If you ever see me sitting in front of the computer chortling, snorting, and otherwise laughing like a loon who is one or two colors shy of the full set, I’m probably indulging in a guilty pleasure: dog shaming. If you haven’t yet experienced the gloriousness that is dog shaming, you’ve got to check it out. Like NOW. Reading this blog can wait till later. I promise you…it’s worth it.
So lately, I haven’t been reaching my daily writing word count because I’ve had more pressing matters to attend to like cleaning the lint out of my dryer, searching for that t-shirt I just know is lurking somewhere at the bottom of my closet, and organizing the spice rack. You know how it goes.
So I decided to writer shame myself for my latest evasion tactic.
Why is it that writers who love to write often find it difficult to actually, well, write? There is the old motto among writers: BIC HOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard). Why do we even have to have such a motto?
Writing is hard, everyone says. Yes, it is. But aren’t most things worth doing?
The mister is a fitness enthusiast and has been doing cross fit for a few years now. At the ungodly hour of 6 a.m., he is at the gym doing things unfathomable to me, like overhead squats and snatches. I have to be honest here—I have no clue what a snatch is and I have no desire to find out, especially before the sun is even up. Now that stuff is hard. Yet, he enjoys it, so he does it. I’ve never seen him clipping his toenails as an excuse not to do something he enjoys.
So why do writers sometimes shampoo carpets instead of write?
Writing is hard in a different way. Aside from possible eye strain, neck cramps, and carpal tunnel, writing is not physically hard. However, it can be mentally, psychologically, and spiritually draining.
Most writers have probably seen this Hemingway quote.
Writing exposes vulnerabilities. When we put words on the blank page, we are putting pieces of ourselves out there. While it may take a while for others to actually read our work, writers usually write with the intention of eventually sharing it. The funny thing about writing is it’s subjective. Sure, there are grammar rules that are pretty objective, but content-wise, writing is subjective. When the mister does a clean & jerk at his cross fit class, he knows if he did a good job. It’s objective. Writing just isn’t like that. It’s all a matter of whether or not people simply like it.
And that scares the crap out of me.
I leave behind pieces of myself in my writing. So when someone doesn’t like my writing, it hurts. It feels personal. It feels like they don’t like me.
Writing is also a business though, and I’d love to make it my career. So with that in mind, I’ve honed my craft by taking classes, reading fiction, attending conferences, reading craft books, entering contests, reading more fiction, exchanging writing with critique partners, and reading—yet again—more fiction.
Amidst all the excuses, fears, and self-doubt, there’s only one thing to do.
Because that’s what writers do. We write.
31 Comments on “Writer Shaming”
Marnee BaileyMay 6, 2014 at 8:57 pm
You’re hysterical. LOL!
Writing is hard work. Like you, I’m having a hard time getting motivated. I think if I can just get into the story. If I can just fall in love with the characters, I’ll forget all the other stuff going on and just write.
That’s what I keep telling myself.
JessicaMay 6, 2014 at 9:00 pm
Those first five or ten minutes in a writing session are excruciating, which is probably why we procrastinate. Once the words start flowing though, it’s a high. I LOVE writing first chapters, which is probably why I have more of them than I’d like to admit to. It’s the middle the drags me down, the dreaded sagging middle.
J.K. RockMay 6, 2014 at 8:59 pm
I love it!! Every bit. And I so identify a I play a lot of games with myself to force myself to write.
JessicaMay 6, 2014 at 9:01 pm
Exactly…If I just get to 500 words, I can play 2 games of Candy Crush, but if I get to 1000 words, then I get to play 5 games of Candy Crush. Been there, done that!
SonyaMay 6, 2014 at 9:08 pm
Fantastic post, Jessica. I’m going to share this.
JessicaMay 6, 2014 at 9:09 pm
I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Sonya! Thanks for the share.
Amy Deluca (@AmyDelucaAuthor)May 6, 2014 at 9:13 pm
I do lurve me some dog-shaming pics, and your idea of writer-shaming is hilarious! I find that if I don’t get to the writing early in the day, it never gets done– trying to make it a priority. Hmmm– what would my sign say today?
JessicaMay 6, 2014 at 9:21 pm
I’m the opposite of you, Amy. I can’t seem to get any words down until it’s dark outside. I work full time during the week, but even on the weekends, I don’t find myself delving into Scrivener until after dinner. I’ve got to get better with that, or else there will be many more writer shaming pictures to come!
Sarra Cannon (@sarramaria)May 6, 2014 at 9:34 pm
I’m the same way! I just can’t seem to write until the sun goes down. The problem is that I get into a groove and want to stay up all night. That used to be ok, but now that I have a son who is up with the sun, it’s a challenge to say the least!
JessicaMay 6, 2014 at 9:38 pm
I usually find my flow just as my bedtime rolls around. My alarm clock goes off at 5:30 every morning despite my muse thinking I should stay up all night though. Beyond frustrating!
Stephanie ScottMay 7, 2014 at 1:51 pm
I’m similar to that, though I’ve been slowly getting more writing time in smaller chunks of time during the day. Lunch break at work. I can write on a doc and save it to the cloud, or a flash drive or even email it. No excuses!
JessicaMay 7, 2014 at 2:00 pm
That’s actually how I wrote my MS that finaled in the GH. I set a 2k a day goal for myself, and I got it done however and whenever I could. The bulk of that MS was written in about a month. I need to channel that energy again!
PintipMay 6, 2014 at 9:18 pm
Jessica, I love this blog post!! Hysterical and true. I play all those games, too. I think we all do. If you uncover any secrets to this problem, please share. 🙂
JessicaMay 6, 2014 at 9:22 pm
I’ve found that deadlines help! LOL!
kimmaccarronMay 6, 2014 at 9:36 pm
Says the person who had to delete Candy Crush from her phone…just sayin’. lol
Terri OsburnMay 6, 2014 at 9:41 pm
I had to delete Frozen Free Fall from my phone. So now I just play on my tablet. (Don’t tell anyone!)
JessicaMay 6, 2014 at 9:41 pm
Yeah…you can play Candy Crush on your phone and then switch to your computer to get five more lives. I’m not proud that I know that.
PintipMay 6, 2014 at 10:00 pm
Okay, so I went cold turkey as part of my New Year’s resolution. And I’m proud to say I haven’t played a single one of *those* iPhone games since then (Candy Crush, Bubble Witch Saga, Free Cell.) The games I was talking about was “tricking” myself. Okay, I’ll revise for 15 minutes, then I can take a break — with the hope that once I actually start I’ll be tempted to keep going. 🙂
JessicaMay 6, 2014 at 10:19 pm
I haven’t played them in a while either, but for a while that would work for me. Candy Crush locks you out after five lives, so I would lose five lives, then write for the twenty minutes until I got another life. Then I would play that one life and write some more! So it can work. (I need to stop. I’m being an enabler here.)
Terri OsburnMay 6, 2014 at 9:39 pm
I can’t get past those things your husband does in crossfit. Seriously. Snatches? Overhead squats? How do you squat over your head??
No idea on the writing thing, but boy do I deal with that. And I really enjoy writing, which makes it even worse.
JessicaMay 6, 2014 at 9:44 pm
I don’t get it either. The mister and I are so alike is some ways and polar opposites in others.
It’s comforting to know the thing with the writing affects everyone though, right? That’s something, at least.
kimmaccarronMay 6, 2014 at 9:46 pm
What a great post! I think we could all use some writer shaming on some days. I’ve been procrastinating on a revision, and I will find anything to distract me from it. ugh. Like right now, I finally started, and then I saw your email, and I was all, “I’ll revise AFTER I visit Jessica.” 🙂 I know what you mean about writing not being the same as other things we do. When we run five miles, we know exactly how far we’ve run. (Not me though because I only run to get the phone or to the fridge for a snack. Or maybe I’ll run away if someone is chasing me with a knife. Maybe then…)
Some things are easy to count. Words aren’t one of them. Sometimes I’ll be revising while trying to add a scene, and at the end of the day I’m like, “How the hell do I have less words than when I started???” Because sometimes to make something better, you delete and you add, and then you delete some more. Although writing is hard, it’s something we must love or we wouldn’t be doing it. I think that’s what we have to remember. Sometimes we get so hung up on the marketability or what someone else wants in our story that we forget WHY we love to create characters that want what they want. Period. Let your characters grow and BECOME. Give them a voice. Their voice. Not one that someone else thinks they should have. And then maybe we’ll remember why we started writing in the first place. Because we love it. Because we just can’t NOT write. Great post, Jessica!
JessicaMay 6, 2014 at 10:25 pm
Thanks for commenting, Kim! I get so frustrated with the revising sometimes because I’m motivated by that word count. I track my word count on a chart so I can see my progress. Even when I know a scene should be cut, I’m hesitant to cut it because it makes me sad to see that word count go down.
I’m also really bad with the email. I’m not bad about checking for query responses, but I check it every few minutes for my loop emails it seems, especially now that my inbox is full of GH stuff. It’s an exciting time, but sometimes it’s hard to stay focused. We have to remember that we’re here because we actually wrote something good…and we need to keep writing!
Alison StoneMay 6, 2014 at 10:04 pm
Great post. Love the shaming photo! I am the queen of procrastination. It baffles me because I never procrastinated when I was a student (eons ago.) I tell my friends I burned out young. Yes, I do manage to write books, but in this brave new world of publishing, I feel I should be writing more, more, more…yet here I am.
JessicaMay 6, 2014 at 10:27 pm
More, more, more…I get that pressure. One of my favorite authors (who shall remain nameless) put out eleven books (or some crazy number like that) last year.
I’m a teacher in my day job, and I rarely procrastinate with that stuff. A lot of teachers take forever to grade papers, but I get mine done almost immediately. I save my procrastination for my writing. LOL!
Tammy BaumannMay 7, 2014 at 12:37 am
I’m with Kim, Candy Crush is my writing avoidance crack lately. Bad, bad, writers! But since I’ve read what you write, I need to tell you something. You Rock!! So get back to it girlfriend, ‘cuz I’m waiting to read it! 🙂
Jessica RuddickMay 7, 2014 at 9:17 am
Aww, thanks, Tammy! Your comments always make me smile.
Stephanie ScottMay 7, 2014 at 1:50 pm
Hi, I’m stopping by from the YARWA loop. Great post! I have been distracted by cat shaming, so us cat folk have our own camp 🙂
Some days writing are tougher than other. Last night I had hard decisions to make on the direction of my draft, and there is no real right answer, so I sat there stuck, waiting for a writer friend to respond to my pleading email–do I redraft this?! I kept trying to write new scenes and distractions piled up in my brain. It was a fight! Other days I can ignore everything and just focus, but it’s when I have a goal and a plan.
JessicaMay 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm
Thanks for taking the time to comment! You mentioned having a plan. so are you a plotter then? I’m in between. I have a general direction for my story, but I don’t always know what’s going to happen in each individual scene. I’ve found that if I plot a few scenes ahead though, it makes it much easier. I also find that if I know in advance basically what’s going to happen in a scene, the writing is stronger and I don’t have to revise as much.
Carole St-LaurentMay 7, 2014 at 3:23 pm
Love the post! Made me LOL. Oops. Maybe I should hold a sign that says “I read Jessica’s blog instead of writing.” 🙂
JessicaMay 7, 2014 at 3:39 pm
Post a picture, Carole! LOL! Thanks for commenting.
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