise and grind, hustle hard, slay the day, or anything else relating productivity to violence), but this one has stuck with me. One of the biggest issues I face as a freelancer is setting the terms of my work and enforcing them when necessary. I’m a people pleaser, so it’s always easiest for me to be nice and work a little extra at no cost, or allow a few days leeway on due dates for my invoices. Obviously, that’s not a sustainable business practice. Whenever I’m about to send another email requesting someone submit their payment, this phrase reminds me that I can be kind while still standing up for myself.
“Quit waiting to get picked. Quit waiting for someone to give you permission. Quit waiting for someone to say you are officially qualified and pick yourself.” — Seth Godin
This is my mantra for days I don’t think I’m smart enough, qualified enough, or whatever enough to be doing my job. There is no one amount of experience that makes a person “officially qualified.” My resume says I am qualified enough. My years of experience made me smart enough. And my clients return to me because I’m whatever enough for them. Acknowledging myself as a qualified writer, editor and marketer positions me to be more confident, and therefore more successful, day in and day out.