Acting My Way into Feeling: Just Write!

Photo/KarenJordanI’m about to do one of the hardest things I’ve done recently—WRITE!

“What? How can that be?” you ask. “You’re a writer! Isn’t that what writers do?”

Confusion. I wish I could tell you what’s keeping me from doing what I need to do. But I don’t have any answers at this point.

In fact, I’m not even sure I have anything of substance to offer anyone now. But I’m just going to write—and hope something helpful surfaces. Anything is better than nothing at this point.

Confession. After church this morning, I confessed to my husband that I hadn’t really felt like going to church today and entering into worship. But I did. And I’m glad I did—the sermon really spoke to my heart.

Modification. I’m also reminded what I learned years ago in a behavior modification class at seminary: “You must act your way into feeling.”

At first, I didn’t have a clue what the professor meant by that statement. But I tried it, and it worked.

For instance, I NEVER feel like doing housework. But I ALWAYS feel good about finishing my work.

So, that’s what I’m doing right now. Write—even though I do NOT feel like writing. And in the process, I hope and pray the feeling and the words begin to flow again.

Examination. Have you ever faced this problem? Maybe you’re not a writer, and you don’t get it. But perhaps there is another issue you might be struggling with in your work or even at home.

Perhaps you want to be happy or thankful, but you just can’t conjure up those positive emotions right now. Or perhaps you just don’t “feel” like being anyone’s mom right now—but you ARE a mom.

Maybe you don’t have any romantic feelings toward your spouse anymore. I’ll share what a pastor advised one man who claimed he didn’t love his wife anymore. This wise counselor simply responded with quote from God’s Word.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . (Eph. 5:25 NIV).

Do you see his point? God’s Word reveals that love is a choice, not a feeling.

Decision. So, maybe—just maybe—we can experience joy and thankfulness as we make the decision to be happy or grateful.

What about writing? Well, I’ve learned that often I really don’t “feel” like writing. And many times I must just do what I don’t “feel” like doing.

Instruction. So, I guess I’ll just repeat the words of a wise writing instructor once again, “JUST WRITE!”

By the way, I hope my confession encourages you today to do whatever you need to do if you’re stuck!

And another thing—be blessed!

What strategy helps you when you don’t feel like writing?

National Procrastination Week is Next Week… Or, Um, In a Few Weeks. Yes, For Sure…

This post comes from WordServe author Rick Marschall. Welcome, Rick!

CARTOONIST SKETCHES - Donahey TEENIE WEENIES

There actually IS a National Procrastination Week, as most writers know. Or should know. If we didn’t know, we can count on editors to remind us. Or publishers. Or agents. Or spouses. Or neighbors and strangers who eventually figure why we small-talk with them, obsessively, at odd times.

But there is such an observance, appropriately not on a fixed date, usually in early March. If there were a day, not a week, the most ironic date would be March Fourth – because the dreaded P word has nothing to do with marching forth.

Most of us get tagged as being procrastinators. I have heard of writers who awake at, say, 7:28 every morning, commence writing at 10 a.m., take a 45-minute lunch break, and then write again until 4:30. Usually these writers produce several 900-page books a year, a fact that further confounds me. My guess is that if you are one of those writers, you spend most of your free time physically fending off attacks by crazed fellow-writers – i.e., the majority of us – who congregate at the intersection of Jealous Street and Incredulous Avenue, mumbling about you.

Over the years I have shoved out 74 books and hundreds of magazine articles, as well as uncountable scripts, columns, and blog essays. So I actually have been acquainted with deadlines, and, overwhelmingly, met deadlines.

But I write about that near-universal experience of racing the clock, if not the calendar, at deadline-time. I am wont to call them Last Writes, ha. If the profession invented the word Dead-line, then I can play with the term Last Rites. Enough puns here, because I seriously have a view about Writers’ Procrastination I never have heard advanced by anyone. It is a principle of our process, I think. Let me call this Marschall Law (Sorry, that is the last pun).

Whether we meet deadlines or barely meet deadlines, we assume guilt for the “minutes-to-spare” syndrome. Polite friends call it Procrastination; honest friends might call it Disorganization; harsh observers sometimes call it Laziness. Have you ever felt like pleading guilty to any of these? Have you ever finished a book without silently promising yourself to start earlier, write more, self-edit better, and finish sooner, next time?

Here is the realization I had. You have heard the expression, “Some people work best under pressure.” Some people do. We admire stories of Mozart and Beethoven scribbling scores, orchestral parts, mere moments before a first performance. Of Rodin leaving sculptures half-chiseled. Of Tolstoy’s first draft of War and Peace only running through Chapter 3, and his editor finding “etc…” before he squeezed the rest of the manuscript.

Actually, only the Mozart and Beethoven stories are true. (Otherwise, Tolstoy’s book would be known as War and Piece.) (That’s the last pun.) But most of us recognize that feeling. I have a view that if God, in the fullness of time, had not created Last Minutes, very little in this world would get done.

If it is true that some of us work best under pressure, I think it is logical – and, surely, subliminal – that we create our own pressure. Why do we find ourselves, say, reading instead of writing? Straightening out shelves and files when not necessary? Sharpening pencils, when we haven’t used a pencil since the first Bush presidency? Arranging our sock drawers?

Are we processing the next chapter? Reconsidering a plot thread? Praying for more wisdom (non-fiction) or killing off a different character (fiction) (I hope)?

No… we subconsciously create that inchoate factor, that diaphanous monster, called Pressure. Honestly, it is not really a monster. My best books (the most successful, or best-received, or ones I think have stood up) were produced in pressure-cooker scenarios; when I went total-immersion; when I ate, breathed, slept with The Book.

I could not have done that, in all those cases, if a date-book, instead of a Deadline Panic, had ordered my days. Panic worked, has worked, and I suspect for many creators throughout history, will continue to work. It should not change our working modes – we have all reached the limits of excuses – but can lift the guilt a little.

But somehow, I don’t think anyone will designate a National Panic Day…

 

rickmarschallphoto-110x165Rick Marschall has indeed written 74 books and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles. Bostonia Magazine called him “perhaps America’s foremost authority on popular culture,” and trying to maintain that reputation, writes in the fields of history, biography, music, television  history, and children’s books in addition to books, articles, and essays in the Christian field. He has been a political cartoonist, editor of marvel Comics, and writer for Disney. He currently is obscenely late on a manuscript, and while not making light of a writer’s responsibilities, has analyzed writer’s block and creative challenges.

Why I’m Not Posting to this Blog Today

Okay. Here I go. Computer is booted up and ready to go and I am finally going to write that blog post I have committed to sending off at some point today. Nothing like leaving things to the last minute. But I’ve got it together now. I am ready to put words to paper and come up with something brilliant.

social mediaRight after I check my Facebook page to see if anyone has tried to contact me. Hey, new marketing advice from someone I’ve never heard of. Might be the missing piece I’ve been looking for to send my book sales soaring. Yes, I will subscribe to your newsletter. Sign me up.

Okay, back to work. Feeling a little sleepy though. Maybe I should go outside for a few minutes; a little fresh air might clear my head. I should probably take a quick look at the weather site to see what I should expect if and when I get out there. Looks pretty good. Okay, I’ll log out right…  Wait, that headline is interesting. Just going to click on that to see what the article is about. A bear roaming the streets in a town a thousand miles from here? Fascinating. How did they…? Stop. Focus. I’m supposed to be writing that post.

And I will. Right after I check the sports page to read the write-up on the game last night. Yes, I watched the game (what else did I have to do?) and know exactly what happened. Still…

Oh yeah. I need to register for NaNoWriMo and see who else has signed up that I can be buddies with. Preparing to write that novel is consuming far more of my time and thoughts these days than actually sitting down to write the thing would. Which reminds me, I need to do that too. I have a book contract, a looming deadline, another commitment. I have to write the third and final book in a trilogy. I’m going to get started on that soon. Maybe I’ll go back and read the last few chapters of book two in the series to get me in the zone again.

As soon as I send out a quick tweet so my readers know I’m still around and haven’t fallen off the face of the planet. There. Done. My 140-character contribution to the global conversation. Now back to that post.

Wow, that coffee smells good. I’ll just grab a cup to fortify myself so I can really be productive today. Oops. We’re out of cream. Better text a shopping list to my husband. If I take the time to go to the store, this post will never get written.

Okay, I’m back, fortifying cup of coffee in hand. Wait. What’s that notice in the bottom corner of my screen? My anti-virus coverage is about to expire? That can’t be good. I better renew that. Should I stay with the same company? As far as I know, I haven’t had a virus, so they must be all right. I’ll just e-mail my writer’s group and ask who everyone uses for protection. Really don’t want to lose all this great stuff I’ve written—or thought about writing, anyway—just because I didn’t go with the right company. There, I’ve put the question out there. I’ll go back on in a few minutes to see if anyone has responded.

My phone’s buzzing. My husband, responding to my text. Oh yeah. I forgot he has to work late tonight. I guess I better go to the store then.

No problem. I got quite a bit done this morning. Pretty sure there wasn’t anything else too pressing. If there was, it will still be here waiting for me tomorrow, I’m sure.

For some reason, it always is.

Bad Writer, Bad Writer

Working with Me, Myself, and I isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Now don’t get me wrong, they’re great people, (for the most part), but when they’re bad, they’re really bad.

Every one of them has a propensity to be a bad writer. But maybe not in the way you might think.

Stop When You Are DoneThey, (me), are bad in the realm of behavior. For instance — right now I should be writing the memoir I’ve been hired to pen. It’s a fascinating story of a true miracle man, and I am honored he asked me to help him tell his true story of supernatural experiences.

I should be chomping to listen to the audio recordings of interviews we’ve done. I should be rushing to relay my time with some of the top cardiologists in the world at Mayo Clinic. But am I doing either of those things?

No.

I’m fighting myself. The part that wants to do anything BUT make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I’ve been given. Here’s what today consisted of:

  • Earlier, I caught myself popping onto Facebook without realizing I was doing it.
  • I keep checking the rankings of my latest release, Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over. (Granted, at this writing it’s in its twelfth consecutive week listing among Amazon’s best sellers, so it’s hard to ignore, especially when my author’s heart is thumping like a beaver tail on a warm spring day.)
  • I set up two promotional giveaways for Getting Through. One on Amazon, and one on Goodreads.
  • I accepted an invitation from a local TV station to record four, one minute devotionals. Of course, my brain started to buzz with possibility as soon as we confirmed the deal.
  • And all of this spurred a great idea for a WordServe blog post, so I had to jump over here before the inspiration leapt from my brain.

I hope you understand. I’m not saying any of the things I’m doing are wrong, in their appropriate time and setting, they are each very right. We need to stay relationally connected with our readers and our network of fellow writing professionals. It’s important to keep momentum going when a new project is launched into the world. And who doesn’t want to share great insights with our WordServe friends and family?

BreakdownBut how do I ensure I finish the project I was hired to write? First, I need to give myself a little grace. Enough to brush away unhealthy guilt, but not so much that I keep allowing poor behavior to make me a bad writer. When I give myself the level of patience I offer others, a breakthrough often follows.

I also take a few to celebrate the good things. Excellent reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Strong sales rankings for Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over. New opportunities to spread a message of hope and healing for the hurting via television. All blessings, I couldn’t conjure or imagine — these are gifts from God. So allowing myself to express gratitude is in order. Knowing if I focus only on the gifts instead of the Gift-Giver, I’m out of line.

Finally, I set goals. A target keeps me accountable, even when Me, Myself, and I try to distract me from the work at hand. Word count — that’s the key for me. No matter how tired I am, I push toward the prize, reaching that daily word count before going to bed.

Goodreads Review Getting ThroughWith a shift in mindset, I’m now bathed in fresh discipline. A self-imposed word count waves in front of me, one I will meet before retiring. A grateful heart beats in my chest with new praise. And I’m almost done with this blog post.

As I process all of this, I realize — I’m not a bad writer, I’m a human one. At the end of the journey, it’s what connects a reader to my message. Real, authentic, raw. Word after word, step after step, Me, Myself, and I are helping change the world. All it takes is one positive review or reader response to remind me why I keep on keeping on. What I experience resonates with others — the writing comes from the living.

Struggling with Your Book Manuscript? Just Write!

Photo/TaraRossHow’s that book you’re NOT writing coming along?

I must admit, writing a book is not at all what I expected, even though it’s been my dream for a long time.

I did refer to it as a goal at one point, but someone corrected me by informing me that “goals have deadlines.” So, I suppose it’s just been a distant dream for me—until now.

Now, I DO have a deadline. So, I guess my dream graduated to become a goal. Yay!

Hold on! Why am I so happy? Did I say deadline? Yikes!

In his blog post, “The Totally Boring Process of Writing a Book,” Jeff Goins wrote about his struggle with writing a book.

I think Goins wrote this article just for me.

Wait … did he say “boring”? Why, yes—I think he did! So, what do you think?

Observer. I know some students who NEVER finished writing their master’s theses or doctoral dissertations! They completed the course work for their degrees, compiled volumes of research, but they never turned in their final papers, failing to complete their degree requirements.

I’ve also known a few professors and ministers who used their entire sabbaticals to do research, but they never finished their books. Such wisdom—still packed away and waiting in an obscure files somewhere.

Recently, I listened to several historical fiction writers confess their ongoing struggle, of not beinging able to moving from the research phase of their writing to actually finishing their books.

One writer friend completed a book that she’s been working on for 25 years. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS! Oh, she’s written other books. But this prize was tucked away for safe-keeping until her other projects were finished.

Is this a common problem for writers? I think so.

But who am I to judge other writers? I’ve been collecting research on my book for a decade. That’s why I’ve been so stalled in this phase of the writing process, gathering 10 years worth of research from every nook and cranny of my home and computer files.

Question. So, how do you break away from your research and graduate to writing?

My writing friend, Kathy, shared some wise advice she gleaned from a writers conference: “Put your bottom in the chair, and stay there until you meet your goal for the day.”

So, I wish I had the answer. Perhaps it’s simply these two words—JUST WRITE!

How do you transition from research to writing?