I’ve Invented a Writing Machine

Everystockphoto-nasa-space-64361-hJust for you, because I love ya, I've invented a new writing machine.  Here's what it does: with a long metal robotic arm, it reaches out, grabs paper and pen, and plops it down in front of you.  You can also program it to grab your laptop, tablet, or computer keyboard.  There's an optional feature that will, if you so choose, chain you to your chair for a set period of time.  

Here's the rub: that's as much as the machine does.  After that it is up to you to start writing.  This may be a bit of a news flash to you, but in order to write something like a novel, a short story, or a memoir, you have to … write.

Dude. Imagine that.

But, you know what?  We forget that.  Even I, who have been making my living doing this for years, forget that.  Lately, I've been very stern with myself.  I've had so very many important things to get done.  Manuscripts to read, a rewrite to finish, workshops to plan.  And so I laid down the law. There is no time for writing.  We must work.  And work hard.  Nose to the grindstone and all that.

Yesterday I awoke in a brain fog, staring off into space, overwhelmed by the week ahead.  Out of the corner of my eye, I spied my pink journal which had been unopened for a couple of weeks.  I stared at it, with one eye squinting until it occurred to me….perhaps I should write. 

And so I did.

And it was exactly what I needed to do.

But my journal practically had to jump up and down in front of me to get me to open it and start writing, which is why I'm inventing the writing machine for all of us.  Because it's one of those crazy paradoxes: when you're blocked in your writing, the solution is to write. 

I think what happens is that we crank ourselves into perfectionist mode.  When I'm not writing, it starts to seem like this big impossible thing that I can't do because I start imagining that every word I write has to be stellar.  But if I can just get myself to write one word…and then a sentence..and then a paragraph, I remember:

  • All I have to is put words on the page.
  • I don't have to write well.
  • I can write crappy sentences
  • Nothing has to make sense.

Because once I do put words on the page, things start to flow.  Ideas form and spill off my fingers. Crappy sentences straighten themselves out.  Scenes begin to write themselves. And I am writing.

So, yeah, that writing machine should be going into production soon.  In the meantime, I've got the next best thing here.

What do you do to get yourself to write?

Willing to Risk Embarrassment

Last Sunday, my husband and I ushered at church.  Spielberg-lucas-americanart-2537356-h

It was the second time we'd done it, but there's lots to remember (mostly having to do with timing and where to stand and which way to face) and the first time we did it we had someone telling us what to do.  This time we were on our own. 

And  I felt awkward, and after we came in a bit late during the offering, embarrassed.  Afterwards, I sat in the back of the sanctuary and pondered embarrassment and what a useless feeling it is.

For me, often, embarrassment comes when I'm doing something for the first time.  I do something wrong and then I feel stupid.  Which is silly, because if I've never done anything before, why should I be expected to know how to do it?

This links back to perfectionism.  Somehow we feel that we should be expected to be perfect and know how to do everything, and exactly what to say in every moment.  And, let me just say, perfectionism kills the creative spirit.  It is death to free-flowing writing.  Many writers that I've worked with have struggled to overcome their perfectionist streaks.

So I say, let's risk embarrassment.  Let's risk doing something new and doing it imperfectly.  Let's risk putting crazy, wild words on the page and putting them out for the world to see.  Let's risk being our authentic selves and saying to hell with what the world thinks.

How about it?  Do you agree?  How do you deal with embarrassment?

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Photo by cliff1066.