The Flipside Of My Writing Tirade

I Storified a bunch of tweets yesterday where I did my boot-stompy grr-arrgh finger-wagging bear-posture and growled at you for not writing and for giving into your excuses.

And today I read a good response to that, which you can read here.

(That response by someone called “Pipsqueak the Ferocious,” which is awesome.)

I will quote the latter portion of this person’s post, though you should certainly go and read the rest of it (and spread it around the Tumblrs if you so choose), but I’ll quote one vital bit here:

Chuck’s tirade is good for me right now, but that’s because my brain is functioning well at the moment. If I’m not working when I’m supposed to, it’s because I’m lazy and/or avoiding responsibility. But you know what? I’m not not working right now. I can focus on my work. I can laugh off those shitty lines I have to write and fix later just to get to the next thing that happens. I’m in fact less inclined to refer to anything I write as shitty in the first place.

I can take Chuck’s tirade right now because I’m capable of healthy perspective.

If you do not currently have the same capability, please keep in mind that you can’t run on a bum knee.

Not writing when your brain is hurting doesn’t mean you’re worthless. It doesn’t mean you’re bad at what you do. It doesn’t mean you’ll never get better. And it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to try again when you feel better.

And when you do feel better, show the fuck up. Work your ass off. Get your words on the page. Show that goddamn depression—or whatever your hurdle is—who the fuck is in charge of what you’re capable of accomplishing.

Assume that the quote above pretty much covers it.

And also assume that anything I say after this is probably best ignored, because, no, really, Pipsqueak the Ferocious said it best. That said, I’m someone who doesn’t always know when to quit talking, so let me unpack this a little bit.

I ranted yesterday, and today I want to counter with the flipside of that, a little bit. I want to stand before you and say, TELL ME WHAT THE BAD MAN SAID TO YOU, and you respond with, YOU’RE THE BAD MAN, IT WAS YOU, WEIRDO, and I will just say in response SHHH SHHH SHHHH, HERE’S A BALM TO SALVE THE STING and you’re all like DUDE THAT’S JUST COCONUT OIL and I’m like SHUT UP IT’S A SUPERFOOD.

Some of the response to my little ranty-blather veered between cheerleading — yay woo you’re helping me get shit done — and an uncertain, incredulous eye-brow arch — yeah but you’re missing the larger picture and clearly demonstrating your privilege. And it’s true. It’s hard to capture nuance in a series of tweets, and too much vacillation would’ve dampened what I hoped was the larger thrust of the piece which is: hey, yeah, this thing we do is work and that means you gotta work it to do it.

But I want to add this:

You have to be kind to yourself.

Reality is not always kind, and so you sometimes have to fill that role all on your own.

You have to allow yourself compassion and forgiveness. Shame is not useful. Feeling lazy or weak or as a failure won’t fix anything for you. Beating yourself up isn’t a very good way to become who you want to be. You have to give yourself realistic expectations. I write a whole lot in a given day (a quantity of 2000-3000 words — though to what quality, I cannot say), but that’s because I do this as a full-time job. Others do not possess that luxury — certainly I didn’t, once upon a time. You don’t have to write 2000 words a day. You don’t have to write every day. (Though that helps, when you can manage it.) You just have to try to move forward. Sometimes moving forward will be by inches. Sometimes it will be with great antelope leaps. Sometimes, you will fall behind — and when that happens, again, kindness is  key. It used to be when I fell behind, I’d hate myself for it. To go with the ‘bum knee’ metaphor above, if that knee caused me to fall behind, I’d be mad enough at myself that I’d drift even further backward — almost as if I was punishing myself. It’s like breaking the second leg because the first has betrayed me. It’s dumb, but anger can be destructive. A dent in the armor of one’s self-worth grows rust and corrodes quickly.

And that’s not useful. There’s no fruit growing on that dead tree.

So even when moving backward, you always think about moving forward. Slowly, carefully.


But kindness is a tricky thing. It is neither perfect, nor absolute.

As many of you know, I have a cackling monkey-demon preschool-age son, and we attempt to approach parenting with as much compassion as we can muster. Sympathy and empathy in attendance. He’s a little kid and we think OH PSSH LIFE IS EASY FOR CHILDREN but fuck that, it’s not. Being a kid is confusing as hell. You have almost no actual power or choice in your life and your itty-bitty body is a cauldron of conflicting, bitey hormones. So, we try to be kind.

And yet, there’s this line. Where you cross over from kindness and into appeasement. Where you cross over into making excuses instead of compassionately correcting. That appeasement doesn’t work. It uniformly doesn’t work. Alternately, you can go the other way, and just yell and fight and punish, and that doesn’t work, either. There you’re just two goats locking horns — or, worse, you cross over into making the child feel weak and shameful.

Kindness, then, isn’t about appeasement.

It’s not the act of giving in or giving up.

But it also doesn’t masquerade as shame or abuse.

Kindness is about understanding one’s limitations but still encouraging growth. It’s like physical or mental therapy — kindness to your bum knee isn’t just letting the leg atrophy and accepting you’ll never use it again. FUCK THIS LEG, you say, then numbly return to your pudding cup. Kindness is leaving it alone until it heals enough that you can move it. Kindness is pushing a little bit here and there until that knee can move again. Or until you can compensate. Kindness isn’t giving up, but rather, believing that you can do it — and then taking action to make it so. As Pipsqueak the Ferocious wisely points out: “Show that goddamn depression — or whatever your hurdle is — who the fuck is in charge of what you’re capable of accomplishing.”

And again, this is so much easier said than done.

But none of this changes the fact that it still needs doing.

And you are in charge of doing it.

Reality is, some folks will have it easier than you do. They will start off healthier, happier, or with better connections or more money or white skin or a brain that isn’t wonky.

As for me — my childhood was not what I would call “awesome.”

I had (and still occasionally have) nigh-crippling anxiety. I don’t talk about that much, because ennh, it’s not really that interesting, and I don’t like to give it too much power. But sometimes this anxiety would manifest as hypochondria or as some other fear-based specter. I’d be driving home from work, convinced I had one of several rare maladies. My throat would be tight, feel like it was closing, like I couldn’t breathe. Chest pain. Gremlins of panic. Good times.

And before we had our son, we lived in a creepy rowhome next to a pack of weirdos in a higher-crime little town and we worked full-time jobs and were kneecapped by heaps and mounds of debt and… y’know, writing even a little bit at a time seemed like an insane luxury. Even though it was bringing in money, it seemed like a fool’s endeavor. And some folks in my family certainly thought it was. Even when I was a kid, wanting to be a writer was not viewed as being a practical, intelligent decision. It was assumed, I think, that I’d grow out of such wanton dipshittery.

And then having a kid of our own, even just one, that complicates things, too. It’s like, you each had full time jobs before and now you’ve got a third full-time job thrown on top of that and this one cries a lot and apparently needs to eat and then totally poops all the time and, and, and —

It’s a bucket of tough fucking cookies, is what I’m saying. And it gets easy when you’re saddled with all these things to feel like if you’re not producing eighty billion words a day then you’re a failure. And it also goes the other way, where it gets easy to simply not write any words at all — because writing 500 words isn’t enough, so why put even one down? And then you gaze forward and you see, oh, shit, it’s not just about writing, it’s about editing, and publishing, and selling, and reviews, and then doing it all again and again —

And soon the stress mounts.

You can’t breathe.

Gremlins of panic.

Good. Times.

That was me. You are you. Many of you have it worse than I did. Worse because of… frankly, whatever. And here’s a thing that has the potential to make you feel good and bad at the same time, and that thing is: you’re not alone. Realizing you’re not alone is great because you don’t feel like a weird-ass zebra running in a pack of horses anymore. You see that others are dealing with the same shit you’re dealing with. The feeling of a support group, invisible but present.

But the feeling of a support group can go the other way, too — you can see other folks who have suffered as you have, or have suffered somehow worse, and yet, they’re managing. Maybe they’re doing better. Maybe they’re doing fucking awesome, which once more only makes you feel like they’re running the race and you can’t even find the starting line.

And I can’t fix that feeling, really.

What I can tell you is that comparing yourself to others will never have much of a positive impact. It’s valuable to share your pain and problems with others, but at the same time, you need to see that who you are is who you are, and your path is yours. You can’t walk somebody else’s path.

You must be kind to yourself.

But the flipside of that is, being kind also means not leaving yourself room for excuses.

No matter who you are, or what you have to deal with, the truth remains: if you want to be a writer, you have to write. The trick is having realistic expectations. Not ones given over to excuses, no, but also ones that are kind. Expectations that push you enough to do the work, but not so hard that you break. If you don’t write for a couple days, let that be okay. But if you don’t write for a couple years, then it’s worth looking back and asking why. It’s like dieting and exercise — a cheat day here and there is fine. You take Sunday to lounge around in a pile of Doritos bags while watching a marathon of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (*ooooh damnit), fuck yeah. Take that time. Be good. R&R is key. But if you take all of January and February and March to do that — then you have to find a way forward. Not backward. Not a shame-based motivational plan. But you have to take a step as soon as that bum knee lets you.

And I know. Even still, the advice is unfair. That you still have to work, that you still have to write, but it is what it is and I can’t change that. The reality — so obvious that I shouldn’t even have to say it, and yet it’s a truth of which I must remind myself from time to time — is that this requires a commitment from you. A realistic one. A fair one. A kind one. But a commitment just the same. And that’s true no matter who you are, no matter what your problems, no matter the complications of your existence. Because at the end of the day, you’re still accountable to you.

Not to me.

Not to anybody else.


49 responses to “The Flipside Of My Writing Tirade”

  1. The day I stopped beating myself up about not meeting my own lofty expectations was the day the paralysis broke and I was able to start working again. Being kind to yourself is the biggest and most important piece of that.

  2. I’ve realized lately that its rarely an issue of time. Its an issue of priority. Speaking only for myself, I work a full-time job, teach two college courses and have a spider monkey of a two year old at home*. I really feel like I don’t have time. But I do find myself laying on the couch watching re-runs of Shark Tank. Being honest with myself, evidently doing that is a higher priority than writing.

    When I see Chuck’s posts about writers write, and if you don’t write than you’re not a writer, I don’t see any judgement or indictment in it, just honesty. It comes down to aligning your priorities with your goals and acting accordingly.

    *I’m sure many of you are much more busy than I, I’m just stating a baseline.

    • Wait till said spider monkey gets to late grade school/high school. It doesn’t get less busy as they get older…

      Sometimes watching reruns of Shark Tank is more important than writing, if it’s one of those stolen moments with your family or something crazy like that. I’ve found that you have to actually steal those moments because everyone (not just me) is busy as hell.

      If I had free time that wasn’t occupied with things of higher priorities, I’d either read or write, because they’re the two things I enjoy doing the most. But they’re both pretty solitary…

  3. I like hearing these little tidbits about the hypochondria and the creepy rowhome. It makes me think you might actually be human after all. (Don’t you currently live next to a pack of weirdos?) Because honestly, the amount of words you produce on this blog alone ain’t human, never mind the actual books you publish.

    To add my own voice to this, I’ve been dealt some awful life stuff, and I got through it. Not as awful as some people have had, of course, but awful enough. That being said, I’m in the best place I’ve ever been right now, and sometimes when I sit down to write I’m like oh my god, I can’t do it. I don’t know how I ever wrote all the stuff I wrote before. I’m a fraud. I don’t know what I’m doing. I have to finish this book and I can’t can’t can’t. And then I sit there for an hour and type one sentence. ONE SENTENCE. And then I sit there for another fifteen minutes, just sitting, staring at the wall, and the the dam breaks, and I’m typing away and I look at the clock and an hour has passed in what felt like five minutes. It’s 12:38 AM and my alarm clock is going to go off at 5:55 AM.

    So, my point: I think it’s important sometimes just to take the time to stare at the wall. Don’t think about how you can’t do it, don’t think about what you want to do, what you need to do, what you’ve already done. Just sit, fingers on keys, and chill. Settle in. Because it will come. You’ve just gotta give it a chance.

  4. Wow. I have anxiety, too. (General Anxiety Disorder. I don’t know if you’re talking about just panic attacks or GAD or what, but even if we’re not on the same page we’re in the same book.) For some reason, I never would have guessed that you had it, but that makes a lot of sense now.

    I used to dislike my anxiety, but over the years I’ve realized that all that insane nervous energy is what has pushed me to do a lot of things in my life. It’s pushed me to think a lot of thoughts and keep myself moving towards goals. Of course, it’s also led me to pace a couple nights away, but hey. Every advantage has a disadvantage; every disadvantage has an advantage. Double-edged swords, and all that.

  5. I wrestle with my own demons. I wake up every day with a Bag of Holding full of mental health diagnoses that have rendered me disabled, by which I mean, medical professionals have decided I am incapable of working, and I actually receive monetary compensation. But I refused to be cowed. These medical professionals told me for years that it would come to this, but I kept working anyway, until one day … I just couldn’t work anymore.

    So, instead, I wrote a novel. And now I am editing that novel. I wrote six short stories, and have been sending them off to magazines. Not one has been published, but one of them got me accepted to The Kenyon Review’s summer Writing Workshop in Fiction, which has me over the moon. Writing is one of the things that brings me comfort. It’s a coping mechanism. So much so that when I went to a conference for writers in New York, and spent some time with family, I couldn’t write, and then I came home and had a meltdown in an art store.

    I have other coping mechanisms. Walking. Playing Pathfinder. Spending time with my husband. Spending time with my dog. Hanging out with friends face-to-face. What helps with depression and mental illness are people’s own coping mechanisms and support networks which are unique to them, and I know this because before I became disabled, I was working as a therapist. When people are feeling bad, and they can’t write, they just need to grab onto their support network and coping mechanisms and drive themselves out.

    I write Monday – Friday for two to four hours. Sometimes I don’t get everything done I wanted because it’s really nice outside, or I get a lot of phone calls. That’s fine, life happens. But I still do it. It makes me happy. We all have to decide what makes us happy. I found your Twitter-rant inspirational, but then again, I’ve been in therapy with amazing social workers for almost twenty years.

    Some people aren’t as well-adjusted as I am. And that’s okay. People will get there. Life is a journey, with detours and giant rim-destroying potholes, and sometimes you just have to enjoy the scenery and see where the tow truck takes you.

  6. “Kindness is about understanding one’s limitations but still encouraging growth.” With everything in life. My writing career. Raising an Autistic Son. Dealing with (for real) my bum knee, back, pelvis, and neck.
    Ranty Pants wrapped in Kindness Chaps. I dig it.

  7. For me the problem is not in what you said. It’s how you said it. Despite the fact that I agree with some of the finer points it was still an angry rant and I completely missed that when I read it initially despite having fought with abuse and mental health and my own excuses for what feels like an eternity.

    I think the real question is: why are you so angry about other people’s excuses and feel you have to prove your point with an angry rant? You could instead deliver the message in a kind way; it’s your message, your thoughts, your beliefs, not a natural law. Give it with love and care, not anger. Not everyone can fit in the same mould and there are as many unique human situations as there are human beings.

    • Please don’t count this response as dismissive, but I write how I write and yesterday’s rant manifested that way. And given that it was on Twitter, it comes across more curt than it might if I wrote it here as a blog post. I’m not literally angry over other people’s excuses in that I’m shaking with rage — but being me, I get a lot of writers who want to talk to me at cons and email me and tell me how much they want to be a writer but then lament how they’re not writing, and you hit a point where it’s like, I can’t help them unless they write. I can’t make it all better. I can’t fix it. You wanna write, you gotta write. *shrug*

      • Your response is not dismissive. You are who you are and you express yourself in the way that is suited to you and that’s a unique human trait. My questions had no intention of judging you, my apologies if they came across like that. Accepting people for who they are, without judging is my personal path. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

        • Sure, absolutely. Today’s post is meant to provide a little balance to that one, because the truth is (as with most things) somewhere in the middle. Like, okay, the realities of both actually writing and the career that you make around the writing are hard. Sometimes, very much so. And so, sometimes the advice (for me) feels like it should also be suitably tough — because if you can’t hack tough advice, you can’t hack a tough writing life. But on the other hand, writing is a delicate thing. The craft is work, but the art is there, too. You can’t break yourself over it, either, because if it’s too tough, too hard, you’ll never survive. So, there’s always a balance, and I try with this blog and my books to find the weird path between those two sides of it.

          (And thanks! I didn’t think you were being judgmental, no worries.)

      • I am about to rant about what I consider the ungrateful few who always have to “correct” someone else. Not the author from whom you quoted, who simply added another take on your rant, but the few who want to jump your shit. I have never seen a writer who walks as if on eggshells and nuts and bolts and hot coals as you, when it comes to dealing with your struggling writer audience. You have been extremely generous with your advice. You have talked with love and caring, and sometimes the kick in the pants that everyone needs. If a writer is so weak in his or her desire to write that one rant from you is going to send them into a death spiral, then something else was going to get them anyway. Quit writing over one blog post? No, Chuck, keep doing what you are doing.

        And let me add that I suffer from depression and anxiety as well. I am not unsympathetic, but sometimes you have to take responsibility for your own wellness. I want a t-shirt that says “Don’t blame Chuck”! Ok, I feel a little better. Please don’t quit ranting. It is so inspiring. And if someone is too upset by the rant, they can always quit following you. I don’t know you, but I have seen your heart, and it is mass fuzzy bunnies. The tongue may hold a prod, but, sickly, I like it that way….

  8. Great response, Chuck. I work two jobs and am going to school full time (second and hopefully final stint in college), and a lot of times, like when I’m in the middle of a big order for my second job, I don’t really have time to write. And that’s to say, I don’t have time to sit down and finish the last round of revisions on my novel (holy crap it’s so close I just want the damn thing done). What I do have time for is stuff like keeping in touch with my writers’ group, thinking up and jotting down ideas for blog posts and short stories, reading industry stuff, and fleshing out ideas for future books… these are things that keep my head in the game, and while they aren’t specifically writing, they are developmental. And I think that’s sort of what it’s about; you tell yourself, writing is going to be a priority in my life, and so when life gives you a ten minute bus ride, you use it. When life gives you fifteen minutes in the bath, you use it.

    I think the “writers write” line is often taken far too literally. As someone who plans eventually to write as my primary job, I have a lot of irons in the fire. Dedicating brain space to those things matters. That’s the mental heavy lifting that translates to words on the page next time you sit down. And yeah, sometimes you spend an evening drooling down your shirt while you watch youtube videos. That’s okay.

    Sometimes you suffer a traumatic brain injury at work and have to take six months off of your current project, while you deal with all the normal everyday things you do that suddenly seem bizarrely difficult. That’s okay.

    And sometimes your head is only in the game enough to keep all the other stupid parts of your life ticking over, and that’s okay too.

    You just have to come back, is all.

  9. I might be missing something here. It seems to me that Mr. Wendig’s position on this blog has been pretty consistent: if you want to be a writer, you have to write. It’s as simple as that. Of course, you have to find a balance and you have to give yourself realistic expectations (which, I believe, is the key to this whole thing). But what is wrong with having a reality check and realize, you know what, I have been lazy. I didn’t work today as hard as I could have. I could do better. I should be a little ashamed that I didn’t sit down and at least do something with my novel or story or screenplay or whatever it is you happen to be writing. I understand the bum knee analogy and I recognize it applies to some people and there are very real and serious issues that some face. On the other hand, I can’t imagine calling into my 9-5 job on a regular basis and say, ‘You know what, I just don’t feel like it today. I’m not coming in.’ Now, do I periodically decide to play hooky? Of course I do. But the fact is I rarely feel like going into my sometimes soul crushing job trapped in a cubicle for nine hours, but by and large I waddle my fat ass to work every day because I have bigger responsibilities that supersede my delicate hot house flower sensibilities. If I can manage to do that, I would think I should at the very least be able to carve some time in my day for something I supposedly have a passion and love for. When I look at writers past and present, each one basically has the same message: writing is a job. If you’re waiting for inspiration or the right time to write, good luck. You are not going to get much done. As Harlan Ellison once said, “You sit down at your typewriter and you work. That’s all there is to it.” I have a feeling that the real core of the problem with many people has less to do with time and more to do with the fact that writing is hard work. It’s really fucking hard work, even for the best writers. And that’s why so few of us are able to stick with it for a sustained period of time.

    To beat this dead horse a little bit more, there is a scene in the documentary COMEDIAN that has always stuck with me. Jerry Seinfeld tells this story: “One day I was watching these construction workers go back to work. I was watching them kind of trudging down the street. It was like a revelation to me. I realized these guys don’t want to go back to work after lunch. But they’re going. That’s their job. If they can exhibit that level of dedication for that job I should be able to do the same. Trudge your ass in.”

    I don’t see how Mr. Wendig is missing anything or demonstrating any privilege. And if he is, it is only because he has trudged his ass in for years to get there.

  10. As much as I love this, being kind can be just as destructive. Why? It is all about the individual person. I know from personal experience.

    Growing up, my parents were kind. Maybe they were too kind. If I wanted to take dance classes; I was in dance classes. if I suddenly felt the need to become the next Serena Williams, then my parents got me in classes. They handed me what I wanted if I proved I wanted it enough. They encouraged me and cheered me on. Sometimes I was good (like tennis) and my teachers bumped me up levels, but I grew sick of it. My parents would make me go until the end of what they paid for and convince me I should just give up, but I was stubborn. I was done. Screw tennis and the rackets and the sun.

    They were kind and I took advantage of that shit. I learned how to play the game and game the system from an early age. It wasn’t until I was older, suffering from depression myself that I got the kick I needed. It wasn’t from my parents who were kind. It wasn’t from my friends who went along with my games. It was from someone who I barely knew who and barely knew me who said they were tired of my shit. They beat it into me that if I wanted something so badly, if I cared about something as much as I claimed, then I would do something about it.

    My depression didn’t go away. I didn’t become the best web designer out there. I didn’t become the best writer. However, it did force me to sit down and look at my priorities.

    I want to write. I write. No about of kindness is going to make it better. Excuses only keep me from improving. I decided that at the end of every day, I was going to have something written. I don’t care if it’s good or bad, long or short, but it’s going to be something. If I’m kind to myself and forgive myself when I don’t meet my goals, I’m letting no one down, but myself. I’m the kind of person who can’t live with that. I won’t I’m a fixer.

    Kick me in the ass and tell me I suck and you can bet I’m going to pull myself up, loving the metallic tang as I lick my wounds, and do everything in my power to prove you wrong.

    I guess my point is, everyone needs something different to get them going and keep them moving forward. The one thing that I think anyone who wants to succeed needs is to be confident though. And I may be the worst writer out there, but I’m confident that one day someone will like what I write. I’ll push through blood and tears to get there. If you have confidence even if you hit a rough patch where doing what you love is more difficult than jumping from earth to Sirius A, you can make it through.

    I’m going to shut up before too many people tear me apart.

  11. As an old journalist hack, I’ll sum up. Pick your battles.

    You know your goal, you know your life, and thus you need to know your tactics. For some of us, this is a game of yards, and for others it’s a game of inches. As long as you keep going forward, you are in the game.

  12. Sensei –

    I think your words and shared wisdom are kindness. I have and will continue to tell anyone that it is YOUR willingness to share information that gave me a path out of the forest. Two books done and the third being outlined. 350 words a day is possible, even with my two jobs (full-time and part-time).

    Your kindness comes from experience (the past) and generosity (the present). Looking forward to someday shaking your hand.

  13. This is great writing advice, but I wanted to say thanks for the reminder about being an awesome parent, too. I have three girls (2,5, and 7) and I think sometimes I forget that being a kid *is* difficult, and kindness is just as important as all the other stuff. Finding balance is hard.

  14. Great comments as always….for those of you with kids, who have to do diaper runs or stir oatmeal while dealing with those gremlins of panic, I recommend, How to Work at Home with a Toddler, and not just because I wrote it but because with 4 kids, I lived it. If you want to delete the link that’s fine. I understand. You can still find it under my name, Theresa Lepiane. I’m saying this Chuck because you really sound like you need it. Love your stuff–and I read every post!

  15. Oh gosh! I had zero expectation you would read my post, so this was a bit of a surprise! I’m not altogether used to having the Internet look at me like it has today, but based on a few of the responses, I’m glad I’ve been able to say something that resonated with some people.

    You’re absolutely right here. It’s really easy to cross the line from self-care into appeasement, and it takes a healthy dose of honest introspection to know when you have. (I don’t always get it right the first time, but I try my best.) Making reasonable and achievable goals, as you say, is a vital skill, especially for developing writers. It’s also important to have a support network. I think your blog (and your Internet presence in general) aims to provide that. Knowing the people I know and the struggles we have in common, I wanted my post to be part of that network by playing defense for them. Some of them read your blog too, and I wanted to help by herding the interpretation of the message and keeping it about doing work that needs to be done, not about how terrible anyone is for not having done the work already. Of course, you weren’t calling anyone terrible (nor do I think you ever would), but the Gremlins of Panic are experts at whittling other people’s words to a fine point that’s perfect for stabbing us in the kidney. They’ve been doing it to me for years, and I wanted to give my friends some padding before that happened to them.

    Anyway, I’m glad you like my post! Your blog is wonderful, and I love the work you do!

  16. Thank you, Chuck! I for one love the tough love you give. I work the graveyard shift (I get off at 9:30am) and because I take public transportation, I have to leave to be at work three hours before my starting time. Also, I’m freakin’ tired when I get home. But when do I have time to write? During those three hours before work (I also read a book and your blog of course). Sometimes on my break too. I find a way. (FYI: I don’t have a laptop so I still hand write everything). But this schedule works for me. Of course people don’t have time like that, but what chuck is saying is just find any scrap of time and write something…anything because that in itself is creating something. Yes, I have those days when I just say “forget it”. However, I push myself forward as soon as I can after that. So, once again, thanks for the tough love.

  17. Top stuff both from yourself and Pipsqueak the Ferocious. For what it’s worth, I could write a book in about 6 months but my circumstances mean that it takes about 18 months in real time, sometimes more, to get those 6 in. There’s a lot of shit going on in my life right now. A lot of stuff muscling in to get in the way, or to fry my brain. I’m going to write but my Dad has another fall, a friend dies, McMini has a school event that I have to go to or something as simple as a cold crops up and smacks it on the head. All you can do is roll with it and try again. Sometimes, you just get a few weeks when something urgent is always slipped in front of you every time you clear all the shite and get to the desk.

    We all have to stop sometimes, when we need to or we have to. And that’s OK, and I think the big thing is to never give up. And perhaps the whole being a writer thing is that we can’t.

    And I have a bum knee and yes, I can confirm, that while it is possible do ‘the special one-legged gait’ quite fast you definitely cannot run.

    Lovely, lovely post.



  18. “But didn’t you say you were satisfied with your life?”
    “Word games,” I dismissed. “Every army needs a flag.” — Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

    I saw you post as a war banner. You may not always be able to live up to it, but find one that’s bright and colorful and snaps bravely in the wind and fight your way towards it. Every day the battle begins anew. Cowards die a thousand deaths, only the dead have seen the end of war, but it is not this day etc. etc. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English.

  19. Writing or not writing is a choice you make every day. Sometimes not writing is the right choice. Sometimes it is the whim of the procrastimaster. Sometimes you and the procrastimaster go on a total binge, and you wake up not remembering where you left your pencil and having a vague sensd of shame about that.

  20. I was committed once upon a time when I was younger–all of twenty–then an abusive marriage came along and derailed me for a lot of dark years. When I finally picked myself up and broke me and the kids free, writing slowly became the thing that I returned to, my escape, my salvage, my peace. It has brought me back from the brink of chaos and though I’ve worked at it the last six or seven years now, I didn’t make that full-time commitment to it again until last Dec. I was studying my craft and trying to eke out stories but floundering. Now, I see a pathway, maybe not clear, but a pathway nonetheless. Thanks for this, Chuck!! Your words make a difference, and a little correction here and there is always appreciated.

  21. When depression informs so much of your life, it adds that extra-special layer of intractability to the fears and periodic lack of confidence that writers normally experience. I realized a while ago that I have a lot of my own self-image wrapped up in my writing. If I don’t do it and worse, if I don’t do it well, I’m validating years of belief that I’m not good enough and I simply don’t have what it takes to succeed.

    And sometimes that’s my biggest motivator. I get tired of letting those horrible voices take the best out of me. I’ll finish this and I’ll make it as good as I can, if only to try and break that cycle of believing that I can’t.

  22. Chuck, you are the best. Both of your posts – the rantypants and the counter – are spot on. Sometimes we need that slap upside the head that says Get over your whiny-ass self. We need to kick our excuses in the nethers and Just Do It. But sometimes they’re not excuses but REASONS, and we need to make the distinction between the two.

    Maybe we procrastinate, or allow ourselves to be diverted (Pinterest guilt here!), or just don’t wanna, or I can’t brain today, or whatever. Accept that there are going to be days like that. Maybe even quite a few in a row–everybody needs to be a slug now and then. Take some vacation days. But like you said, if you wanna be a writer, you gotta write. So remember that the vacation has to be over sooner or later, and then it’s time to go back to work. Get your butt back in the chair and get back in the game.

    But other times we have problems that are insurmountable and unavoidable and real. That’s when we need to be kind to ourselves. If you have an issue, whether it’s depression, or a broken car, or Lupus, or galloping ADHD, or a two-year-old, or whatever, it’s a REAL THING. And Reality doesn’t care what you wanted to do today, it’s gonna do what it’s gonna do, and too bad for you, baby. You can’t beat yourself up for what isn’t in your control. You just have to recognize that, and accept that today is maybe not the day. It isn’t you that failed.

    Take a breath, and try again later. You CAN do it, and you WILL do it. Later. It’s gonna be okay.

  23. Thank you. I’ve been struggling with the mixed feelings of wanting to write yet being afraid that I’ll find I have nothing worth writing about, or worse. Anyway, I’m committed, so I’ll follow this path wherever it may lead.

  24. Chuck, I might have taken umbrage at your writing tirade about twenty years ago, but at this point in my life it (and many of your past posts) were what finally kicked my bum into gear with getting my shizzle done. The Natalie Goldberg approach might have been chicken soup for my soul in the past, but I didn’t really start eating it until it got a kick of Chuck Wendig’s special hot sauce added in. 🙂

    If there’s one thing that’s noticeable, even from just the responses left here by others – is that many of us have had to struggle through life, whether against external obstacles like crappy life events or internal ones like mental illness. As a member of that club myself, I know how hard it is to walk that fine line between pushing yourself to do better and beating yourself up for not doing better enough. That’s why virtual watering-holes like your blog are so valuable; we can meet here and share these things and know we’re not alone.

    We need to talk about these things. Yes, it’s the ‘done thing’ to be all “Oh yeah, well I have these issues in my life but hey, I don’t let ’em get me down and I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m trying to get some support or empathy or anything because, like, I’m a big person now so that’s totally not cool, right?” IT’S FINE, really it is. Writing is hard work as it is – if you’ve got other stuff messing you up as well… I hope anyone who’s having struggles in their lives has read some of the posts here and felt better from knowing they’re not the only ones, and that not achieving as much as they hoped for as fast as they hoped for is NOT failure.

    Come on, fellow writers – let’s be friends to each other! Anyone needs a boost, or an encouraging “go you!”… well, I’m all over that, for starters. You’re all warriors, and you CAN do it. Writing is your big-ass chocolate cake, and there aint no law that says you have to eat all that cake faster than you can cram it in your mouth. Eat it at your speed, your way – even if it’s only a teeny bite at a time, you’ll finish it in the end.

  25. I used to feel guilty when I didn’t write every day. But I stopped, because it did paralyze me. And I have a day job that’s physically, mentally, and emotionally draining (nurse), AND I have teenagers … if you think toddlers are hard, just wait (insert evil laughter here), and so sometimes I just need to sit and watch mindless drivel on television. But I refuse to leave the stories that are rolling around in my head untold. And so I write.

  26. Chuck, I think one of the most important things you’ve said here, among so many helpful insights, is “What I can tell you is that comparing yourself to others will never have much of a positive impact.” It is so important that people not base their own self-expectations on their perceptions of others. On a related note, one harmful trap I often fall into is discounting my own pain and problems by looking at the situations of others and saying, “See, they’ve got it way worse than I do. Just suck it up and drive on.” This leads to self-neglect and not addressing your own troubles. You must be whole, and healthy, at least reasonably so, if your going to do your best by others, meaning your family, friends, colleagues, your community, whoever. And also to do what’s best for yourself and your own life. Don’t be ashamed for doing things to take care of yourself.

  27. I read this post and chuckled along because it is what I try to tell those who would be “authors” all the time – to be a writer, one must write. From that point on, I have no idea what to tell them because, frankly, I must be somewhat of an anomaly. I say that because I can write 5,000 words in a day effortlessly. I don’t know how – I just can. I’ve done it for years. I think my top was 26K+; I wrote over 130K in January. This month, not so much. And there’s a reason for that.

    I struggled with all of the things you outlined in your post at some time or other. I’ve had wild toddlers, wild preschoolers, wild gradeschoolers, etc., etc., unfair family responsibilities, health issues, chronic depression. There were times I wrote and times when I didn’t. And guess what’s happened to me now?

    Now that I have time to write and energy to write and solitude to write, I find myself spending a great deal of time in marketing because, unfortunately, that’s the life of an indie writer now in the world of 17-page “books” and those who publish and then decide that perhaps they should’ve reread what they wrote BEFORE they hit “publish.”

    And in that vein, here’s another factor: If you think being able to write in those volumes is a blessing, just remember: If you write all of those words, you also have to proof and edit them (if you want something worth reading, that is, or you’re independently wealthy and can afford to hire an editor who makes more editing your manuscript than you will on said book over the first ten years). THAT’S the big job, so congratulations to my word-happy ass. When I add in the marketing, accounting, inventory, and a little time to bathe, eat, and do all those other things a human body needs to do to not be kicked out of Walmart, well, I’m living my job. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. But there’s a lot more to it than just getting the words down on paper.

    So yes, if you want to be a writer, write. Be kind to yourself, not excuse-laden, just kind. But don’t be like my writer friend who’s been writing the great American novel for the last twenty-five years and is no closer to publishing it now than she was all those years ago because she’s still poking through those twenty-seven sticky flags in her thesaurus. If you’re going to write, be productive at it.

    Unless it’s just a hobby. And then piss on everything I just said and have another bag full of fun-sized Snickers. Maybe more words will come when you’ve woken from your sugar-induced stupor and thrown away the wrappers and empty bag; maybe not. In the end, the only one who knows if you’ve done what you needed to do is you. And no one else can judge you for something only you can know.

    Thanks, Chuck. Time to go load another preorder and then start editing the next manuscript. You gave me hope because at least I know I’m putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward and I’m doing the one thing I have to do to be a writer.

    I’m writing.

  28. The tough love “put your boots on and do it, soldier!” method is widely popular among the writing community. I’ve often thought it was too popular, too easy to pass things off like that. It smacks of “i got mine” talk which is never that helpful. Tough talk is nice and easily applauded, but it feels like half of what should be a fully fleshed out philosophy.

    It was nice seeing you post this, and seeing them say what they said.

    What you said made me think the same thing. it made me feel alienated and a little hopeless, like a reminder that I was just shit out of luck, people weren’t interested in the other side of things. It wasn’t really “you” and it wasn’t really that what you said was in any way saying anything like that. Truthfully, it was more that I thought of others who said worse.
    I agreed with all the things you said, I had just wished the other half of that conversation was present, same way I always feel when I see one of those.

    So, I very much applaud you for doing that. It’s important, more important than I believe many people choose to see (and I wish they would). I also think it will make a difference for a lot of people to see this so I dearly wish others would take a thought from the exchange and remember it for next time. There are a lot of people in the world that feel rather alone and it costs us nothing to extend a touch of empathy to make a world of positive difference.

    I know you believe talking about your anxiety isn’t interesting but allow me to give you a bit of advice to think of. In my experience, talking about things like that make a big difference to people dealing with their own things. I remember when I started doing it, i was surprised, I mean I’m nobody, no one knows me, but even a nobody like me saying something, saying “hey I’m human and here’s a bit of me being human”…
    I ended up finding it meant mountains to others. They found hope. They felt they weren’t alone. They stopped looking at themselves as broken and hopeless. So I talk now. Thanks for talking.

  29. “You must be kind to yourself” – simple truth but it can be so hard to stick to it. Well, it’s always up to you. If you aren’t kind to yourself from time to time, what are the chances the world will be kind to you? You can count on one person who will definitely treat you well if needed, and this person is you.

  30. In my experience, there are times, when the words won’t let themselves be written. On those days, I feel like I’m goofing off. Which is stupid, because I do write seven days a week, because, um, I’m a writer. I’ll go through days or even weeks of self-disgust. But I’ve recently figured out it’s because I’ve powered past a problem and it’s roared up and bit me in the ass. I was in such a hurry to get to the destination, that I lost the directions. No more words from the word fairy until I figure out where I got lost and go fix it.

    It’s frustrating. I try and try, but I can’t figure it out. And then out of the blue (like yesterday, when I was walking the dog, enjoying the birds and pollen) WHAMMO! I figured out what was wrong. I wasn’t even thinking about the story. And all of a sudden I ‘m on fire–revised 50 pages today. I’m brilliant–a frikkin’ genius and I remember why I love writing so much.

    And the thing is, this kind of shit happens all the time, and I get sucked in EVERY time. I just forget until it happens again. I’m still pretty new at this writing game, but I have learned that with persistence, there is a way through (even if you can’t see it at the moment). You just keep whacking your way through the weeds and walking the dog or whatever it is that works, and you’ll come out the other side. The only thing that doesn’t work it quitting.

  31. Thank you for doing this follow-up post. It means a lot. For a healthy person, most of your advice is true. I would just add the qualifier that having time to write IS a privilege. And if you don’t realize what a privilege that is, then you don’t value your time the way you should — so treat your writing time like the valuable privilege it is and write something. You know? Yeah. Thanks for the reminder of what a great privilege my writing time is. I will try to be more mindful.

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