Write Here, Write Now: The Rarest of Human Qualities (If Cultivated) Can Unlock Superhuman Potential by Andy Murphy
In this episode of Write Here, Write Now: A Vocal Podcast, host Erica Wagner and Murphy go even deeper to explore the challenges — and satisfactions — of getting what you want.
Author Andy Murphy gives a new spin to age-old wisdom in an essay full of practical tips. In conversation afterwards, host Erica Wagner and Murphy go even deeper to explore the challenges — and satisfactions — of getting what you want.
ERICA: Write Here, Write Now is sponsored by Scrivener. Used every day by best-selling novelists and aspiring writers alike, Scrivener unites everything needed to write, research and arrange your manuscript in a powerful package. Without Scrivener I could not have written my last two books. Scrivener is available for iOS, macOS and Windows, allowing you to take your manuscript with you, wherever you go. Sign up using the coupon code VOCAL at checkout and receive a 20% discount on the writing tool that seriously changed my life.
ANDY MURPHY: And then I just said, "What does it feel like to say that I'm a writer? How does that feel coming out my mouth?"
ERICA: This is Write Here, Write Now, a podcast brought to you by Vocal, an online platform for creators of all kinds and all levels of experience. It’s a place to post, to read, to be inspired. I’m your host, Erica Wagner.
This season, we’ll hear eight essays, all posted to Vocal by independent creators. Afterwards, we get to hear from the creators themselves- about what inspired them, what they’re working on, and what keeps them going. If you have any questions that linger after the episode, head to vocal dot media to leave a comment for the authors, right on their essay. Who knows- you might be inspired to write something yourself.
Here’s Write Here, Write Now.
ERICA: If you’ve been struggling to master a skill or knock out a project, this next piece is for you. In this step-by-step essay, Andy Murphy lays out the only thing you need to succeed. Listen in after the essay for more from Andy. Here’s “The Rarest of Human Qualities (If Cultivated) Can Unlock Superhuman Potential” by Andy Murphy.
ERICA: That was “The Rarest of Human Qualities (If Cultivated) Can Unlock Superhuman Potential” by Andy Murphy. Not long ago, I got the chance to sit down with Andy to talk about his own writing practice, and how he’s cultivated his voice.
ERICA: So taking it back, how did you then get into writing in the first place? Where did it all begin? Was it from a need to communicate what you wanted to share?
ANDY MURPHY: Yeah, I stumbled into it, actually. I won't lie there. It was a very stumbled path into writing. I always somehow had this sense that it was a part of my life, but I always thought maybe it would be in the later stages.
ERICA: What inspired you to write this particular piece for Vocal?
ANDY MURPHY: I think like anything with a new project, it takes an enormous amount, or I find anyway, it takes an enormous amount of energy and time and willpower to really show up and make it something that's long-lasting. And especially this solo mission of writing, there's not really anyone else that can sit down and write the words that are needed to come through. So over time, it really becomes apparent that consistency is so important. And that's when I read the quote by Jeremy Bentham there at the top, "The rarest of human qualities is consistency."
As far as I could tell, it spread through every genre, every profession, and it was the one thing that seemed to be the golden thread through it all. So from that, I could really relate my own experiences of writing to then other people's success stories and really create this, I think, this interesting piece.
ERICA: But it's an interesting word because I would say, if you'll forgive me, it's not perhaps a glamorous word. What do you think it is that makes consistency sound on the surface perhaps a bit uninspiring?
ANDY MURPHY: It's not all that sexy. It's not all that glamorous. It's not all that enticing really, consistency. So I think there's that weight to it, but with that brings all the other joys around becoming more confident in the topic, becoming more open and free to be able to express. But it takes time to build up to that point and really gain consistency. So that can often be a little bit of a catch sometimes.
It's like everything is needing to be something new and shiny and different. And consistency is we take stock of what we have, and we do it over and over and over again. For some people, it's liberating. For other people, it can be quite a challenge. I know for me, it's both.
ERICA: I want to hear more about your life because you're giving pointers, I'd say, in this piece about how you can use consistency to develop the aspects of your life that you want to encourage. Are you living the life that you'd like to be living? And if so, how did you get there?
ANDY MURPHY: I guess that the dream life is maybe not what we envision, or not what we always can feel necessarily, because there's always ups and downs in life, and that's part of the dream life. As far as I understand it, that's part of the dream life. And so for me, yeah, it's been a process, like all of the best things. It's been such a process to get to the point where I, one, can say that I'm a writer, and then, two, really live that as well.
So it has been a relatively new pathway, and like so many people where there was an abundance of time two years ago that happened where there was a screen and not much else. So I really dove into becoming a full-time online writer two years ago. And again, that's the consistency. It's been two years now, which isn't a long, long time, but every day showing up and just being like, "I'm here, and I'm going to learn. I'm going to improve myself just a little bit every day." And taking those small steps forward. And suddenly, there is this thing that's grown, this baby that's come into the world. And then it's just about nurturing that. That's been the process after that initial burst of energy.
ERICA: How do you encourage yourself, perhaps, to take those steps? Because I'm a writer myself, and I know there are days when we don't feel like being consistent, when being consistent is a challenge. So what are the steps, the techniques that you found to help you with that?
ANDY MURPHY: Hmm. I often draw upon two people actually, Thomas Edison as being one, and Mark Twain being the other one. And both come into this piece quite heavily with their quotes and their different ways of saying things. But Thomas Edison's way of, "Just one more time, can you just do one more time?" And whatever that means, and that can often mean rewriting a sentence just one more time, or rewriting a paragraph just one more time.
And then the other one is the Mark Twain quote that says, "Break complex tasks down into very small and simple ones. And then just do one." So that's often my goal is just to do one. And then, if I do one, then I'm often like, "Okay, I'll do another one." And then another one. And suddenly, I'm way further than I thought.
And I guess the other big one is just compassion. Some days are just more difficult than others. So I have a coffee sometimes. I go for a run. I loosen up the schedule a little bit and then allow myself just to flow with the actual presence of the day or whatever's present that day, really.
ERICA: And I think we can often think about directing compassion at others, but we also have to remember to direct it at ourselves.
ANDY MURPHY: Completely, completely. I think that's where it starts, right? What's the inner voice really saying? How compassionate is that voice really for ourselves? And then it can radiate and overflow to other people.
ERICA: As you are moving forward, what's your dream? What's your goal? Do you think of your life in those terms?
ANDY MURPHY: Yeah, I do. I think there are different kind of goals really. There's the professional goals around growing a bigger audience and reaching more people and connecting with other writers like yourself and really broadening the community of writing. So there's the professional part where I'm hoping and I'm envisioning and dreaming a world of meeting more people and expanding in that way.
And then there's also the emotional side and really cultivating happiness and compassion and becoming a better version of myself, which also takes consistency as well. There's consistency around showing up every day and wanting to be better, wanting to be a little bit better than yesterday.
ERICA: Do you remember the first time you tried this technique of breaking things down into bite-size chunks? Because I do know that feeling, we all know that feeling, of seeming overwhelmed by the scale of a task. What made you discover this useful, practical technique?
ANDY MURPHY: I don't know about you, but it was definitely a case of, "Okay, now I'm doing this thing called writing every day, and I love it, and it's great. And it's given me a lot of energy and purpose and creativity, but then, how do I really make this thing work? Because I don't want to be writing for hours every day. As much as I love it, I'll burn out." So it was really to get into the mindset of, how do I be more productive in a small window of time that still gives me energy and creativity?
I played with what felt right, what felt good for me to really continue. As soon as I really broke things down into lists and then was checking things off these lists, that really was the sign that, okay, this is working, this has given me energy and purpose, which would then help me write even more. So it was this whole feedback loop that was happening. And yeah, that went on for maybe a few months of tweaking the system, writing way too many lists, but then figuring out a path.
I'm waking up every day, and I'm feeling energized to sit down and work. And I know that there's almost like a schedule that happens or a structure that I follow. And then that allows me to finish what I need to finish that day and move on. And that was the moment of being like, wow, okay. I'm being creative, and I'm on purpose here and productive. Those three things were very much aligning for the first time. But if anything, it was more how I was waking up. It was giving me excitement and joy to really be productive.
ERICA: We can all have setbacks. Sometimes things can be tougher, not go the way we plan them to. Where do you get your courage? How do you spring back when you maybe take a hit in some way or another?
ANDY MURPHY: Every day, at the moment, I've been cultivating this voice, and it's never to see anything as a failure.It's like, there's this thing that's happened that looks like a failure, and my past self would've been very hard and strict and been like, "This is wrong, you've failed," and move on. It was a strong voice in my head. Whereas now, there's an opportunity to learn. And that is enormous for me.
For me, it's a very conscious choice. Which way do I lean? Which one do I feed? And yeah, because I've been cultivating that voice in my head for a while now, I tend to feed the opportunity to learn. And that often gives me such joy, really. I can thank the failure, almost, be like, "Wow, thank you for saying that," or, "Thank you for doing that," or, "I'm glad that happened, almost." Because it gave me an opportunity to see something that I wouldn't have otherwise seen.
It changes the whole thing. Instead of being this harsh voice, it's then like this almost joyful voice around. Okay, now there's insight here. There's growth here. And that always has its own courageous step forward, I find.
ERICA: And that, too, requires consistency, practicing hearing that voice in your head rather than the voice that says, "Oh my goodness, I've done this wrong."
ANDY MURPHY: Completely, completely. And consistency in thought is one of the hardest things to master, to really refine the thoughts of compassion and love and joy towards ourselves. That for me has been one of the biggest challenges.
ERICA: When did you first call yourself a writer?
ANDY MURPHY: That's a big process, huh? Really owning the dream life is a big process. It really wasn't that long ago. I'd written three books at the time, and I'd written maybe 50 blogs, 50, 60 blogs. And then someone asked me, what is it that you do? And for a long time it was, "Oh, I teach breathwork," or, "I'm online something," but I'd always avoid the word writer. And then I just said, "What does it feel like to say that I'm a writer? How does that feel coming out my mouth?" And then as soon as I said it, then they were like, "Oh wow, cool. What do you write about?" And I could really share the message of what I was writing, and that then gave me the courage and the inspiration to own the fact that I can call myself a writer and it's okay. And it's more than okay. It's actually a really cool thing to say and believe.
ERICA: So, even though you were writing, you weren't calling yourself a writer. You were writing a lot, you were writing books, you were writing blogs, but you still hesitated to call yourself a writer.
ANDY MURPHY: Completely. Yeah. Because it's then, suddenly the dream life is spoken. And it's like, instead of this being this thing that like, "Oh, I want to be a writer." Now it's like, "I'm writing." And how does that feel? You're living the dream life. How does that really feel to say and to be and to do? And that was a big process for me to really step into that.
ERICA: Though consistency may not be “all that exciting,” as Andy writes, it is undeniably a tried and true method for success.
I hope you’ll remain a consistent listener of Write Here, Write Now, as we now move toward season two! We’ll be taking a break for a couple of weeks, but meet me back here to enjoy some of the amazing fiction Vocal creators have written. Until then.
Whoever you are, whatever your story, Vocal belongs to you. If you liked the show, come be a part of where it all got started. Join me and the rest of our brilliant Creators on Vocal.media. We hope you'll join our community, where you can post, read and comment.
If you like what you hear, join us for season two of Write Here, Write Now, when we dive into stories from the Vocal plus Fiction Anthology. And of course- be sure to rate, review and subscribe to Write Here, Write Now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. I’m Erica Wagner- thanks for listening.
Write Here, Write Now is produced by Vocal in partnership with Pod People. Special thanks to our production team: Jacob Frommer and Andrew Herwitz and the team at Pod People: Rachael King, Matt Sav, Aimee Machado, Ashton Carter, Rebecca Chaisson, Carter Wogahn, and Morgane Fousse.
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