Friday, December 6, 2013

I confess that I have no idea what I am doing when it comes to writing...

Also, probably, when it comes to life. (But I will leave that confession for some other day.)

I don't know why this is such a big revelation. Maybe because you think--or at least I thought--that when I got to a certain point, after I'd written a certain number of books, gone through the process enough times, I'd get to the end and, um, KNOW WHAT I AM DOING!!!

All the years that I was writing and rewriting and submitting and absorbing rejections and then repeating that fun loop, I kept thinking I was on the verge of understanding how it all worked, like there was some magical answer to becoming a published writer and once I figured that out, Wah lah! I'd cross over to the other side. And just Be There, I guess, smiling and waving and signing my pile of books for adoring fans.

I had these turning points along the way, mini revelations about writing and how my process worked, and whenever I'd figure out something new, I'd cling to it like it was a life raft.

I must write 1250 words per day.
I mean, 1500.
I mean, 2000.

I must revise as I go and make my draft as perfect as possible the first time through.
Who am I kidding? I should write without worrying where it will go and revise the mess later.
I'm an idiot. I should have made an outline.

But after ten "finished" manuscripts, more than 10,000 hours of time spent on writing, and one published novel, there are times when I still feel like a novice.

Every day is hard to sit down and write, to rework or to let things go, to plan or to allow my words gush out.

Every day there are distractions. The internet. The dishes. A horrifying college bill to pay. My daughter's forgotten lunch that must be brought to school. The dog yakking on the carpet.

Every day there are things that can potentially derail me. Before it was stuff like a rejection. A pass from an agent or editor who had requested something. An agent quitting. An editor changing her mind. Now it's a meh review or a  bizarrely fluctuating Amazon rating.

Blah di blah di blah.

I could go on about the inner angsty-ness, but I am starting to bore myself, so I will spare you.

Here is something I DO know:

There IS a magic answer.

Something that makes the doubts and the distractions and the outside evaluations disappear.

Something that I actually did learn along the way and know for sure.

Something that ALWAYS works when I am angsting or stressing or reeling.

It is the one and only thing that I can control as a writer.

I sit down. I open up my lap top.

I write.


  1. Jody, every single day when I start to write I think, "I don't know how to do this! What if I can't do this anymore?" etc. and at the end of every day I'm amazed that I actually got something written and/or revised. Then I start the next day thinking again that I can't do it. I've given up on trying to convince myself that this is foolish and to just get down to it without worrying. I'm resigned to having to go through the same nonsensical cycle every day.

    1. Thanks for telling me this, Tracy. Nice to know I am not the only one. We should start a support group.

  2. I know where you're coming from, Jody. Like Jennifer, I'm in the club as well.

    1. Well, so far, it looks like we have several members...

  3. Folks who know me well are never surprised when, in the middle of a conversation, I say, "Hey, that reminds me of a song I know." Well, your essay reminds me of a song I know. It goes like this:

    One afternoon in sunny June
    I happened to think as I stood at the sink
    And scrubbed away at the dirty plates
    And listened to music on the phonograph
    About a question I've often asked...

    Did Beethoven do the dishes? Did Mozart sweep the floors?
    Did all those great musicians have to do their chores?
    I know I often think of all the songs I could sing
    If I just didn't have to clean the house
    I know I'd be on top of the Billboard charts
    If my cat had not just killed a mouse
    And brought it into the house...

    I have these great ideas, but I also have a block
    If I don't do my laundry I will soon run out of socks
    I'll bet that Johann Sebastian Bach
    Never had to worry about clean socks
    I'll bet Peter Tchaikovsky never took the garbage out
    I'll be that Verdi rarely helped rake the leaves
    Even when his wife said please
    Oh pretty please...

    My driver's license did expire just two weeks ago
    I'll bet that never was a problem for Michaelangelo
    I'll bet that Madam Curie never had to serve on a jury
    I'll bet Joseph Haydn hid from taking care of the kids
    Mozart was poor but you can be sure
    That he never had to baby sit
    And this is it
    It's all I writ
    I didn't have time for more of it.

    1. Bill, that's great, and I can hear you singing it. I've had that thought before too. Does Stephen King, oh, he of the 2000 words a day, clean toilets? Prob not. But he used to teach high school English. So I am thinking he must have some sense of how to write and get other stuff done too. That's the trick every day, making time to write the words.

  4. Okay, you sit down at your laptop and write, but can you type with your whole hands flat on the keyboard like Jim Carrey? Because honestly, that would be AWESOME.

    1. I know. And the expression on his face kills me. So focused and angry.

  5. no doubt he's thinking of all those lost years with Jenny McCarthy.

  6. Wow Jody. I loved your book SO much!I just need to let you know you are AMAZING! and I mean beyond AMAZING! Your book is my favorite book in the history of the world, and I might not know you but I love you and especially your book. And I know what you're thinking know, "This kid is crazy!" Yeah, I might be because I'm really young. I've always wanted to be a writer when I grew up and I need to know if I could contact you in anyway.. And just to let you know: You inspired me way beyond anyone can imagine. I was wondering and hoping if you could contact me in anyway possible or I could contact you.. You have no idea how far you boosted my interest in writing, and you really do mean a lot to my future. I am currently in a creative writting program for 3 years now. Please contact me, I know and I will understand if you are busy now with the release of your book.But please. Respond and we'll go from there (=
    Lots of love,

    1. Wow. Thanks. This pretty much made my day. My email's on the contacts page. Shoot me a note any time you'd like : )

  7. I think Reilly & Maloney should get some attribution for the Beethoven doing the Dishes song.