Writer’s Block is Real, or, How To Write A Proper Apology

You’ve gone and screwed it all up, haven’t you?

Well if you haven’t yet, you will. Trust me.

Or someone will think that you did.

Yes, my friends, at some point in our lives, we’re all going to have to apologize.

They’re not the easiest things to write – and I’m a writer. If my writer’s block is kicking in, chances are I’m poised to write an apology.

Nonetheless, it’s important to know exactly how to write them because they’re not going away any time soon. True apologetic letters have turned into apologetic emails (because one should never, ever text an apology and let that be the end of it).

Nonetheless, there’s a formula that goes in to writing them properly, professionally, and in a way that doesn’t make you want to chase the send button with a few tequila shots.

  • Always keep the apology short and sweet. The longer you ramble, the bigger the chance of subjecting your reader to a lot of drama that probably has little to nothing to do with the situation at hand. Write a paragraph (that’s 5 sentences) or less. For those who struggle with writing, this is where you breath a sigh of relief. After all, a paragraph is often less than 100 words and you’ve already mastered that skill.
  • Don’t focus on the wrong things. So often our apologies are focused on exactly what happened as opposed to what is going to be done to fix it. Think about it: when you’re pissed at someone and writing up that nasty response, don’t you just get angrier and angrier the more you replay the situation in your head? You both know what the apology is regarding. Focus on what will be done to fix it.
  • Choose those words wisely. You want to begin a conversation and calm the storm, not throw wood on the pissed off frenzy of fire. Choosing the right words can be the biggest challenge for someone that doesn’t write often or doesn’t enjoy writing. I understand. Just memorize this sentence: “It’s imperative that you know how deeply sorry I am.” More details on why this is an awesome phrase to keep in your back pocket below.

Okay, let’s just say that you actually did something wrong. I can’t believe it either, but it tends to happen to the best of us. What does that apology read like, exactly? The exercises below are geared toward the workplace, but I’ll explain the basic idea in-depth so you can tweak as needed.

Situation:

You missed a phone call with a client.

Apology:

Client

OH NO! I had you on my calendar for 2pm, not 1pm. It’s imperative that you know how deeply sorry I am and I’d appreciate an opportunity to right this situation as it’s unacceptable on my part.

Can I offer a free hour of writing consultation services in addition to our consultation call?

Your Name

See what I did there? Let’s break it down.

OH NO! (Or some other phrase you like to use: Oh my goodness, Drats, Shoot, Fiddlesticks) in all caps signifies the importance and urgency of your email. It also suggests that you’re not an idiot – in other words, missing your call with them is totally outside the norm.

I had you on my calendar for 2pm, not 1pm. Give a reason as to why this happened. It’s so easy, especially when we screw up, so say something along the lines of, “this is all my fault.” Guess what? As nice as it sounds in your head, it just leads to future distrust. By offering up exactly why you screwed up the person reading your apology can see that this instance was likely an anomaly rather than the standard.

It’s imperative that you know how deeply sorry I am and I’d appreciate an opportunity to right this situation as it’s unacceptable on my part. Everything about this phrase puts you in a submissive position while you’re placing the reader of your apology in a position of power. However, in this position of power, your reader also feels your sincerity and understanding, which helps to cut back on the level of tension. Boom.

Can I offer a free hour of writing consultation services in addition to our consultation call? We all love free stuff. I love it. You love it. The person you’re sorry to loves it. There are plenty of free things to be offered too, even if this isn’t a business related apology. Stand up a friend? Offer to buy them a drink. Stand up your kid? A trip to Disney probably goes a long way. I joke. Maybe just offer them a puppy or something.

See that? Short. Succinct. Smooth. You’re on your way!

On the other hand, we’ve all had to apologize for things that are not our fault. Not by a long shot. That apology too, is something we all must learn how to write, damn it all. The most common apology I find myself writing on a Monday morning is when a client emailed then texted then called with an urgent task- and I didn’t do it. After all, it was the weekend. That one reads a bit differently.

Apology:

Client

Good morning! I wanted to let you know that I did receive your requests over the weekend. Unfortunately, because they were received after normal business hours (9-5, M-F) I didn’t get them until this morning, which I’m sure, must have been somewhat frustrating. I’m happy to make the changes that were requested and they should arrive no later than end of day Thursday, June 27.

I’m very excited to be working on this project with you. In the meantime, if you have any other projects or assignments to add, please feel free to reach out with them. I’m all over it.

Your Name

Now let’s break that down.

Good morning! Start with a pleasant greeting that has nothing to do with the fact you’d like them to stick it where the sun don’t shine.

I wanted to let you know that I did receive your requests over the weekend. Unfortunately, because they were received after normal business hours (9-5, M-F) I didn’t get them until this morning, which I’m sure, must have been somewhat frustrating. This part is two-fold. It not only shares with your client that you’re on the ball during normal business hours, but it also tells them where their expectations might have fallen astray. It does not offer any kind of solution because there is no solution to be offered to them and certainly no free things. It explains that you don’t work weekends (duh) and that isn’t something to apologize for (also duh). It also acknowledges their feelings (panic, frustration) when they couldn’t get in touch, but doesn’t feed them.

I’m happy to make the changes that were requested and they should arrive no later than end of day Thursday, June 27. You’re “happy” to make the changes for them. You’re not angry that their attempts to contact you went over the invisible line. You’re not pissed off that they intruded on your weekend. Rather, you’re feeling upbeat and helpful.  Not only that, but you’ve given them a date by which they can expect return which helps alleviate future bugging.

I’m very excited to be working on this project with you. In the meantime, if you have any other projects or assignments to add, please feel free to reach out with them. Reinforce that you’re happy and excited about the assignment. Give them an ego boost. You’re excited to be working with them. Assure them that they can continue sending you tasks and that this situation should not be off-putting.

I’m all over it. Final sentence equates nap time blankie. It’s comforting. The client has nothing to worry about.

So you see, it doesn’t have to hurt to write an apology even when it hurts to write an apology. It also doesn’t have to be something that you plot out half your afternoon to write. Sure you might want to add a bit of personalization if the apology is to a friend or about a more serious matter, but the above should definitely take the worry out of the basic apologies that happen on a (hopefully irregular) basis.

What do you think? Share the ways you like to apologize below. Flowers don’t count unless they’re accompanied by a letter of acknowledgement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kissing Comfort Goodbye

One thing that paralyzed me as a writer, for years, was the idea of sharing my work.

Wait.

That’s a lie.

One thing that paralyzes me about being a writer (present tense) is the idea of sharing my work.

There are those who say writer’s block is simply a matter of severe anxiety. In some instances, I fully agree. This is one of those instances. In fact, the idea of sharing my work with the general public can send me into such terror that writing itself becomes impossible. After all, what could I possibly write that everyone will love?

The answer? Nothing.

I will never write something that everyone in the whole entire world loves and agrees with. It doesn’t happen for the Poet Laureate and it sure as hell won’t happen for me.

And actually, while we’re going down this road, let’s clarify further.

Not only will some people hate my writing to begin with. Some people that start out loving my writing will come to despise it.

Heck, even you’ve been there. Perhaps not with me, but with another creative.

Think of, for instance, that new song on the radio. Gosh, it’s really catchy. Every time it comes on, you can’t help but sing along. Then, a month or so in, it starts to feel a little old. By month three, you swear that radio stations are tracking your movements and only playing the song when you get into your car. Gah! YOU HATE THIS DAMN SONG, TURN IT OFF!

The reality of writing anything, and then sharing it, is that you will encounter a fair amount of criticism. Some immediate. Some down the road. But hey! You did something a lot of people are far too terrified to ever do. That includes your critics.

Criticism is made worse by the internet. The anonymity that haters today can have is rivaled by… nothing.

Frankly, you shouldn’t give a flying bird about any of it.

Being a writer – being an artist – being someone who creates – is reliant upon your ability to kiss comfort goodbye and just make.

And that is something both beautiful and unique about artists of every kind. This is art, my friend. This isn’t rocket science or brain surgery. This isn’t perfection. There is no right or wrong answer. This is expression. This is beauty. There is never complete comfort in the unknown.

We kiss comfort goodbye the moment we choose to create.

Is your inability to write caused by a lack of known factors? An inability to know and control the outcome?

I’m here to tell you that, that will never happen. As an artist, as a writer, you must release the anxieties that follow sharing your work with others. In doing so, you may find that your writer’s block falls a bit by the wayside, too.

 

 

 

 

Experimenting

Want to know when I get the worst writer’s block?

At the end of the day.

After my brain has been used and abused for one hundred other things – walking, driving, uploading, downloading, organizing, talking on the phone, remembering how many ounces are in a typical glass of wine. The usual.

Perhaps you can relate.

See, I never thought of myself as a morning person. In actuality, I was never much of a night owl either. I was more of an 11-7 type. So while there are articles written about how much smarter night owls are or how much more satisfied with life early birds are (why so many bird references when talking about times of day?) I never really related to those articles. I was neither.

Until I decided to experiment.

After all, as writers we’re required to experiment. Even someone simply handwriting a letter or a document experiments with the size of their letters, the angle of their cursive, and similar.

I experimented with what time of day I wrote for myself. This was writing anything from a journal entry to a manuscript.

I started with the evening because that was by and far the easiest. My work for the day was done. I could turn off my phone and not have to worry that I was missing something urgent from a writing client.

That was short lived.

I prefer a dental filling to having to pound out 1,000 words late at night.

I know this factually because I just had one done. A day after I’d tried to write 1,000 words at 8 P.M.

Next, I decided to try the lunch hour. After all, I get a lunch, right? That’s not asking too much from the world.

Turns out, it was. I could never get to my zen place. I was so worried about my phone call with Suzy and my appointment with Jack and my meeting with Mary and those paragraphs I had due to Lindsey.

Finally, I opted to try the morning. Just typing it, I hear the loud groan of displeasure echoing through my skull. My arm even twitched a little like my brain unconsciously asked it to slam down on the alarm clock, ensuring an additional five minutes of rest.

Guess what? 5 A.M. is the lucky charm. I give myself until about 5:30 to eat breakfast (cereal) and make coffee (usually I set a delay the night before so I don’t have to remember how to grind beans). Then I sit down and the words just flow without prompt. I could write for hours. In reality, I write for about one and a half before I start about morning chores like walking dogs and showering for work.

Experiencing writer’s block? Try switching up what time of day you write. It’s a little thing that makes a big difference.

PS: Who knew I was an early bird?