The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. **Mark Twain

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why we do what we do....

This blog is dedicated to the "psychological" health of the writer.  That statement seems like an oxymoron.  Writers do what we do because we've been through some trauma or overwhelming event and we have something to say to the world.  I personally don't understand the popularity of twitter. (Even though I sold an article on it - coming soon!)   I don't really care that Suzie just brushed her hair - unless of course she's my daughter and even then I'd wonder why she's writing about it instead of rushing to meet the bus.

Most writers read a lot!  We love those 300 page books.  We love the smell and the touch of a favorite novel or the comfort of a worn non-fiction.  We drum our fingers on the desk while we chew on a subject, tear it apart and hopefully have each little piece figured out.

We are no different from our readers.  Life can be just as demanding and often just as painful as it is for anyone else.  When life hits full force robs a writer of peace and creativity it also hurts our work.  I recently had another one of those hurricane months.  I wrote my dear friend Jim Denny and asked for writing help.

"I feel like someone painted a bulls eye on my back.  I sit at my computer and instead of it being something that I feels like a huge weight.  For the first time in my writing career I find myself sitting at the computer wishing I was somewhere else....anywhere else....  What should I do?"

Jim is the author of hundreds of books and articles.  I love his book Quit your day job!  It has been a featured book in the sidebar since this blog was created.  Be sure and check out all his books.  He's a talented author. I took Jim's class during the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer's Conference.  His class literally changed my writing style.  To receive such an informational return e-mail from him was not only exciting, but seemed to bump me out of my slump.  I asked him if I could also share it with you.  I hope it helps.

Hi, Debbie—

So sorry to hear what you've been going through. I was thinking I've had a tough year (bad economy is squashing my industry, among other things), but I sure haven't had a near-death experience or a job loss in the family! I'm sending up a prayer for you and your husband right now.

I'm rarely excited about the writing process. Like you, I do love to write, but the engine never wants to turn over in the morning. I just sit down by habit, and try to lose myself in the process. I reread and edit some of the previous day's writing or do some other writing-related chore. Soon I'm writing without really thinking about the fact that I'm writing. Habit is the main thing.

There is one thing that gets me excited about writing, and that is reading my favorite writers. When I read good writing, the kind I read just for the joy of it, it makes me want to write. I don't know if that will work for you, but sometimes I will read a short story or an article by a writer talking about the writing process, and that will get me charged up.

I'm not sure I ever successfully block out the emotions of life. For example, if something makes me angry or depressed, the most immediate effect is that those emotions will keep me from writing. You can't be creative when there is emotional crosstalk in the brain.

But after some prayer, reflection, reading the Psalms, and taking a few minutes to recover from the emotional hit, I try to USE that emotion to fuel my writing. When I'm angry, I pound the keyboard or shout at my voice dictation software.

So, if possible, USE the emotions, don't try to shut them out. Write what's real. Write about what you are going through as a way of getting through it. Not necessarily as a way to write something that would help someone else, but just to process it with brutal honesty (maybe C.S. Lewis's A Grief Observed would be a model for this approach). Getting a saleable article or book out it might be a byproduct, but that's not the goal. The goal is just to unleash the honest and creative engine within you.

I remember having to write my Timebenders science-fantasy books for kids right after 9/11, and that was tough. I had writer friends who said they just stopped writing for weeks or months after 9/11. I didn't have that luxury, because I was on a very tight deadline. So I pushed through it and tried to use my emotional turmoil to add depth and feeling to the writing.

Also, don't feel you have to write in a straight line, chapter 1, then 2, then 3 or whatever. Write the section that appeals to you at this very moment. If you can't write whole chapters or articles, write patches. You can stitch it all together later, but just keep writing, and write what you are really passionate about. Getting those sections accomplished will increase your positive feelings, and will cause your love of writing to reignite.

Check out this article:

I identify with a lot of what this writer says. You may, too.

Also you might want to try the "Write or Die" writing software. You can test-drive it online at:

It forces you to write quickly and uncritically by setting off alarms if you pause too long in the writing process. If you try it, let me know what you think. I bought the desktop version, which is only $10. I use it for producing raw, first-draft fiction. I like to set it to the lowest, least-threatening settings and write in 20-minute stretches.
Hope something in all this was helpful.

God bless you,
Jim Denney

Ahhhh.....that helped so much!  I took his advice and I'm writing again. 

You can find a wonderful interview with Jim that gives even more insight into his writing at Absolute Write

His personal website is

God loves you and has called you to write,


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