Confessions of a Fraud

Giant FDear reader:

I am a failure…a fraud. I claim to be a writer, but I did not finish my sabbatical project. I did write…not every day, but I wrote. Does that make it a success?

I tell my students that all they need to do is try. “Write something,” I say. Even if it’s awful, you can fix it later. I give them chance after chance to get it right. Some students take all of those chances, and they eventually get it right…or at least close enough. Some students stop trying, and that’s OK, too. They’ll find a time, hopefully, to try again.

Yet, I’m not as kind to myself. I only give myself one chance to get it right. I didn’t finish my 250-page memoir, and I’ve been beating myself up over it for nearly a year. So, it’s now time to come clean.

WritesomethingI didn’t finish my 250-page memoir, but I did start it.

I didn’t finish my 250-page memoir, but I did revitalize a 20-year-old novel I had been ignoring despite its loud voice in my head. I must finish it whether it’s publishable or not.

I didn’t finish my 250-page memoir, but I created a few teaching exercises used by hundreds, maybe even thousands, of students nationwide.

I didn’t finish my 250-page memoir, but I hiked miles and miles and took hundreds of photographs.

I didn’t finish my 250-page memoir, but I took a course on computer coding and remembered how hard it is to be a student.

I didn’t finish my 250-page memoir, but I learned that sometimes what you intend to write just doesn’t come out the way you want, but what does come out is what’s intended. So, I ask you: did I really fail?

I try to be open to lessons, but this particular failure has been hard to face. I’ve been waiting to be punished…to be confronted for this failure, but I’m afraid it isn’t this failure that will ultimately be my demise. Instead, it will be my failure to face failure that might just be my undoing.

Wish me luck, dear reader.

~ K

Advertisements

Write On

wpid-20140911_141009.jpgAs most of you know, I am on sabbatical writing a creative non-fiction narrative (a.k.a. memoir). From the start, I have struggled. I’ve read countless articles on writing a memoir, getting past procrastination, getting past writer’s block, and many more.

Much of the advice is the same: schedule your writing time, write in an environment conducive to writing, and no matter what, just write…even if you don’t feel like it.

Although the advice might be similar, everyone is different, and just like weight loss, you have to find what works for you. So far, these points work for me:

  1. Get out of the house.
    • It seems that I do better out of the house first. If I have somewhere to go, getting out of bed is easier. So, I go to a restaurant or coffee shop, get my caffeine, and start writing. The energy of the strangers surrounding me helps feed my creativity. After an hour or so, I’m ready to go home and write more in silence.
  2. Be comfortable.
    • Some articles advise writers to get up and dress as if you’re ready for work. This hasn’t really worked for me. I need to be comfortable. Maybe because I’m doing personal writing, and perhaps once I’m in the editing stages, I’ll need to change this behavior, but for now, I seem to do better in my comfortable clothes like my sweats.
  3. Write in short bursts.
    • What writer hasn’t heard of freewriting? Well, it works! (Not just for writing, as Fly Lady will attest to.) I start with 15 minutes…that’s it. I don’t pressure myself into thinking I have to write for 8 hours straight. That’s too overwhelming. I start with 15 minutes, and pretty soon, I’m engrossed in what I’m doing, and several hours have passed. At times, those 15 minutes seem to drag. When that happens, I’ll take a break and then come back to it a little later. Even when I come back, I tell myself that I’ll write for 15 minutes. Those 15 minutes gets me started and keeps me from feeling overwhelmed.
  4. Turn off the critic.
    • This is the hardest part for me. Stephen King calls it “writing with the door closed.” It’s hard to do. I ran into some friends of mine at Starbucks the other day, and all I could talk about was how much crap I was producing. “Yes, I’m writing every day, but it’s crap. It’s all crap,” I said. Ugh! That might be true, but I’m nowhere near ready to make that judgment. If I keep thinking it’s all crap, then I won’t finish. I just have to keep writing and worry about the quality later. By far, this lesson is the hardest to learn, and obviously, I have a ways to go.
  5. Finally, find your own rhythm.
    • Similar to the backpacking lessons, I have learned that I don’t have to follow in anyone’s footsteps. I can use their advice, but ultimately, it’s up to me how much I write, when I write, where I write, and what I write. As long as I’m writing, it doesn’t matter if it’s in the morning, the afternoon, or late at night. It just has to get done. Joseph Finder says it best, “Just write the damn book already.”

So, these are the lessons that I have learned and am still working on adapting in my life. No matter what you have to write: a research paper, a letter to your mother, a book… I hope these lessons help you get started.

~ K