#NaNoWriMo: In which I am the Mean Parent

I almost never tell my daughter she’s smart. (I do, sometimes, when I forget not to and it just pops out in response to something unexpected she came up with.)1

That’s not because she isn’t – by all accounts and early testing, she’s a bona fide smarty pants and will no doubt excel at her chosen profession (a profession that probably doesn’t even exist today, and which she’ll have to patiently re-explain to me and my doddering old friends every time she drops in for a visit) – it’s because ‘smart’ isn’t the thing I want to reinforce/reward during her formative years.

So what do I reward with praise?

Hard work. Attention. Focus. Bottom line, that’s where success comes from. Smart is nice, but I know a lot of smart people who can’t hold down a job or pay their bills or even take care of their kids; a lot of pretty people too.

There were better writers than Zelazny back in the day; he was successful due to a solid work ethic. (And talent, sure, but talent honed with practice.) There are more talented writers than Stephen King, but some work of his is more likely to survive to 2200 simply because there’s more of it (ignoring the fact that I think he’s an as-yet unrecognized laureate of American literature). Again, the guy works.

It has not always been fun, but you have done it anyway.
It was not always fun, but they did it anyway.

This lesson was a hard one for me to learn, because I had a lot of smarts and talent in high school and college – never really had to work at anything. Then I got out into the real world and people actually wanted me to… you know… hit deadlines. Show up to work on time. Stay until quitting time. I couldn’t hold down any part-time job in college simply because I didn’t know how to work, and learning that took me almost ten years.

I’m better now, and when I praise Kaylee I praise her for the thing I think is most valuable:

“You worked really hard on that, and you did a good job. You should be proud of yourself.”

That’s what NaNoWriMo is really about. Finding the time. Sitting down. Finishing something big. Slogging when it’s not fun, and not losing control when it is. In short, doing the work.

So, let me be the first to say it:

You’ve worked really hard.

You did a good job.

You should be proud of yourself.

(Now get back to work. Have fun.)

1 – I try not to tell her she’s pretty all the time, also, but at that I utterly fail, due to this.

#NaNoWriMo: “Finish for me.”

When I’m in the doctor’s office filling out those first-visit forms, and I get to the section that asks if I have any history of mental illness in my family, I check “Other” and write in “My sister runs marathons.”

She tells a story about one of her fellow marathoners who ran most of the way with her on her first marathon. He was either in his late fifties or early sixties, and he was a vet: dude had run a half-dozen marathons or more. He stuck with Bonnie pretty much from about the fourth or fifth mile on, because little sister was unsure of herself — she just didn’t know if she was going to be able to do it — she’d never tried anything even half so long in the past, and she was struggling more with her own mind at that point than the run.

So he stayed with her. He coached her through the miles. Told her what to expect. Told her when the walls would come, and when the second winds would be there, and what each cramp meant, and how to deal with it and get through it and keep going.

About the 17th mile, he said, “Bonnie, I’m going to slow up now, and I want you to keep going. You’re strong, and you can do it. You get through the 18th mile and listen to the people cheering, and you’ll get there.”

She said she wanted to make sure he finished. They ran little bit longer before he answered.

“I’m not sure I’m going to finish, Bonnie. Maybe not this time. I don’t want you to slow down, because it’s hard to speed back up when you’re this far in, so you have to keep going. You finish for me, in case I can’t.”

So she said she would, and she ran, and she finished.

Less than 10% of the people who start NaNoWriMo actually finish. It’s not a fact anyone really publicizes, but it’s there. We are in rare air, here, and we have to make some promises today.

We have to finish, even if the other people who’d been running with you might not.

We keep going, because other people couldn’t, and we’re finishing for them, to prove that it can be done.

We have to finish because we’re the ones who can.

I’m behind right now. I had a rough day yesterday where I needed to be a dad a lot more than I needed to be writer, and just couldn’t get to the keyboard until late, at which point I was too tired to write sense. So I’m short on days and short on words. I think I’ll finish, but I dunno for sure.

But I’ll keep running if you do.

All right? Let’s do this.

Get back to work.

Have fun.

My sister tells me that she saw her running partner in the mass of people at the finish line; that he made it after all. Don’t count yourself out, even if you start slowing down. Nothing’s over yet.

#NaNoWriMo: Cracking the WIP

Morning, guys; how’d that Thanksgiving writing go? Eat a little too much or not enough?

Me? Oh, I’m writing this WHILE running on the elliptical, if that tells you how much I need to get done today (and how much deliciousness I shoved in my brown-sugar-n-squash hole yesterday).

*wastes five minutes trying to get a shot of himself and laptop on elliptical, while running, using the cell phone he’s also listening to music on… and crashes his phone*

Dammit, there goes my music. Hang on. This ain’t working.

*finishes workout*

*has shower*

*walks dogs*

*gets locked out of room*

*sits down, corrects all the typos in the first part of the post, and proceeds*

Okay. Right then. All that nonsense in the gym gave me an idea for the post today. Let’s talk about:

The Lie of Multi-tasking.

Here’s the basic Lie of Multi-tasking:

“It works.”

Allow me to offer a counter argument:

“Sod off; no it doesn’t.”

“Time Management” is the sort of catch-phrase that makes people nod along when it’s mentioned and roll their eyes when no one’s looking. Books like First Things First and Getting Things Done are often quoted, rarely read, and even more rarely put into use. (Or, if they are, become a ritual of masturbatory to-list-maintenance that doesn’t actually accomplish anything, but which looks really good. Productivity Porn, is what it is.)

Now, I read both books because I put together a class on Time Management and my audience (a lot blue-collar guys in management roles) needed to get better at it but were never going to take the time to read a couple books and boil all that stuff down to something they could use. The end result of all that research was a two-hour class during which the students get a blank pocket notebook and a double-sided business card on which I printed the entire ‘manual’ for the class.

Let me see if I can boil it down for you even further, because none of us have time to read a couple books right now, either.

Most of that class focuses on Doing, because we suck at Doing. Between people interrupting us and babbling away with no provocation, reminders from our email and calendar, our phones, Twitter, IM clients, facebook, Tumblr, new readers, and… you know… a life, it’s just hard to block out some uninterrupted time and then actually use it for whatever task it was intended to be used for.

So we try to do two things at the same time.

Proof that I am not that smart sometimes.
Proof that I am not that smart sometimes.

You know: Write while visiting with family. Write while making lunch. Write while… anything. While running on the elliptical, maybe.

I’m mentioned in at least one other post this month that there are very few activities during which I’ll multi-task; I think the list includes “folding laundry” and “watching a TV show” and then ends. Pretty much anything in my life that I think is important enough to do, I think is important enough to get my full attention — when that doesn’t happen, the end result of the two ‘intermixed’ activities usually sucks.

I mean… yeah, if I tell you “I’m going to try to write a blog post while running on the elliptical”, it doesn’t take a genius to say “dude, that’s going to suck, and both things will suck as a result”. (Yes, I know: I didn’t figure it out until I tried it, but I’m not that smart sometimes.)

Let me propose this theory: every single activity you try to mix with some other activity will suck just as bad as “typing on the elliptical”, but you may not notice it right away.

I sort of forgot that rule — I did a lot of juggling yesterday so I could sneak off down to my sister’s laundry room and get some writing done (sitting on her dryer with my netbook up on a workbench next to it), and it left me with the false impression that I could juggle things even more tightly — that I could actually do something while doing something else at the same time. The efficiency!

Again, I’m not too smart sometimes.

We’ve got a four days left on this NaNoWriMo project of ours. Thanksgiving was fun, but the time for family/writing juggling is done. It’s time to Crack the WIP.

That means focus.

So, here’s a few rules I (try to) follow to help me DO during those times I have allocated for Doing.

1. Focus on one task at a time.

  • Think of the schedule for my day on Tuesday; the focus on a single task doesn’t have to go on for hours at a time. If you get on a writing streak, sure, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 30 minute sprints. 20 minutes? Sure. Whatever works.
  • Eliminate all distractions. Shut off Twitter, Gmail, YIM, AIM, GTalk. Close your door, if you can. Make sure the cat, dog, kids, spouse, and coworkers are all are fed.
  • Don’t multi-task, and don’t let yourself get interrupted.

2. Seriously, don’t #*$#ing Multitask.

Multitasking: the fine art of avoiding two things you don’t want to do by working on both of them simultaneously.

The supposed efficiency of multitasking is an illusion — it hurts your productivity, increases the chance of error, and generally makes the end product of your work suck more than it should. Don’t do it.

The human brain is amazing in many many ways, but it positively sucks at concentrating on two things at once. As soon as you try, you can guarantee you’ll miss something important.

3. Control Who Has Access to You

Stop and think about something for a second: who has unrestricted access to you at virtually any time?

Ask yourself, seriously, because it says a lot about who you are.

I set my GTalk Status as Busy most of the time because I know that there are very few people who will be comfortable sending me an instant message anyway (provided they feel they have a good reason). Here’s a happy (non-) coincidence: the people that know me well enough to ignore that message are the people on my All Access list.

4. No one else gives a crap if you Finish.


No they don’t.

Not even him. Not her either. No one.

Not even me; I’m distracting you RIGHT NOW with this post.

You are the only person who cares about getting your story done, and the only way to make that happen is to viciously (perhaps anti-socially) defend the blocks of time you set up to write.

You must do this. You must be cruel. Crack the WIP. Make everyone obey.

Even you.

Get back to work.

Have fun.

Much love to Rowan Larke, who coined the phrase “Crack the WIP” on Twitter a few days ago, and graciously gave me permission to use it here.

#NaNoWriMo: In Which You are a Turkey-day Ninja

Happy Thanksgiving! (To all the USians, that is – to everyone else, um… well… it’s Thursday. Woot.)

I have no advice for you today. Today is a day of family and friends and good food to eat, so just take the day off, relax, and worry about NaNoWriMo tomorrow.

Seriously. Don’t worry about it. It’s fine. You’re fine. Go have another slice of pie.

Continue reading “#NaNoWriMo: In Which You are a Turkey-day Ninja”

#NaNoWriMo: In Which You Are Amazing

Amazing what can happen when you have the finish line in sight. – Nathan Fillion

Okay, you got me: he’s not talking about writing, but a (probably justifiably) cancelled TV show, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

It’s the 25th. Five days to go.1

By now, one of two things have probably happened — you’ve either–

What? Okay, fine. There are three things:

  1. You can see where the story needs to end.
  2. You can see that the story’s actually a lot longer than 50k.
  3. You have no fucking idea where the story’s going.

Conveniently, you do the same thing in any of those situations.


If 1, you are charging toward the actual finish line.

If 2, you are charging to a big crisis point. (You didn’t know there was a crisis point coming? There is. You need to leave things on a horrifying, terrible cliffhanger at 50k, so you are forced to come back to it next month. I will allow nothing less.)

If 3, you are charging to blast your way out of the marshy wasteland and into some clear territory, where you can get your bearings.

We’ve been in the Wastelands a long while2, and it’s time to come out. As scary as they were when we headed in, we’ve gotten kind of used to them; we’ve gotten comfortable. Are they nice? No. Are there creature comforts to be had? No. Have we known the lilt of another human voice? Nope, and believe me, that’s starting to show in our eyes.

But for all that, there have been upsides: we can talk to ourselves, cry at the triumphs and agonies we’ve made up out of our of heads, laugh at the jokes that maybe no one else will ever think is funny. It’s hard to leave a place like that, where we can really let the writercrazy out.

But it’s time. We’re headed back for civilization now, and to cross that border, we need to charge – to force it.

This is good. It means one last little burst of crazy; a farewell to the wasteland.

Don’t overthink it.

Actually, to quote my wife, it’s best not to ‘think’ it, period. Whatever’s coming off your fingers and onto the page, go with it – it’s the story that wants to be told, and right now, you’re writing it just for you, so throw it out there and enjoy the process.

By way of example, I’m going to share a short bit from the story I’m working on. Bear with me.

The princess heard a squirrel-sized thump from the throne room. She knew that was bad, because squirrel-sized noises didn’t carry that far (she was down the hall and out of view of the guards) unless they were very loud to begin with, and that meant that Mak might have fallen down the chimney.

It also meant that the guards next to the throne room doors probably heard it.

“Did you hear something?” one of the guards asked the other.

“Oh dear,” the princess whispered.

“You know, I think I did,” said the other guard. “Sounded a bit like –”

“A thump?” suggested the first guard.

“That’s the word for it,” the second guard said. “A thump. I wonder –”

The princess heard another sound, then, which she also recognized, and wished she didn’t.

“Here now, did you hear that?” asked the first guard.

“I did,” said the second guard, “but that wasn’t a thump.”

“Not at all,” agreed the first guard. “Sounded more like a clang — something metal, like.”

“That’s it,” said the other guard. “Think we’d best check it out?”

“Oh dear,” said the princess.

“Well, it came from the throne room,” replied the guard. “And we’re watching the throne room for any disturbances, so it seems that’s exactly what we should be doing.”

“What’s that?” asked the other guard.

“What’s what?” said the first.

“What’s the thing we should be doing?” said the second guard.

“Check it out,” said his partner, “the noise. What else could I have meant?”

“Well, the way you said it, you could have been saying that we should just continue watching it,” explained the second guard. “The throne room, I mean. That’s the problem with pronouns, you know. Antecedents.”

The first guard tipped his head. “Ante-whats?”

“Antecedents. It’s one of those whassits. Grammatical bits, init it?” The guard shrugged.

The first guard peered at his counterpart. “Are you drunk?”

The guard scowled. “Just because you didn’t clarify the action within the sentence, don’t go accusing me –”

“Let’s just open things up and take a look, shall we?” He glared at the second guard, who matched his expression.



“Oh excellent,” sighed the princess, who had walked up to stand next to them while they argued. “I just need to pop my head in quickly and have another look at the drapes.”

The guards both blinked at the princess. They reminded her of a pair of not particularly smart owls. “Here now,” one of them said. “Begging your princess’s pardon, but we really shouldn’t do that.”

“But you just said you were going to open up the door and look inside anyway,” pointed out the princess.

“Well, we are,” said the guard, looking at his partner for support. “But we can’t have you — that is to say — didn’t you already get a good enough look?” He shifted his feet and scratched at the back of his neck. “Purple drapes wasn’t it?”

“Certainly,” said the princess, “but I can’t recall if it was more of a lilac or a plum purple.” She leaned in, as though imparting a secret. “That’s terribly important to some people.”

“I’m sure,” said the guard, who wasn’t. “But we can’t have you looking in.”

“Why ever not?” asked the princess.

“It’s… the captain,” said the other guard. “He’s not one to make many exceptions, you understand, and we already made one for you earlier.” He glanced down the hallway in both directions. “He’d be very cross with us if we did it again.”

The first guard frowned. “If we did what again?”

“Don’t start,” his partner muttered, never taking his eyes off the princess.

Don’t get me wrong; that bit amuses the HELL out of me – reminds me of Terry Pratchett, I suppose – but I have no illusions that it will survive through the editing process and into the final story.

Any of you nodding along with what I just said have missed the point.

It not about what will survive will survive to final edits. It’s about getting the story down.

It’s about writing. That’s it.

Put your head down and charge. There’s the finish line.

Get back to work.

Have fun.

1 – Close enough. Don’t math at me.
2 – Actually, driving across Nebraska today, so I’m still in them.

#NaNoWriMo: Using Time

I’m writing from the Home Office today, rather than a booth at Panera or the front seat of my parked car over lunch hour. I have this lovely wingback chair (secretly also a recliner) in the corner of my office, and it’s in that chair that I’ve tapped out about two-thirds of this month’s project (with my trusty EeePC resting on the Logitech Portable Lapdesk that makes in-chair typing not just possible by actually enjoyable).1

This unfamiliar comfort comes to me as the primary benefit of burning some of my precious vacation time to extend the Thanksgiving holiday a little bit. Tomorrow, Kate and I will be spending ten hours of quality time together – with our dogs – driving to (and through) the barren wastelands that birthed me, but I took the extra day to both prep for the trip and write.

That’s right: a whole glorious day of writing – an actual day away from work, and not some crappy Saturday or Sunday, where your writing time is polluted by pointless interruptions like “family activities” and “feeding children” and “things I absolutely promised I’d do, even though it’s NaNoWriMo”. There are no family activities or children to do them with — the kids are at school, and my wife is working. Likewise, I have no weekend home improvement/maintenance obligations, because it is not the weekend.

Do you see the loophole I have discovered? Can you conceive the power that rests within my hands?

Who wants to touch me?


I’m sure you’re asking yourself how I’ll be spending the day — with Thanksgiving coming, there’s even a small chance you’ll be able to enjoy a luxury similar (albeit inferior) to mine, so let me lay out the means with which I maximize my writing productivity on a day like today.

[But first, a brief pause in the writing while kick my daughter out of the house drive my darling child off to participate in the physical and mental enrichment so necessary to ensuring that she can take care of me financially in my old age. ]

*Returns, windblown, toting a mocha with double espresso shot.*

Ahh, evil corporate caffeine goodness. *sips* Ahh.

Okay, now then, where was I. Oh yes.

The Day.

Now is the time that we make the boogie.
Now is the time that we make the boogie.

A writer is working when he’s staring out of the window. – Burton Rascoe

6 am: Get up.

I know this isn’t how most people roll. Hell, it’s not how I’d choose to, if I didn’t have a day job and (more significantly) a four year old to get ready before I can go to said day job. However, I do have those things, so 6 am is what happens, even when I could theoretically sleep in — my brain wakes me up at 5:45 and I start thinking about stuff, at which point I might as well get up.

I eat immediately upon rising, because otherwise I forget, and if you get up and stay active for about an hour or so in the morning without feeding yourself, your body starts worrying it’s not going to GET any food, and goes into fat-storage mode, which means that when you DO eat, it’ll all get stored as… well. Yeah. So I eat right away, check email, catch up on my must-reads out on the internets, et cetera.

Blog Post.
I start putting together the daily blog post.

She slept in a bit, which is fine since we’re in no rush today. She piles into the office and sits with me for a bit, then demands breakfast, which I provide. After, she is given instructions to get dressed for school (and oh how I love that she’s able to do that semi-autonomously these days), and I poke at the blog post a bit more.

Wife arises.
There may be some kissing here. I ain’t sayin’.

Kate also, at Kaylee’s request, is in charge of Doing Hair. Apparently, I suck at it.

School Delivery.
Goodbyes take awhile, since I won’t see Kaylee until Friday and I need to store up as many hugs and kisses as I can.

Drop-off is followed by Ambulatory Caffeine Tropism (run to Starbucks).

More Blog Post.
That would be me, writing this.

Start Next Blog Posts.
I’m going to be on the road all day, so I’m writing a pre-scheduled post for tomorrow (probably built around a comment Nathan Fillion made about the cancellation of Dollhouse) and for Thanksgiving (on the secret practices of Ninja Story Writing). The Thanksgiving one will be scheduled to drop EARLY, peeps, so you can implement the secrets within THAT VERY DAY.

Kate is off to Nia, where she is working on getting her White Belt (first tier of Instructor, I gather). In the meantime, I go downstairs and do about five miles on the elliptical (30 minutes). Say what you will about gym-vs-outside-vs-whatever, this is the deal: with a kid around, it is emm-effing hard to get to the gym regularly (unless the kid’s scheduled to be in a class there themselves), and frankly it’s a pain in the ass to take an hour to get ready, go, and come back from a 30 minute workout. It is not a pain in the ass to walk downstairs and hop on the elliptical – therefore, I actually do it, which is really that part that makes exercise… you know… effective.

Why does exercise make it into the Day of Writing schedule? Because mind and body are all one thing, peeps. They call it muscle memory for a reason; I’m not just a squishy harddrive being carrying around by the meat-zombie – the whole body is the harddrive, and it needs refreshment and exercise as much as your brain to work well. Also, the workout gets some blood going to the brain, which ain’t bad.

(Not to mention Thanksgiving’s coming, and I just had a Venti Mocha — the fact is, I just need to work out.)

The elliptical faces a blank wall, which encourages my mind to wander to things I need to write today. This is on purpose.

Maybe you don’t have a home gym, or a gym-gym? Then go for a walk or something. I highly recommend it.

Another great idea machine. My best ideas come in the shower. I wish I could find a waterproof whiteboard to mount on the wall in there.

Finish Blog Posts.
Hopefully by about 11am, but given that I’m already behind a bit on my schedule AS I WRITE THIS, more like noon.

Lunch! (And Stare out the Window)
Ham and cheese on toast. Coke Zero. Some almonds. I want to keep it light so I don’t get sleepy in the afternoon.

Also, probably dump some of the leftovers that are going to go bad while we’re gone.

Also also, get caught back up on email and Twitter and suchlike.

Write Story.
One keypress disables the wifi in my netbook (I had no idea how often I’d use that feature); another disables the touchpad. Off we go.

I’m shooting for a big chunk of words today: four or five scenes, hopefully.

Scene One done.
Go get another soda. Let the dogs outside. Rotate the laundry, if Kate hasn’t already.

Scene Two done.
Stare out the window for awhile. Think about building an addition onto the house. Finally remember to check to see if the hotel for this weekend has wifi.

Get another Soda.

Err. Wait. Is that an actually bold-faced thing? Probably.

Scene Three, done.
Walk the dogs around the block, pick up the mail. Get outside, let your brain chew on local flora and fauna. Let your dogs sniff local flora and fauna.

Dump all the mail into the recycling bin when you get home. Saves the trouble of sorting it.

Poke around the Internet. Stare out the Window.
Twitter. My own blog if there’s comments. Play the new Adrift podcast back while I’m browsing. Twitter again. Newsreader, and probably Burning Wheel’s forums, just cuz.

Also, log into Lord of the Rings Online on the Main Machine, so that it can download updates, cuz December 1 is coming soon, and there’s a new expansion dropping that day. It’s like they KNOW about NaNoWriMo.

Scene Four… kinda halfway.
I started it too late, and it’s time for…

Which is going to be Chuck’s Stuffed Squash Thing tonight. It SHOULD be a leftovers night, but dammit I want to try the recipe.

Also, we’ll probably watch some TV. Castle and Fringe are on the DVR, so figure we blow at least 85 minutes on both of those, not counting cooking time, so figure it’s dark by the time we’re all done.

Also also, we’ll fold and put away laundry while we watch TV. Hell, I might even pack my part of the suitcase. Watching TV is one of those (very rare) things where I don’t mind multi-tasking.

… Finish Scene Four
This will take awhile. I will get up and get another soda at least once in here.

Browse More Internets.
Kiss at least 30 minutes goodbye here.

Start Scene Five
There is going to be a LOT of window-gazing in this one, because it’s been quite a day. My goal is to get about halfway in, then leave it so I can jump into that on the long-ass drive tomorrow. (Bless the 7 to 9 hour battery life on my netbook. Bless it, I say.)

And that’s the Day.
What to take away from all of this? It ain’t all writing. Breaks are necessary. (Honestly, I’m sure I severely downplayed the number of times I’ll check the internet today.) Refresh your brain often, and spend time with the people in your life because while writing is awesome, having someone to share it with when you’re done is so much better.

That’s it.

Get back to work.

Have fun.

1 – I could actually talk at some length about why I write in the chair/lapdesk on my netbook and not at the nice big desk all of four feet away — the one with the lovely ergnomic keyboard hooked up to the Big Fancy PC and Big Fancy Monitor — but that’s probably a post for another day. Specifically, for a day closer to the start of the month, not the end. Opportunity missed, I’ll come back to it another time.

Adrift, Episode 6 (podcast) (#nanowrimo)

In which we see how very bad the plan is that Jon, Finn, and Bilabil come up with, and then return to the “princess story” for a bit. I’m particularly happy with both sections.

Also: New Microphone! Man, it helped a lot. (Thanks for the loan, Tim!)

Comments, as always, welcome. If you’d like to subscribe via RSS feed, the address for the podcast-only feed is http://doycetesterman.com/index.php/category/podcasts/feed/.


#NaNoWriMo: I feel like you need a pep talk.


So we’re about a week out. Next Monday night, they take down the tents and roll the circus off to the next town.

Now, if you’re very very lucky, and your word count is roughly on track, you’re maybe starting to see where the end is. There’s about ten big scenes between here and there, and you’re home free, running under the sun.

Maybe not, though.

Keep writing. Keep doing it and doing it. Even in the moments when it’s so hurtful to think about writing. – Heather Armstrong

Could be you just finished up a nice, big, fat weekend where you expected to get about five thousand words both days and really get ahead. Or get caught up. Or something. That was what you expected.

You didn’t expect it to hurt, that’s for goddamn sure. You didn’t expect it to feel like pulling your eyeteeth with a pair of needlenose vise grips just to get 400 words out. You didn’t expect to barely get through your daily word count, and nevermind that crazy talk about getting ahead a little bit — let’s just forget that idea was ever out on the table. It’s disheartening, is what it is; umpteen thousand more words? After we’ve done so many? That’s just —

It’s okay.


Shh. Shut up.

It’s okay.

I’m putting these posts out here for everyone, and I feel – genuinely feel – as though they’re doing some good. I really hope that they are – it’s why I keep doing them when (and here’s a big reveal) I had absolutely no intention of doing them in the first place. Shit just happens sometimes, you know? Sometimes it’s good that it does.

But I also feel as though some folks think that, since I’ve done this a bunch in the past, this shit is easy for me, so let me be clear:

This is not easy for me. I am right there with you, just barely ahead of my word count, unable to really get ahead a little bit and coast.

Sure, every so often, I get an absolutely burning desire to write. To write right now. I am filled with author-energy and goddamn but I just have to get my fingers on a keyboard immediately.

Those magical moments almost exclusively happen about four minutes into a two-hour meeting that I have exactly zero chance of skipping.

Most of the time? 99% of the time, when it’s time to write, I’m reluctant to sit down. I’m sluggish about actually starting.

I have a theory that the closer you get to the Thing You Should Really Be Doing With Yourself, the more you procrastinate and drag your feet, because your mind (filthy, lazy traitor) knows how busy it’s going to be when that Thing begins, and it’s trying to prevent it from happening.

So instead of those fiery bolts of inspiration sweeping us away, there’s a routine. There’s the obligation and the commitment and the habit and the necessity of avoiding the shame of failure. That gets me sat down and writing.

It is not easy. We do it anyway.

Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail. – Ernest Hemingway

So we had a non-stellar weekend, productivity-speaking. That was yesterday. Fuck yesterday.

Today, write.

Or maybe you made the mistake of re-reading stuff from earlier this month, and now you can’t bear the thought of doing anything but going back and fixing the broken bits you saw. It’ll only take a few minutes. An hour, tops.


It will take the rest of the month, if you let it; the rest of your life. This is not statue-polishing time; it isn’t even statue-carving time. It’s cut-the-stone-from-the-mountain time, and that sucker is almost out. Don’t start —

You know what? This reminds me of a story.

Story Time
I love my grandmother. I love her to tiny little grandmother pieces, and not because she’s the only grandma I’ve got left — it’s because she’s always been the ‘cool’ grandma. (I’m her oldest grandkid, and that actually holds some traction with her as well, which I don’t mind.) She is unfailing in her love and support and her rickety laugh and her quirky smile.

She just… does this one little thing I hate.

See, Grandma Floy has been around a couple of times when I’ve moved. Two, if I remember correctly, and she has always been a tremendous help, even if it’s just with a few suggestions here and there and making sure we all have some lemonade and sandwiches when it’s time for a break.

But there’s this other thing she does during the move.

She dusts the furniture.

Not… you know… not when it arrives in the new place.

Not when it gets unpacked.

Not before we pack it.

She dusts that shit while we’re moving it.

No, not while it’s on the truck.

While we are carrying it. While we are carrying it to the truck. Through doors and other door-like apertures. She is dusting.

So forget that rock-carving analogy. That’s trite and overdone. Try this:

This is not Dusting time. This is not even Unpacking time. This is Lugging and Moving time. Put the fucking dust cloth down, Floy-Jean. I love you, but damn.

Or this:

Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped. — Lillian Hellman

… to which I will add “so stop trying, cuz you’ve got work to do.”

You do, right?

You do. Write.

Get back to work.

Have fun.

The only reason for being a writer is that you can’t help it. — Leo Rosten