Archive for June, 2013

Writing – a Crash Course

Writing is life. Like breathing, it’s essential to my being. I know this from the very center of myself. But last week I had this unusual and frightening thought. What if I am really not a writer? What if I have spent the last 40 years deluding myself?

This crashed my spaceship.

I was soaring along through the galaxy perfectly on course until a few weeks ago when the company I worked for as a copywriter decided they didn’t need me or a marketing department in our Iowa office. This made no sense in my universe. They wanted to change direction without me. Hadn’t I always delivered good copy? Hadn’t I come to work in the middle of blizzards to prove my dedication? Hadn’t I done all the things you’re supposed to do to keep your job? My head said yes, and my heart said, “You suck.”

writing my way back to earth

© Yelenademyanyuk | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

And then a friend of mine called me and asked if I was available to do some freelance writing. Maybe I didn’t suck. I did my homework and learned all about the client and got the job. But when I sat down to get writing…nothing.

So it was true. I suck.

I spent the next few days carrying around a notebook, thinking about a great beginning, and creating the story in my head. In the past, it always served me start on paper when I feel blocked. It’s organic and connects my heart to the paper. I scribbled. A lot. I brainstormed key words and wrote down catchy phrases. I reviewed my notes until I was ready. Then I approached the white screen. Nothing.

So I asked myself what I would do if I was forced to write something and I wasn’t a writer. It wouldn’t be nearly as challenging. It would just be a part of the job. My heart wouldn’t be involved. Mechanics is key. Make an outline. Flesh it out. Write it. Add the headlines and subheads last. After all, they’re just words.

So I tried to make an outline. Did I mention I don’t do my best work from an outline? This didn’t work either.

Self-doubt eats away at the soul, and mine was being devoured. I told myself to breathe. I ate chocolate. I drank too many cups of coffee and smoked a lot of cigarettes.

Finally I walked away.

Writing is solitary. Alone with my thoughts I entered the scary place. In that place I can’t write. In that place I’m a bad mom and a bad wife. In that place I should write letters to my aunts and go visit my parents more often. My life…epic fail.

It’s easy to get lost on that planet, where the terrain is unfamiliar and the silence deafening. I stayed for awhile – then I wanted to go back to earth.

To get grounded I talked to one of my biggest fans. He heard me out and nodded a lot. He didn’t give me a map, but reminded me that I know the way.

I stayed up the entire night writing. The result wasn’t great, but it was good, and clean, and definitely met the requirements of the job.

He was right. I do know the way. I also know that sometimes there’s a meteor shower, a lunar eclipse, and yes, even a system failure. Spaceships go off course, and sometimes they even crash. These detours can take me off on a new adventure, make me adapt and redirect. But only when I’m brave enough to face the page and suck once in awhile.

Today I don’t suck. I’m back on course. And I’m writing.


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