Week in, week out, every Sunday you open my email missives, and many times you reply to me about whatever element sparked your brain cells. You’ve been a story teller yourself for many years and I kind of feel like you deserve to know the truth about the world of professional writers… and the power of deadlines.
When we were back in school, nothing could strike fear (I mean inspiration) into our hearts more than a due date for a big project or term paper. Unless there was an impending snow day, it was a sure thing that the deadline was not going to move. Like the Ten Commandments, it was carved in stone.
So each time a writer friend tells me, “I couldn’t write a thing this week. I just wasn’t feeling inspired,” I smile politely and change the subject.
I know all about this affliction. There’s no co-pay or prescription drug that can cure it.
But the good news is… inspiration is not required.
All you need is a strong enough dose of guilt to entice you to sit down in front of the keyboard.
For six days in a row before writing the Poppins post, “Suffering is Optional,” I frolicked around chanting a brilliant blog title that I knew was going to WOW the bejeevers out of you. Yet come Saturday, my memory was as blank as Ronald Reagan’s at the Iran-Contra trial.
Because lots of readers enjoy my memes (and hey, maybe that’s the only reason you open the email in the first place), I decided to try to work backwards and build the images first. At the moment I was feeling quite mediocre, so I did an internet search for “mediocre + meme.”
One of the quotes that popped up said, “How dare you call me triggered when I’m here to protest guns…”
Turns out I’d inadvertently found a metric crap-tonne of mediocre memes, rather than memes about beating mediocrity. Then I remembered some words I’d scribbled in the margin of a notebook during a business seminar: “You weren’t built to be mediocre.” I added a poignant photo of a woman facing away from the camera, and spent way too much time selecting a filter to make her red hair flare just right in the sea breeze.
Then I tried to carve some high-fallutin’ moral out of the story (yet to be written) and came up with text for another meme – “It’s easier to stay mediocre than to evolve” – and lit on a butterfly image.
But when I started to write about people who’d felt stuck, I identified just a little too much with my fake protagonist. I google’d something remotely related and landed on a page about Mary Poppins and how it almost never came to the Disney screen.
After another twenty minutes of research, the post finally bled out of my fingertips, two hours after beginning. Weighing in at just 323 words, that comes to an average of a stunning 2.69 words per minute.
Yet more people than usual replied to chime in about the book, the movie, and the topic of suffering artists in general.
No one seemed to believe the blog was as uninspired as I felt.
And herein lies the truth: the writing you do when you’re feeling on top of the world is only marginally better than the writing you do on your most craptastic days.
From the distance of a week or a month, many writers even say it’s indistinguishable.
So today, I’ve decided to alter my usual wish of “motivation and inspiration” to you… and instead aspire to GUILT you into doing whatever it is you’ve been putting off.