There’s an old Native American proverb about two wolves: One is a black wolf, and the other, white. The black wolf is everything that is bad, and the white one is everything that is good. These wolves are constantly at battle inside each one of us: Which wolf wins? The one you feed.
This story has truth at its core, and we can apply this principle to any area of our lives: Thoughts; diet; exercise; writing; speech; relationships; habits, and anything else you can think of. Another adage comes to mind: “Garbage in, garbage out” – what we feed ourselves (any part of our trinity, whether mind, body or spirit) is what will come out of us. There are all kinds of sayings around this truth – roots and fruits, and all that.
Each one of us has a daily routine; it may vary greatly from person to person, but it’s there. We all probably have habits we’d like to break; they could be things that are time- or energy-wasters, or habits like smoking or overeating. I’d like to focus on the habits of writers.
Creativity, like caffeine, is a legal addictive substance; an addiction is formed from repeated applications (i.e. habit). If we feed the right wolves, we will reach our goals, whatever they are, but if we feed the wrong wolves, we won’t – it’s that simple. For some, it’s finishing the first chapter; for others, it’s publishing; for others, it might be collecting enough poems, artwork, or other creative forms until there’s enough for release (art show, cookbook, anthology, etc.).
Each creative expression has its own unique pair of wolves. One common black wolf is what I would name “NEDs” – Negative Energy Drains. It can be expressed through negative talk about yourself or your writing (whether its source is internal from a lack of self-confidence, or external from unsupportive environments or relationships), or a pressure placed on yourself (again, internal or external) to complete a goal based on unrealistic expectations. Another common black wolf is “Ambiguity”: As long as we don’t know what concrete steps to take to reach a goal, it’s difficult to move forward; as long as we allow ambiguity to feed, it will paralyze us.
In this scenario, the white wolves would be named PEFs (Positive Energy Feeds) and Preciseness. Those might simply manifest themselves as speaking positively to yourself every time NED tries to speak or putting up positive post-its of where you’re going with your goals. For the second wolf, define the steps needed – set yourself an appointment for the purpose of researching the steps, and finding concrete resources to help you reach your goals, then take one step at a time. Keep that appointment.
Which wolf do you feed?