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The Writer Who Hates Writing

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I was talking to another writer a couple weeks ago, and they launched into a diatribe that I hear far too often:

  • “Ugh, I have to start that new writing project, I hate that. Writing is the worst thing in the world, it makes me absolutely miserable. But, we all have to do it, right?”

No. No, person-who-identifies-themselves-as-a-writer-but-hates-writing.

We don’t all have to do it.

Honestly, I’m never really sure what to say to this.

On one hand, I get where some people are coming from when they say it. Writing is hard. Hitting deadlines is hard. Coming up with ideas and attempting to share them in any sort of cohesive and competent manner is hard. Sitting your ass in a chair to vomit up the shittiest first draft you’ve ever written, until the next shitty first draft you’ll have to write all over again, is hard.

Things that are hard are not always the “most fun.”

(She said while working at the office on a Sunday to try to get her newsletter out on the weekend, even if it was almost 3pm.)

So, sure. We all are human and trying to connect and commiserate with each other. When you find another writer out there, it’s like collecting your herd of unicorn friends, that will understand your own special and unique struggles. While the rest of the world pulls their “Oh, it must be nice, to work from home all day in your pajamas, wish I could do that” snarls, you have someone you can text and say “But they don’t understand…having to think is legit the worst thing ever to happen to a person, ever, in the history of humanity!”

But then there’s the other, I’m hoping smaller, group of people venting this frustration.

They are the ones to whom I have no idea what to reply.

I write because my brain is a swirling mass of conversations and imaginations and short stories and essays and information and and and and and (I’ve told you before, it’s a weird place up there!) — and writing is how I made small semblances of sense in the chaotic cacophony.

That’s me.

If I were an artist, I might need to paint it out. If I were an outgoing personality who loved talking to (at) people, I might set up a podcast or a video. If I were a person who needed to looks at statistics and data and the maths behind theories to come to a conclusion, I might embrace the hell out of being an accountant or actuary.

It probably seems a bit odd to be reading this on a blog of a writer, writing to people who are interested in becoming better writers. Which, in my humble opinion, in one of the most noble pursuits a person can undertake. (Ok, my humble and totally biased opinion!)

What I’m saying instead is that if you hate hate HATE and loathe the ideation, research, prep, drafting, revising (and revising and revising and revising and…), and publishing of writing, then why?

Why on all of the good green Earth would you spend your time forcing yourself to do it?

There are sooooo many ways to share your thoughts with others – find the one you love and run with it.

It won’t always be easy, and some days the thing you love will be the thing that causes you the most angst and suffering.

If that thing is writing, then hi. Again. We’ll get through this together.

I’m always so happy to have you here.

If something else is your thing, but you like challenging yourself with new things that you can kinda tolerate, like brussels sprouts and writing short essays for online content, that’s great as well.

But seriously. If you can’t stand having to make yourself write, then don’t. Just don’t.

Life is far too short to consistently and constantly be doing things that make you miserable.

What Happens When Your Muse Doesn’t Answer?

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There’s a lot of confusion about the Muses.

Some say they are Greek (well, most cite the Greek mythology), while others believe that Osiris collected them while traveling through Asia and the Middle East. Depending on which oracle you listened to (aka the area of Greece you lived in), they were either the daughters of Zeus and  Mnemosyne or Uranus and Gaia, and possibly nymphs but most likely goddesses (lowercase “g”).

In certain stories, there are three, others there are nine. Their names and function vary wildly.

Regardless of their origin story, the idea of a “muse” has become a standby reality for creatives. Artists especially seem to have a deep love for their muse of choice; finding their muse in others or a single person, some who find it in an inanimate object or experience.

A few tortured souls seem to find their muse at the bottom of a whiskey bottle or sharp point of a needle.

I like the beautiful idea behind a muse, something that will inspire your passion and desire, but I find little comfort and rationale in basing any of your work and decisions on anyone (or anything) else. What will you do if something happens to your muse? How do you handle it if your muse does not answer your beckon call?

People who live for something else, whether it be their muse or other external sources of inspiration and validation, tend to have a lot of excuses and broken dreams. They kept waiting for an outside force to impact their existence, without realizing that the only way to put their work into motion is to take action themselves.

Muses served an important function in Greek canon and the later Roman Pantheon. Apparently, they were involved in Egyptian mythology as well (which I didn’t know ‘til I started researching muses!)

But constantly waiting for yours to provide the inspiration to get a post written or an article published or a book manuscript drafted will leave you with a lot of ideas and dreams of “What if” with nothing to show for it in the end.

I may or may not be speaking from experience here.*

Finding the People Who Care

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I’ve recently seen a complaint making the rounds from a few prominent writers and marketers, in varied forms, which made me start wondering if I was missing some big story somewhere.

When I asked a couple privately what their real problem was, I was told it was “just a joke.” That old chestnut.

Basically, people taking to social media to call out cooking sites and food bloggers, for including backstories and personal stories in their posts.


Now, I’m immediately going to get irritated by anyone with a platform and following, who jumps on their soapbox to try to declare that people shouldn’t be able to tell their own stories.

I realize I might be weird this way (ok, let’s be real, I’m weird in a lot of ways), but I love reading people’s stories. Getting to know why something is important to them, hearing about their family and traditions, understanding how they came to discover whatever particular thrill brought them to sharing this moment of sharing.

It’s something that perplexes me: how can people not be insatiably intrigued by the people and world around them? Remember Anthony Bourdain? He created an entire food show, phenomenon, and legacy with sitting on flipped over buckets at street markets and just listening people talk to him.

We live in a fascinating time and place, this crazy speck of dust spinning through the universe, and online content gives us the opportunity to get sneak peeks into lives and thoughts and experiences we never had before.

More importantly, I see little point in belittling them, or getting irritated about it.

But that’s unfortunately the way that content marketing and phenomenons like the 24-hour news cycle and eCommerce have conditioned us to think.

That there is no value in stories and writing if they do not serve what YOUR short-term needs and objectives are.

Which is, of course, utter bullshit.

I speak to a lot of writers and creatives in passing, for consultations, during masterminds, and on our podcast Writers’ Rough Drafts.

One of the things we always talk about, when I ask why they started writing or how they built their career, is this need to tell stories. For many, taking to a blog or column or (for those with a long enough writing-background) LiveJournal and ListServ, was the way to get thoughts out of their heads – where they simply swirled around, constantly niggling at them.

Eventually, through practice and working at improving their craft, they started to get more attention. More than just the 12 original old-school RSS feed subscribers, and their Mom.

They found an audience that was filled with “their people.”

And I suppose that is my greatest problem with criticisms like the one above.

When people with platforms try to tell others that their stories aren’t worth reading, it is most likely because they are stories that that person is not interested in.

While I love stories, I don’t read ALL THE STORIES. I don’t finish every book I start. I click away from more articles than I complete. I daydream my mind off into an exploration of no less than one million rabbitholes every time I am forced to make small talk with strangers at dinner parties.

That doesn’t mean the stories aren’t worthy of being written and shared.

It means that I am not the person the stories are being written for.

If these people are looking for recipes to “feed their family” (honestly, how condescending and shameful can you get?!), then they simply need to look at recipe sites. It’s exactly what they were created for. They have one job, and it is to focus on the one thing, that in an instant, fulfills their commoditized need and one-track mind.

They need a recipe, they go to a recipe site, they get a recipe. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

There’s a place for them to find exactly what they are looking for, yet they take the time to instead whinge about a site that is obviously not for them.

And that, my friend, is the most important part of this whole message.

Those cooking sites and food bloggers are not creating content and websites for them.

They are creating stories and experiences for their people – the people who crave the background and personal anecdotes. The personality and the fun. The process and steps and how-to.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, there are a number lifestyle bloggers and online influencers doing quite well, doing just that.

So it really frosts my cookies (I heard that phrase once and it made me chuckle; and since this is a food-themed piece, we’ll go with it) when I read things like this, especially from prominent personalities.

As if we don’t have enough to deal with in a world where the poignant is so easily replaced by the sensational.

I’m not going to give you the special snowflake line, where I tell you that you will absolutely make a ton of money one day, just by being yourself and telling your stories. The newly available addresses listed on domain registries across the internet will show you a deepening reservoir of folks who tried and weren’t able to succeed.

Maybe they gave up too early. Maybe they couldn’t make the commitment to practice and improve. Maybe they are that person at the dinner party who drones on in a way that makes everyone around them “go to their happy place” to smile and nod their way out, slowly backing away.

Or maybe, they are taking advice from these jerks, who want a world filled only with the quickly passing trends that serve a singular function, so they create content that doesn’t build a fiercely devoted community and instead is write for an audience that will probably never read them anyway.

There will always be a market for quick and easy, and it will likely make lots of money. If that’s the route you want to go, then you do you, boo.

But if you want to make the time, put in the practice, improve your craft, and tell your stories…in my experience, from the conversations I have, and through the successes I see again and again…it does pay off.

You need to find your people.

Don’t focus on the people who tell you they only want what you don’t provide.

Focus on the ones who are desperate for the experience only you can create.

You’re the Author of Your Own Life Story

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The following is a true story…for your weekend reading amusement.

A friend asked me late last week, “What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?”

“Oh, I’m going to see the new Rebel Wilson movie.”

She did that pity-head-tilt that is trying to be supportive. “Good for you.”

If there was ever a time for someone to wink at me, it would have been now.

“Well, I’m going on my own.”

“Oooh, maybe you’ll meet someone there!”

“Not sure how many people I’ll meet, alone at the early showing in a dark movie theatre, but I appreciate your optimism.” 

It’s important to have those people who believe in you, thinking that you aren’t the dating and relationship Chernobyl that you are.

Fast forward to V-Day.

The movie theatre here is self-service, and you choose your seat from those available on a screen before you go in. I had ordered a few days before, knowing I’d be getting off a consultation call and jumping into my car to race over and buy delicious-yet-horrible-for-you butter-soaked movie theatre popcorn before the previews had kicked in.

At the time, I was the only person who had purchased a ticket.

Though it was a 4:30pm showing, I figured more people would obviously buy as the day got closer. It’s Valentine’s Day, after all. And this is a movie marketed as the anti-romantic-comedy rom-com. Fun for everyone!

I walked into the theatre, which has (yes, I went and counted just for the accuracy of this story) 142 seats.

141 to choose from with my one selected “unavailable” blue square.

My thought that other people might have bought tickets was very inaccurate.

There were only two other people in the theatre with me — a single dad, with his tween-aged daughter.

Now, here is the part in the story they refer to as a “call-back.”

Remember a few sentences above, when I noted that not only do you have to pre-select your seats before going into the theatre, but that mine was now blued out?

I looked at my ticket, confirmed it was seat G9, and did the quick math to discover the only other two people in the entire theatre had bought the two seats directly beside me.

Yep, on my lovely “just gonna go out and have a nice me-time lounge in a dark theatre watching completely unrealistic love storylines play out on screen while I stuff my face with trans-fats and salts” — this guy had chosen to sit himself RIGHT BESIDE ME.

Now, dear reader, how do you think this story played out?

  • Did I avoid them entirely? Duck past, even though they obviously knew they had chosen to sit by the one lonely-heart in the theatre, and sit three rows behind them to devour my smuggled Reese’s-stuffed heart (oh, I brought that too) in peace?
  • Did I take the advice of my well-meaning friend? Sit down, meet someone new, let the whimsy of a nearly scripted Hollywood meet-cute be start of a new fun adventure?
  • Did I make it weird? Plant down irritatedly in the seat beside them, the three of us together as the only people in a theatre, but never say a word and immediately leave after to avoid post-movie conversation?

Is your mind spinning, with all the beautiful, horrible, hilarious, and/or romantic possibilities?

I’ve had a number of conversations the past couple weeks with readers who signed up for free consultations with me this month who are struggling to come up with ideas.

But let me tell you: coming up with what to write about — what stories to tell — can be as easy as the above.

A simple introduction, a set-up for something to happen…and that’s where the magic happens.

Your mind can spin out. Explore the different possibilities. Run down all the potential scenarios. Let your imagination tumble, let your curiosity roam. In this moment, the world is your oyster and nothing is wrong.

Write them all out, even in short-hand scribbles. Give them a chance in your outline. See what feels right.

Let down your walls and see what happens.

Reality and fact-checking are what happen in editing.

Any of those situations could have played out, but only one did.

Which one, you ask?

Well, since we’re all the authors of our own life story, some chapters are still being written. 

Ooooo…a cliffhanger!

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