Last year was a difficult one for me, I won’t lie. My youngest daughter’s move away from home was fraught with
trauma, and so mine inevitably was, too. I spent the first five months of the year on 24-7 text alert as I tried to keep her glued together, the next month helping her transition home again, and the remaining six months trying to help her heal. Needless to say, it didn’t leave a lot of time or energy—or will!—for writing.
In fact, of the approximately three books I set out to write at the beginning of the year, I accomplished exactly…none. The most I could handle was the editing of a previously written book, Shadow of Doubt, that I released as a serialized novel on Radish Fiction and Wattpad…and there were times when even that task seemed insurmountable. With the arrival of the new year, however, home life was beginning to look more settled, which meant it was time to step back and take a look at my writing career…
It wasn’t pretty.
In fact, if I was objective about it, it was in shambles. It was bad enough that I hadn’t released anything new since 2015 (Forever Grace in April, and Sins of the Warrior in September), but even worse, I’d lost my confidence. My I-can-do-this-iveness” (yes, that’s totally a word 😛 ). My motivation.
Enter my writing partner, Marie Bilodeau, a prolific writer, savvy business person, and—it turns out—quite the ass-kicker. And boy-howdy, did she kick my ass. Which was a Good Thing, because said ass needed kicking. We started off the new year by setting writing goals—tough but manageable ones. We both had deadlines to meet, and I’d run out of excuses on mine (full confession: I’d had a full year to write the novel, but I hadn’t started until December).
I got off to a good start, meeting all my targets and sticking with my schedule for a whole week. Then I got sick. Then I injured my knee. Then I got sick again…and I lost two weeks that I absolutely could not afford. Then Marie and I went on a 5-day writers’ retreat to a cottage. My intention was to complete the novel while we were there, but I needed almost 20,000 words, and I had roughly zero faith in my ability to pull that off.
I hadn’t counted on Marie.
Once we got past the fire incident, she turned into a workhorse. For every 600 words I wrote, she did 3,000. I stopped for frequent breaks. She wrote through most of those, too. Two days slid past. It was painfully obvious to me that I wasn’t going to make it anywhere near my goal. Who was I kidding? I was ready to give up on the book altogether.
Marie kept writing.
Because I didn’t want to disturb her with television (and I’d forgotten to bring books with me for reading), I wrote, too. Slowly. Painfully. Grudgingly. When we did take breaks together, Marie encouraged (bullied? 😛 ) me to keep trying. “Push harder,” she’d say. “Push until your brain stops resisting. Just keep at it. You can do this.”
Frankly, she annoyed the hell out of me. (I love you, Marie! 😀 )
But damned if it didn’t work. On Wednesday afternoon, I settled into my chair, plugged into my music, and set to work. And whether it was out of determination or self-preservation (no more encouragement, Marie, please! 😉 ), I kept at it. For the first time ever, I didn’t let myself be distracted by finding the perfect word or figuring out how to transition to the next scene. If I didn’t have a word, I left a blank. If I didn’t know how to describe something, I left myself a note:
write in stuff: anger. dismay. guilt.
In other words, I didn’t let myself get caught up in details…and chapter by chapter, partial scene by terse note, the story unfolded. At ten p.m. that night, after writing a monumental (for me) 4,444 words in one day, I finished the first draft of the book. I was exhausted, euphoric, stunned, and giddy all at the same time. The last few chapters were a mess. I could no longer string two coherent words together verbally. And something in my brain definitely felt as if had not just given up resistance, but had broken completely…
But. I. Was. Done.
I’d written another book—and I’d done it in two months flat. That in itself was mind-boggling. But the real takeaway for me? Remembering that I could write. Rediscovering that elusive self-discipline. Reacquainting myself with that critical motivation. I am writer. Hear my fingers fly across the keyboard! 😉
Will I always feel this strong? Ha! Absolutely not. Life will inevitably interfere and knock me off course, leaving me wallowing in self-doubt, or self-pity, or both. But I’ll always remember that I can feel this strong. That it really is about ‘mind over matter’. That my excuses are just that—excuses—because I am capable, and I can do this. (And that if I ever need my ass kicked again, Marie’s my go-to.)
There’s a takeaway in this for you, too: If you’re not working with an ass-kicker of your own, you need to find one, because nothing exposes the weakness of your excuses quite like having to explain them to someone else. That whole accountability thing? It works.