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  • [BREAKFAST WITH THE MUSE] The One Tip I Learned from Jazz Musicians: It's All about the Fun
[BREAKFAST WITH THE MUSE] The One Tip I Learned from Jazz Musicians: It's All about the Fun
Written by
Jill Jepson
January 2016
Written by
Jill Jepson
January 2016

Scour the Internet and you will find scores of blogs and articles offering advice on how to get over the many hurdles writers face. Much of this advice has the same focus. Writing, it tells us is a challenge. Learning to write well is arduous. The writing life is lonely and full of disappointment. Success and happiness are elusive. Sadness—and even clinical depression—are normal and expected for writers.

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Conversations among writers often have the same tone. We talk a lot about the rejections we’ve gotten. We dwell on the problems of procrastination and anxiety. We ruminate about how hard it is to get ahead.

What would happen if we all shifted our focus and started looking at the writing life from a brighter perspective?

I came face-to-face with this possibility when I had the good fortune to discuss music recently with a group of jazz musicians. These musicians face many of the same issues writers do. Playing music well takes years of training and long hours of daily practice. To stick with it, you have to do some grueling work and face a lot of frustration. The odds of becoming rich and famous as a jazz saxophonist or pianist are every bit as slim as those of becoming a bestselling author. Yet, the jazz musicians I spoke with spent almost no time talking about the hardships of playing jazz. The topic of obstacles and disappointments didn’t even come up. The focus of the discussion was all about where they could find opportunities to make music and how great it is to play jazz together. The word I heard over and over was fun.

Lately, I’ve been working on thinking about writing the way my jazz musician friends think about playing jazz. Nothing has had a more beneficial impact on my writing life than this: I’ve stopped telling myself how hard it is and started reminding myself how much I can enjoy it if I let myself.

Instead of thinking, It’s nearly impossible to make it as a writer. I might never have the writing career I long for, I think, Who knows where my writing will take me? I'll just follow the path and see where it leads.

Instead of, Writing is lonely and frustrating, I remind myself, Writing is also exhilarating and adventurous.

I’ve replaced Disappointment and failure are par-for-the-course in the writing life with What could be a more delightful way to spend my time than creating stories?

I’m not saying the writing life is all bright and happy. It isn’t.

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for sadness and anger. Negative emotions are an important part of life.

And I’m not saying that so-called “positive thinking” will magically make good things happen to you. I don’t believe our thoughts send vibrations into the world that draw success and joy.

What I am saying is that it’s easy for us writers to get swept up in the idea that the writing life writing is hard and sad and lose sight of the fact that it is also deeply pleasurable and exciting.

It comes down to this. If you want to improve your writing life, take this one, simple step. Stop telling yourself how hard it is and start telling yourself how much fun it is. Try it every time you start feeling down, and see if it doesn’t make a difference.

I'm Jill Jepson, author of Writing as a Sacred PathGet my free bimonthly strategies for writers here



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