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.

Writing is a Muscle, Flex it

    Sometimes I have to remind myself I’m not Ernest Hemingway, allowed to take hours at a time sipping aperitifs and people watching in Paris before I muster the requisite inspiration to sit down and write something. My goodness, if I did that and my husband subsequently found out, he’d feverishly protest the abundance of chicken nugget nights that seem to bottleneck when I get close to a deadline.

On the first manuscript I completed, however, I remember only writing when I felt like it. It took me two years to finish. And when it was summarily dubbed “Good, but not quite there,” I responded in a few ways. First, there was the shaking of my fists in the air. Second, there was the stint of self-loathing. (Which as a writer, I feel I have a natural right to exhibit, prancing back and forth, moaning, as if I’m original in my pain.) And third, an issuance of a new battle cry: I will never waste that much time again.

Two years of my life back then was the difference between a head of my own black hair, and a bottle of L’oreal Black Midnight to cover the greys that had suddenly popped up. When I began working on my next manuscript, I forced myself to work every day, for a set amount of time, or a set amount of words.

In my day job as an attorney, I have no problem writing piles and piles of drivel . . . I mean, well thought, and well-argued points of law . . . in a quick, methodic manner. Shouldn’t I be applying the same work ethic to a manuscript? And when I did, I wrote 120,000 words in just over two months. Of course, I have to give some credit to the story being an easy tell, but I give more credit to the fact I determined to make it a work task rather than a pipe dream.

I wanted to develop a rhythm with my writing, a habit if you will, that would self-execute even when—get this—I didn’t feel like it. And sure, sometimes I had whole pages that looked as presentable and appetizing as the floor of a gas station bathroom, but that has happened on occasion when I was trying my best.

When you train a muscle to work, when you exercise it daily and watch it tone and tighten, there’s this mental assurance that the next big set of weights—the next writing task ahead—is within your range. Further, if you work those muscles hard enough, they’ll keep working for you, burning for you, long after you put the weights down. They’ll even keep you going on days when you don’t feel like working at all.

Bottom line is that writing doesn’t come and go in these magical, muse-driven spurts, as if some wayfaring pixie is sprinkling special dust and making you transcend. It’s a muscle begging its owner to use and improve upon it. Getting it to its optimum is going to take you gritting your teeth. You may even have to pop out a neck vein here and there.

And once that’s done, you can pull out the Hemingway routine during your next vacation or when you’re trying to be aloof for your friends. That’s always a fun gig.