Recognising a truth can happen at the oddest time, and we need to be on the look out for it. Our busy lives can blind us to the fact we are not accomplishing the things we really want to accomplish.
Recently I found myself caught up with a post in Writers Helping Writers. Blogger/writer Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. The website, dedicated to helping other writers by offering constant and varied information, is one I read often, and I am so grateful I do.
Works in Progress
Reading the post I realised I had gotten so caught up in doing that I wasn’t paying attention to what I wasn’t doing – my work in progress. Sometimes we need the wake up call to recognise activity only appearing to be activity. Moving a vase from one place to another is activity but if it’s an idle thought to fill time then what purpose has been served? Inactivity, dressed as busyness is harmful. On a day to day basis we make excuses too easily.
In this case my shock trigger was the suggestion that writers spend more time obsessing about “writing” than perhaps is healthy, or conducive to the creation of the work in process (wip). It took me awhile to get my head around what I was reading. Do we? Do I?
Most writers I know, including our students in English classrooms, do stress over words, technique, language and flow, and let’s not forget all those delicious devices needed to make the wip more interesting. I mean, how can we exist without metaphors, the use of the five senses, and what about the plot and all the thought that goes into the planning, the outlining? Stress seems unavoidable, doesn’t it? Having someone imply these things don’t matter is blasphemous.
Did you blanch at the idea of not worshipping plot? I can imagine hands thrown up in horror. What! The plot doesn’t matter? Really? I actually started feeling a little defensive at this point. The truth is I do stress over all these things, and I believe, and I am sure most writers would agree, they are important. But then, I had to ask myself, believing as I did, why wasn’t I progressing?
Don’t sweat the small stuff
I was sweating the small stuff. It’s easier to control. That is purely our fear talking, telling us if we get this perfect the rest will fall into place. No it won’t. We need to see the bigger picture so we know where we are going.
Stressing Prevents Involvement
I took a step back and really thought about it. Stressing about the use of language and plot intricacies can wait until the manuscript itself is done. These things can be remedied if needed but stressing about them beforehand prevents the actual story developing, flowing; it prevents involvement. If the story doesn’t flow, the reader will stop the connection. It’s that simple.
Reading the post I came across this Ted Talk with Lisa Cron. Be prepared though for the talk to be about so much more than the world of writing. I won’t summarise or explain as I think it is worth watching the video, but I will say, I love how it begins by discussing self-worth and how we define ourselves too harshly and by the wrong criteria. In other words, we sweat the small stuff.
I love the part where she mentions Simba from The Lion King. I know this seems a random thought but the more you listen to the Ted Talk, the more you will understand that a connection is created by the story whether or not you are a reader or in many cases these days, a listener. Everything else is only icing on the cake, and the cake like the story matters – it is the first port of call. It allows us to experience, to be on the inside. That’s all a reader/listener wants.
The Story Connects
When the reader connects to the story, they will forgive imperfections. When reviewing, I have given five stars for a story that perhaps was not as beautifully written as it should have been because I felt every step taken by the characters, and three stars to an editing dream but a story I struggled with. Of course, we want both but let’s not forget the story tellers and let’s encourage them. They can learn the rest.
“The story is not about the plot or the writing. The story is what gives the writing and the plot their meaning. It’s what makes them involving…What is the story about? The story is about how your protagonist changes, internally.”
A reader/or listener thrives on osmosis, on sharing skin. And sometimes it can be an unnerving experience, like in a horror novel, and at other times it can open our eyes to possibilities. I can’t wait to get back to my work in progress. I feel inspired and empowered to put pen to paper because once we understand something so fundamental then our confidence thrives. What is your big picture? Mine is not to let fear, disguised as the small stuff, distract me.
I schedule my work. This means I write the posts ahead of the date they appear, although at times I can go in and vary things. In this case, I added this postscript because somehow the events around us fit with this post. We are currently part of a completely unanticipated experience. It is a new story for all of us. And, in this story we are the major players in what will one day be a history lesson.
What do we want future generations to remember? That we thought the restrictions in place were harsh, that we could interpret the restrictions to suit ourselves? That we whinged about needing concessions before those making them, could measure their success, or appropriateness? That we took the opportunity to push our personal agendas? That we played the blame game?
Or that we survived by keeping strong, keeping positive and caring for one another. Isolation is difficult and lonely but if it keeps us and others safe then we concentrate on that and only that for now – it’s the big picture. I want those coming after me to remember I sucked it up, I did my part however hard, and that I thought about those around me.
To make it a little less scary pick up that phone and talk to people, text in-between and use any medium where faces are in front of you. Vary it to keep it a surprise and fresh. Thank the people out there keeping us entertained, often with ridiculous actions and more often with generous ones.
Let’s not make it any harder for the courageous people on the front line. They are amazing and if we can help by following directives then let’s do it. As I said in my last post It’s me not you. I call BS on that – what you do keeps me safe, what I do keeps you safe, supporting each other is everything. So stay safe. #inthistogether
See you next time,
Agreed! So many people I respect have said that finishing your first draft is the most important step.
I am trying, thanks for stopping by
This was helpful for me. I’ve mastered sweating the small stuff. If I don’t get my act together soon, I’ll never get my novel finished. I need to concentrate more on “Is it the best story I can tell?” and less energy struggling to incorporate ALL the writing techniques I’ve ever read about. Thanks for your post. Now I’m going to listen to the Ted Talk…
I hope you enjoy it. She is a really good speaker, very down to earth, and we need that at the moment. Thank you for visiting