Attachment is a common plight of many writers.
We insert pieces of ourselves into our writing, drawing us closer to our work than with many other professions. However, becoming overly attached can lead to decreased productivity, weighing down creativity like a backpack full of bricks.
Admittedly, I’ve struggled greatly with over-attachment throughout my career – my desire to write an award-winning perfect first draft often leading to complete writer’s block (and a lot of incomplete Word docs).
So when the idea of non-attachment serendipitously fell into my lap during a yoga class, I was eager to explore its practical applications in regards to my perfectionist writing dilemma. This slight shift in mindset has worked wonders for my productivity and creative well-being.
Here are three ways practicing non-attachment can improve your productivity and writerly well-being.
1. Releasing self-imposed expectations
The philosophy of non-attachment is characterized by overcoming attachment to desire, leading to a heightened perspective.
When applied to writing, non-attachment has the ability to relieve negative emotions often associated with self-imposed expectations – that is, your predispositions toward desired outcomes.
After all, we don’t have control over how others will respond to our work once we hit send, submit or publish. It’s out of our hands and letting go will ease outcome anxieties while waiting to hear back from the reader – whether it be an editor, publisher, client or friend.
For example, I recently submitted a piece of short fiction to a literary journal. After spending weeks molding my blank page into what I thought was a near-perfect story, I’d grown rather attached. I expected to hear back from the editor with acceptance and accolades. Needless to say, my expectations let me down when reality handed me a one-sentence rejection email.
In this instance, my premature speculation cost me energy that could have been used more productively. And when it comes to creative professions, like writing, energy is time and time is money.
Alternatively, I could have avoided the frustration associated with this scenario by making a conscious effort to not expect a specific outcome beyond my control. Imposing incalculable expectations on the future is about as tangible as the wishes we make when blowing out birthday candles.
The takeaway: Maintaining a non-attached mindset will save time and energy, which you can put back into producing new ideas and creating more content.
2. Letting go, literally and figuratively
Boiled down, non-attachment is simply the practice of letting go of desires and feelings that do not serve you.
In a literal sense, letting go has helped me double my submission output month-over-month. I once struggled to submit anything short of perfection. Since shifting my perspective, I’ve managed to increase output by literally letting my work go out into the world.
Prior to incorporating a non-attached frame of mind, I often found myself unnecessarily spending hours rewriting and proofing, only to convince myself the piece was unworthy of publication. Now, two rounds of drafting and a final proof are sufficient.
Which leads me to my next point: letting go emotionally.
From a less literal standpoint, there comes a time when you’ll have to let go of ideas you’ve held safely in your own mind. If you’re a writer, you will have to open those safe spaces. You’ll have to pair your ideas with words and share them with the world. This requires vulnerability – and practicing non-attachment eases that vulnerability.
Letting go emotionally will also help you overcome pesky emotions associated with rejection, unconstructive feedback and negative reviews. Effectively, this will leave more energetic space for you to focus on the present tasks at hand.
The takeaway: Letting go allows you to increase your output and maintain a clear focus, rather than agonizing over miniscule (and often unnecessary) details.
3. Accepting “what is” – not wishing “what if”
Not to be confused with indifference or apathy, non-attachment is an objective state of mind that allows you to maintain an honest perspective of what actually is – not what you wish or expect it to be.
It allows us to accept and appreciate what we have without desire for more or less.
Writing, in its own right, is subjective. A writing style that resonates with you isn’t guaranteed to resonate with others. The way you express an idea with words might not align with the way someone else imagines it. That’s okay.
By building a non-attached relationship with your writing, you can more efficiently process feedback, criticism and rejection for what it is. Don’t overthink it.
Contrarily, you could brood over all the what ifs. What if I’d written the intro differently? What if my protagonist was less of a jerk? What if I’d taken a different angle on that pitch? Albeit, this approach is guaranteed to hinder your productivity.
The takeaway: There’s far more power (and productivity) in embracing the present, as compared to wallowing in the past or fretting over feedback the future may hold.
By combining a non-attached mindset with straightforward techniques to improve your writing, you, too, can write more freely and increase your productivity.
What other techniques do you employ to improve your productivity?