As you can tell from the lack of posts here recently, I’ve been in a writing funk. It’s affected not only my blogging, but also my journaling. Worst of all, it was hindering me from getting out a proposal for my book.
In the past, painting has helped me get back in writing mode, but it wasn’t working this time. I tried other things that have worked before. I did some reading, went to a few of my favorite outdoor writing spots, and even watched movies I thought might inspire me. All that to no avail. So, there I stayed – for weeks – stuck.
Then, an interesting thing happened. I was scheduled to make a presentation to some college students on boundaries. I love public speaking. And I especially enjoy presenting on boundaries because it’s such an important topic. As I was driving home from the presentation, I was invigorated. I thought, “Yeah, that’s my sweet spot.”
I didn’t do the presentation to spark my writing. I did it because I had it on my schedule. But when I got home, I immediately started working on a post for LinkedIn. I had been thinking of doing the post for a few days, but … well, I had writer’s block. After completing the post, I went on to another writing project and have been back in the zone since. I even got the book proposal done and sent out!
My take-away from this experience? When you find yourself unable to write, do something else you love to do. Something that refreshes you. Something that builds your confidence because you know you do it well, even if it’s seemingly unrelated to writing.
Looking back now, I realize I had been feeling defeated because several things in my life had not gone as planned. By doing something that made me feel accomplished I regained my “I can do this” attitude.
Experts say it takes 20 minutes to refocus after a work interruption. I’d say that figure at least doubles when it comes to writing. In a previous post, I wrote about my hesitation to ask for help getting the time I need to finish the book I’m writing. But, I’m getting desperate for two reasons:
I’m SO close to finishing the complete first draft of this amazing story. I’ve been saying for weeks, “I should have it done by this weekend.”
After I get the draft finished, I want to travel to the city in which the story took place to do a last bit of research and some interviews. BUT … I have to get the draft finished first … sigh.
I once reblogged a great article entitled “The Rush To the End Syndrome.” That was a little over a year ago, so I guess I avoided the pitfall the article warned about – failing to create a strong ending to your story because of the impulse to just get the writing project done.
This week, however, I almost fell into the trap again. I had five days off work, so I was determined to finish up my book … well, finish up the complete first draft of the manuscript. I was so excited to be this close and couldn’t wait to dig in. But then … life interrupted. A surprise visit from out of town family. An unplanned guest one evening. A few hiccups that sent me down the rabbit hole of research – again.
Still, I was working my night owl super powers to the max (I can go with very little sleep for quite a few days) in an effort to meet my goal. After finding myself, for about the third time, contemplating ways to “condense” the final three scenes I went back to the article about rushing the end. I’m glad I did.
As another blogger who found the article helpful said, “We all suffer through the urge to tie it up at one point or another. Resist and you’ll have an ending worthy or your story.”
I’m banking on that as I readjust my goal. Thankfully, I have the same work schedule this coming week. Barring any life interruptions, I hope to have the complete first draft of the manuscript done by NEXT weekend.
I am a terrible fundraiser. I simply hate asking for money. For this reason, I have never taken a salary for the full-time work I do for our church plant. I just couldn’t raise funds for my own pay when the ministry needed the support. Almost two and a half years ago, I drew up plans to start a crowdfunding campaign for the book I’m writing (lacking a paycheck greatly hinders my ability to travel for the last leg of research I need to do).
But two days ago, I swallowed my pride and finally pushed the button on the campaign. As I’ve written before, I simply must get this book done as soon as possible. The friend I’m writing about has lived under an assumed name for over two decades and it’s time for him to reveal the truth about his life. He desires to do so in order to more effectively help others escape from the kind of life he used to lead. I’m honored that he’s asked me to help him tell his story. And now I’m asking if you would like to help, too.
The Go Fund Me campaign I’ve created offers rewards for this who choose to give to the project. Each reward level helps donors become increasingly more involved in the process to get this book written, published and promoted. I look forward to working with all who come along side me to get this story told. I am convinced many will be blessed by the book and by my friend’s ability to finally share how God brought him out of the “slimy belly of the underworld.”
To check out my Go Fund Me page and see the rewards I’m offering, click here or on the icon in the sidebar of this blog. And please, feel free to share with others. Your prayers will also be appreciated.
Author James Patterson says, “I try to leave out the parts people skip.” Of course, I read this just after finishing a section in my bookwhere I narrate the same scene twice – once as my main character’s wife (girlfriend at the time) saw it and then again from his point of view. I did this to show the different mindset each had at the time and also how that mindset determined which details of the event stay in their memory. I found it quite fascinating, but Patterson’s advice has me second-guessing my decision. I know, too, that we writers often fall in love with our own words and fail to cut things that are of no interest to the reader. So, I thought I’d throw the question out to you. Do you/would you enjoy reading the same scene twice from different perspectives? (I’ve included an excerpt from the scene in question below the poll if you want to read that before answering.)
Note: Names and other identifying information has been blacked out since the true identity and location of the main character will not be revealed until the book is published.
The day I finally found out everything about TEXT HERE‘s past began as just another one of those times when he was being evasive and turning my questions back on me. I was still asking the simple question, “What’s your real name?”
He gave one of his standard put-off question-answers, “Where you think I come from?”
But this time, I wasn’t in the mood for his games, so I told him, “I think you’re in the Witness Protection program or something.”
He went silent for a second and took a step back. Then he asked, “What makes you say that?”
“Because you’re insanely fanatical about your privacy. You have all these rules about what I can and can’t know, where we can and can’t go together, and what I can and can’t do with you. I know you’re dealing drugs. All the time, you’re leaving me alone all night and I don’t even know where you are. I’m sure that must be the kind of thing you were doing in your past life, too. I get worried sick. I don’t know if I can do this anymore.”
“You’re right. TEXT HERE is not my real name,” he said, and started pulling out pictures of his former life in TEXT HERE. That was interesting and all, but it still didn’t really tell me who he was. Eventually, he said, “I tell you what. I’m going to leave, but I want you to look this over.” He got out a cream-colored photo album he had not shown me yet. “You should also search the Internet for the name TEXT HERE from TEXT HERE while I’m gone. There will be a lot of news articles to read over, besides the ones in this album, so take your time and go through it before I come back.”
As he was leaving, he asked if I would swear to secrecy what I was about to find out. I said I would. I was honored that he had finally entrusted me with the information he had guarded so fiercely. I kind of liked the idea that I would be the only person in TEXT HERE who knew his secrets. But, when I read those articles, the gut wrenching part of it was finally realizing that I didn’t know TEXT HERE at all. He was a figment of my imagination. A made up character out of some book.
Dealing with him was so exhausting day in and out. He never wanted to spend holidays with my family or me. It hurt to think he was always with that other family during those times. I took some comfort in thinking he was our little secret. I wore that like a badge of honor, until I found out later I was one of several people he had told some portion of his story to.
It was a weird situation and we had a strange relationship. It was like he held me to the highest expectation of loyalty and faithfulness but I dared not hold him to the same standard. All I can say is that I was a young girl with no self-respect. I could not see my own potential. I thought this was just how life was.
I remember vividly the day TEXT HERE came to my house on TEXT HERE Lane. This was a different house than the one we lived in together. I told her to meet me there because I needed to see her. Prior to her arrival, I was in deep meditation over my real life and the great affection I had for TEXT HERE. I really cared about her and trusted her, but I felt a deep guilt because I was living a lie. She didn’t even really know me. She had stole my soul and I wanted to advance our relationship. But before we did, I had to be honest with her about my past.
I was so tired of lying. I needed someone to accept me for me, so I was ready to tell her regardless of the consequences. I cried so bad before she got there because I wanted to be free and the pureness of her life and personality had made me begin to believe I could be.
I made the decision to tell her after calling my surrogate mother, TEXT HERE. I said, “I must tell this girl who I really am. If something would happen to her while she’s dealing with me … or if she put either me or her in danger because she’s unaware, I wouldn’t want to blame her. And I wouldn’t want her to blame me. Plus, I want someone I can trust to call my family if I get killed while running the streets here in TEXT HERE.” Mom had been saying I should tell her even before this, so she encouraged me to do it.
Once TEXT HERE got there, I started by describing different situations and asking her would she still deal with me if I done those sort of things. We was in my living room and I started showing her pictures of me from my past life, just to see how she would react and what questions she would have. At first, she asked simple questions, like how was I surrounded by so many celebrities and what my real name was. I was surprised when she finally said something about thinking I was in Witness Protection, but I thought, “Okay, now she’s ready to hear the rest.”
I took her into my office and showed her some of the newspaper articles about the organization I had been in and the trial. After telling her the so-called good part of my life (drug dealing, fame, fortune), I told her the story of my best friend TEXT HERE, and how much I loved and missed him. I explained that I had revenged his death and that’s what led me here to TEXT HERE. Then I told her that I was separated from my family because of that.
She had a look of bewilderment but she still seemed okay. She said, “I don’t care. That’s not bad. You’re good now, getting your life together. It’s no big deal.” That’s when I told her I wanted her to read some things, because I felt she didn’t understand. I must not have explained things fully. I reached in the file cabinet and pulled out my documents from the Witness Protection Program. They had all the information about the crimes I committed and so forth. I left the room. I was scared but it felt so good to finally tell someone everything about my life. It really didn’t matter if she accepted me or not, because it felt so good just telling her and handing someone else those documents.
I went back in the room later and asked her, “Now do you see who I am?” She acted like she was not fazed! I then told her all the details that wasn’t in the articles and paperwork. She stood there listening, showing no emotion. Like a judge, I thought. I was shaking inside, but it felt like I was in a Catholic confession booth being cleansed. Like a faucet turning on, the water of my story was running out my mouth and I didn’t stop until it was all drained.
She was not shaken afterwards. She hugged me and made me feel like she accepted me. I cried and, for the first time on this journey, I felt a sense of freedom.
I gave her the option to leave me, but she said not to worry about that. I felt she didn’t fully grasp what I had revealed, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was I finally let it all out.
The narrator of this scene is the book’s main character, Newman. He’s landed himself in prison, along with the men rumored to have a hit out on him. Newman’s best friend, Benz, has already been murdered. Denying they ordered the hit and trying to convince Newman they’re all on the same team, they’ve pledged to help him find Benz’s killer.
We went back to J-Mack’s cell and devised a plan to interrogate Lester. We’d press him about who killed Benz. I knew what pressing him meant; this dude was in some serious trouble. I also knew motherfuckin’ well he didn’t have anything to do with Benz’s death. But this was my out. Lester was a fallen lamb who got caught in the middle of the situation and was being used by both sides.
It didn’t bother me much. The guy was being a thug with DJ, so I figure he had something coming. I was okay with the fact that, at least for today, he was the dead man walking and not me. Continue reading →
It would be easier to write the scenes of murder, torture, drug-trafficking and all the other evils that come with the life of organized crime if they weren’t true stories, or at least if they weren’t true about the friend I’m calling Newman.
It is hard for me to imagine the man I know doing these things. And it’s an agonizing process to interview him for details, forcing him relive the things he’s tried so hard to leave behind. Seeing the pain in his expression, watching him unknowingly clutch his chest as if to stop the pain, and hearing him swallow down tears makes me want to stop pressing.
I hate when I’m in the throes of writing and I need to message him to get clarity on something. He’s commented on how this will sometimes interrupt an otherwise normal day and take him back to a place he’d rather not be. I’ve offered to send my questions via email so he can open them at his discretion, or save them up and let him initiate a time to go over them. He’s understanding, though, of my need to get the information quickly so the writing process is not stalled. So, we’ve continued in this manner – though, I do try not to do this unless absolutely necessary.
We’re both determined to push on with this book project, but I sure will be glad when it’s done. Sometime today or tomorrow, I’ll post an excerpt from the scene that prompted this entry. For now, though, I just wanted to take a break from it and bawl out into the blogosphere this is stinking hard.
Update 1/31/15 – I have published the promised excerpt from the book. At first I made it a password protected post so the “grisly details” and language would not pop up on the feed for followers who may not wish to see them. I have since decided to go ahead and post it without requiring the password. I will explain why I changed my mind in a follow-up entry.
This is the third year I’ve participated in a writing retreat with a group of friends. Our plan is simple:
Rent a vacation home far enough away from our daily lives that we can’t be sucked back into our normal routines. The place must have enough space that each of us has a private area to do our work.
Meet at the beginning of our time together to establish our goals. We each write them out on a giant sticky note and hang them in the public area for all to see and monitor each other’s progress.
Have an evening meal together (we each take one night to prepare the meal). When we gather at the table, we update one another on how we’re doing with our goals. There are also lots of laughs, a good amount of encouragement, and sharing of tips for those who may be facing obstacles to creativity.
Other than our one daily mealtime, we honor each other’s need for solitude. It would take an extreme emergency to knock on someone’s door. We communicate through a Facebook page so each of us is free to check the announcements whenever we desire and not feel pressure to respond immediately.
At last night’s meal, I shared that I’m having trouble getting started on my main writing goal – completing the full rough draft for my book. Since I can’t seem to get into that “zone” I need to get into for productive writing, I’m trying to knock some of the smaller goals off my list – things like working ahead on myEncourager’s Devotional Seriesfor this blog.
That’s when one of my friends mentioned the video below by Byran Tracy and the concept of “eating that frog.” The logic is the reverse of what I’ve been doing. Tracy advises to tackle the big thing first – the thing you’re likely to procrastinate about doing. In other words, don’t let the smaller tasks distract you from the more important one. Continue reading →