The Biggest Myth Non-Writers Believe About Writers

Before I started writing I thought writers were mysterious beings that heard a song that the rest of the world could not hear. These creatures, I thought, disappear for six months only to reappear with a book that was perfect, required no editing, and had the power to enrapture a generation.

The reality? It doesn’t work that way.

typewriter

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction and I am in the middle of Creativity Inc., by Ed Catmul with Amy Wallace. It’s about leadership more than anything else but in it Mr. Catmul details some of the creative processes that Pixar Animation and Disney Animation implement to create and develop their stories.

Up is one of my favorite Pixar movies and I was shocked to discover that it’s first draft looked nothing like the finished product. Mr. Catmul explains that the bird and the title Up are the only two things that survived the first iteration of the story. The first draft was about two boys that lived in a castle in the sky.

Even Pixar’s first drafts are bad.

The process of writing a book is a lot like this. Once a first draft is done, there is a mountain of refining that takes place. The idea is usually hidden in the drivel but only through careful counsel and thoughtful consideration on the writers’ behalf can the non-fiction book be rounded into form or the fiction story be shaped into a coherent, compelling tale.

Perhaps the biggest mystery is not how writers do it but how they persevere when others may not be able to see the vision of their story.

I don’t know what possessed me to start writing. Maybe it was my Grandma Evenhouse who always had books around and stories to tell. It could have been the allure of Lowry’s Book and More in my hometown or maybe it was the college professor that told me I could be a writer, out of the blue, or the encouraging email or comment about a recent blog post, but I find myself among writers now and even call myself one.

If you are a writer and your ideas don’t come out right or you are stuck, don’t worry. Great stories take time to shape. You have to try to poke holes in them, let it fall on the page without editing, and then build it back up or mold it into something new.

If you’ve ever thought of writing, and still maintain that desire, I challenge you to start now, with the advanced knowledge that the road will be hard and perseverance is your only guide through.

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Why Today Can Be The Best Day You Ever Had

Nearly every day I put my son to bed and then his two older sisters. My wife handles our three month old. And almost every evening my daughter Clara asks me the same question.

“Daddy, what are we going to do in the morning?”

I’ve had many answers to this question. Occasionally, they morph into a fictional story but lately I’ve been answering it this way – “Well, tomorrow can be anything you want to make it”, which usually produces a frown and furrowed eyebrows which mean she’s either confused or unsatisfied with my answer. So I try the excitement angle.

“Tomorrow is open honey,” I say. “You can do anything you want! It can be the best day of your life!” Her eyes sparkle and she smiles.

Sunrise

Somewhere along the way we grown ups can lose our enthusiasm and sense of adventure. Part of the reason can be the responsibilities we have but I think it is because we have beaten paths in our lives that are familiar, comfortable, and easy.

It’s much easier to sit at home and browse my iphone than it is to get up and go browse the books at the local library. We prevent our kids from jumping in puddles or building a tent in the living room with the couch cushions because they create messes and as adults we’ve learned that messes make our lives difficult, regardless of the joy they can bring.

There are days I can be a curmudgeon. I can easily revert to cranky and ornery. These are the beaten paths I’ve plodded in my few years.

But as I told my daughter, each day can be new. Each day can be the best day we’ve ever had. But, in order for them to be so, we must ignore these familiar ways we traverse every day. We must search for activities that bring about joy and restoration to our soul.

I hope you are active today. That you take a hike. You play with molding clay or dust off your guitar or maybe even do something as simple as take a different road on your commute.

Whatever you do, do something different and do something that brings joy.

Writers And Entrepreneurs Need Rest Too

When I was in elementary school, I broke my foot. I flipped off my bunk bed, landed on the ground and all of a sudden my foot would not work without a piercing pain. I hobbled to the kitchen where my parents played cards with my aunt and uncle and informed them of what occurred and soon learned how to use crutches.

I remember when I tried to place pressure on my foot prematurely that it hurt and I was angry, but not because of the pain. I was upset because my foot did not function like it did before. This was my first experience with the injustice that not only can we break our bikes and every door in the house if we kick them, (sorry mom and dad) but also ourselves.

Painter sleepingI mentioned before that the most recent season at work was brutal. I thought I broke myself mentally. I could not remember simple tasks. I had little to no energy to play with my kids when I got home. And writing? The thought of spending another moment with a computer made me ill. It was rough all around.

A week ago, after things slowed down at work, I became angry that I could not just dive into another blog. I needed to get going because I had books and a website to launch. The more I thought about it the more I stewed. The angrier I was at my inability to write, the more I became frustrated that I was doing nothing. It was a vicious cycle. The pressure to produce weighed on me and I could not shake my lethargy, or so I thought.

It’s taken sometime to learn a lesson that I should have learned when I was young – I am not a machine. I can break – emotionally, spiritually, and physically. The stories of Sherlock Holmes living off no sleep and cocoa leaves are just not possible. Sure you can go on little sleep for a while (I have four kids) but sooner or later you crash.

There are different seasons of life. Some of planting, harvest, and rest. I needed to let my mind settle and heal by simple reading and planning.

Grace is what I needed most in the aftermath of a stressful experience.

Grace to be.

Grace to breathe and not feel the stress that comes from the need to produce.

But as with all seasons there is also a time to move on to the next one.

Now, my workload at work is back to a normal pace and I have more bandwidth for other projects at home.

This past Friday night, I did not feel like mush. So we ordered pizza. Then my kids got into their pajamas and we turned up the music and resumed our long-missed after dinner dance party. Then, by the encouragement of my lovely wife, I went to the bookstore to write. 

And you know what? Just like when my foot healed and I did not need my crutches any more it felt amazing to write again.