Are You A Wanter Or A Doer?

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London

Truer words were never spoken.

Here we are – almost at a new year. I bet you’re making resolutions aren’t you? Or perhaps you’re just thinking of all those resolutions you made last year that you didn’t fulfill. You’re feeling like a bit fat failure. Next year you’ll be different. Next year things will happen that surround you with just the right circumstances.

I find that the root of the issue, especially for many would-be writers, is that they’re waiting, hoping to be inspired.

I hate to break it to you, but waiting and hoping (with anything, but especially with writing) is stupid. That’s right: stupid.

You’re lazy.

You’re fearful.

You’re whining.

Stop it.

Allow me to share a story. My college major was journalism. It pains me to think of my eighteen-year-old self, now. How sweet she was. How innocent. How creative. The world was her oyster. And her skin had the thickness of a grape.

She dreamt of changing the world with her writing. She’d write for causes and the world would stand up and rally behind her because she was brilliant and insightful.

Did I mention that I was going into this major have no journalism experience under my belt but plenty of creative writing experience?

I learned a very important lesson in those four years: a creative writer is not a journalist. My sentences were too long. My language was too flowery. My descriptions weren’t based in fact. Why the hell was I using so many adjectives? I didn’t write fast enough. I was too nice as an editor. I couldn’t write the hard, cold truth even when it was staring me in the face because it put someone else in a bad light and that made me feel terrible about myself. This isn’t a review, it’s a summary. Are you crying? Why are you crying? Stop crying!

THERE’S NO CRYING IN JOURNALISM!

Oh, but I cried. I’d bring those marked up news stories home and cry over my collection of various failures until the red ink pooled like puddles of blood. Perhaps it wouldn’t have hurt so much if this feedback didn’t come from every single journalism professor I ever had. I was destined to suck.

But I’ll be damned if I didn’t grow a thick skin. That’s the first thing you need if you’re going to be a writer: a leathery hide. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. I didn’t appreciate it then, but I laugh about it now.

I also honed one hell of a talent. Not everyone can write – though a lot of people think that they can. It’s a talent, friends. And like any talent, it takes practice. You must WANT it.

Writing is not a profession for the weak. It’s not a job for people unwilling to work and grow and learn hard lessons. It’s not the place for an idealist who longs for inspiration as she thoughtfully stares out the window chewing on the end of her pencil.

If you want to write professionally, you’re throwing yourself into a deep, dark mosh pit of kajillions of people with the exact same dream. You can’t sit around on your keester, praying for inspiration. You have to get to work. Sometimes that means working when there is nothing to work with. In fact, you have to work ten times harder, longer, and faster than anyone else in that mosh pit of would-be writers. Can you do it?

Don’t wait for inspiration to burst through your brain like lightening on a cool, spring day.

The people that want something – really want something – they go after it. The people that like the idea of something? They wait around, hoping to be inspired.

Hell, you may as well be waiting for Prince Charming. Save yourselves, my friends. He’s not coming while you catch those extra Z’s.

So tell me…do you go after something or do you simply want it?

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Writing Raw

Are you all apologized out this week?

Excellent.

I’d like to discuss a new writing topic: sharing difficult stories.

I once said that writing what you know is terrible advice. I stand by that blog 115%.

However, for those writers that feel the need to write what they know, deciding to do so is often the first step in a long, painful process.

Recently, I was approached about how to write on some very personal subject matter. Without it, the triumphs of the story weren’t as meaningful.

That didn’t mean it was easy to write. However, the decision had been made that, no matter what, this deep rooted pain was going to be the story. How to make it sound real without making it sound whiny, victimized, or a slew of other negatives?

Here’s the truth: it’s easy to let our emotions take center stage when we write personal things. To be whiny, to be a victim. Hell, it’s from YOUR point of view. Recall in the apology blog when I told you to keep it short and sweet because the more you think about it, the more pissed off you’ll get?

I’m going to give you just the opposite advice this time.

Let it all out, my friend.

I truly believe that to write the tough stuff, you simply have to sit down and write it all exactly how YOU feel it happened. Let every hurt, every scar, and every insult just pour out of you. Cry about it. Scream about it. See red. Play the victim. Feel pain. Take no prisoners. Throw everyone under the bus. This is YOURS.

Are you a mess, now?

Good.

Walk away.

Leave it for a day.

Return.

Deep breath.

Edit.

It’s time to take that puppy from raw to personal, deep and meaningful. You’ll find that you’re much clearer about a written situation when you can come back to it. It’s almost like a time machine or a second chance.

Give it a try.