January 5th, 2018

Essential Writing Advice as You Begin the New Year

Every writer, whether they're starting the journey or standing atop the bestseller lists, feels like a hack at some point. Like an imposter, a phony, a gigantic fakeball loser. It might happen once a month or once an hour. The point is, it will happen.

Woody Allen says “80% of success is showing up.” The other 20% of our writing success is courage, perseverance and a stockpile of big girl/boy titanium underpants.

Titanium Panties - BEST

Actual pair from Laura Drake's stockpile.

I need to repeat this lesson to myself every single year. Every. Single. One. So, if some of this feels familiar, read on! This could be the year the motivation and courage stick to all of us.

I'm sure we're all well-acquainted with the tricks our writer's brain has up its sleeve. The torturous, defeating messages it sends out when we sit our butts down to write.

  • I'm too tired.
  • I'll do this after [fill in the blank].
  • This book is crap.
  • No one will buy this.
  • No one will read this.

And the #1 favorite from the top of the post:

  • I am such a hack.

These messages are where those titanium underpants come into play. [Y'all know about my obsession with the Undie-verse, right?] 

Your courage and your willingness to make mistakes is what will keep you in that chair, even when you're squirming against whatever doom and failure happen to be chasing through your psyche that day.

Neil Gaiman posted this wish for his readers a few New Year's Eves back:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

Isn't that awesome???

All the great minds of our time embrace mistakes because they embrace learning. They dare to suck, and that's a beautiful thing. Aristotle described it like this: ”We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”

There's a lot to be said for just showing up.

Elizabeth Gilbert's (incredibly amazing) TED talk references these two elusive ideas - the concept of "showing up" and how it relates to the creative muse.

Whatever creative gorgeousness there is in your universe needs your fingertips to help it into existence. If you don't show up to the page, that beautiful cranky bipolar muse is going to go show up for someone else who is doing the work.

She expressed it this way:

"And what I have to sort of keep telling myself when I get really psyched out about [writing] is don't be afraid. Don't be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be.

"If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment through your efforts, then Olé! And if not, do your dance anyhow. And Olé! to you, nonetheless. I believe this and I feel that we must teach it. 

"Olé! to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up."

Just showing up can be an act of great courage. Even if the only thing coming out of your fingertips is crappy writing and hangnails - especially if that's where you are - showing up is an act of defiance that will pay off. That kind of iron will is what forges successful writers.

Sometimes you have to channel social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, and fake it till you make it.

In fact, at the end of the snippet below she says, "..don't fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize."

Note: Cuddy's entire TED talk is here, and is worth your twenty minutes to watch (and the two minutes afterward you will spend pretending to be Wonder Woman).

Here's hoping you show up to your writing in 2018, in some cute-but-mighty underpants, in time to catch the gorgeousness and get it to the page. At the very least, I hope you make some incredibly grand mistakes. 

Olé! 

Do you make New Year's resolutions? At WITS, we do the "one word of the year" - do you do that? What is your greatest writing challenge? And do you have any inspirational quotes to share?

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Jenny Hansen

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes news articles, humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18+ years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm.

44 responses to “Essential Writing Advice as You Begin the New Year”

  1. lrtrovi says:

    Excellent post! Please add to your list Brene Brown, in particular, her work "Daring Greatly" which addresses the same concept of showing up and making yourself vulnerable. She also has done some amazing TED talks.

  2. I love this post! I've shared it with my creative writing students. I'm fortunate to teach adult "students" who've always wanted to write but been afraid to "let loose." In my classes, I'm always amazed at how much writing talent is out there; how much women and men who have 'lived' amazing lives - fun, painful, fascinating, difficult, joyful lives - now allow themselves to let go and write their stories, their mistakes, failures, and fears, once they stop worrying about being a "good" writer. Here's to wearing our adventurous courageous undies, and letting go.

  3. Terry Odell says:

    I like to keep in mind the words of Nora Roberts: "You can't fix an blank page." Or my t-shirt that says, "Even if it's crap, get it on the page." It's not about writing "good" it's about writing.

  4. Laura Drake says:

    You can keep those undies - they don't fit anymore. I have the 'granny grundies' now (sorry for the visual).

    I'd seen the TED Talk of Elizabeth's. But OH MAN - Amy Cuddy! I'll never publicly speak again, without thinking about that.

    And, as the quote queen, you KNOW I have quotes to share! My forever fave: 'Walls are there to stop the people who don't want it as badly as you.' Randy Pausch,

    Here's my January 2018 fave: 'He asked me, What's your favorite position? I said, CEO.'

    Boldly go, people!

  5. C. K. Crouch says:

    Great post Jenny. Thanks for the upbeat positive things. F

  6. Good advice of course, but at the risk of sounding a bit grumpy I took it as another FB encouragement gimmick posts that want to kick my butt, or make me warm and fuzzy while accomplishing their goal of getting the click. This is my first visit, and in all fairness I should of read more, but the title of the blog attracted me, but I got put off with the colour changes in the written text and all the inserted videos. But then again, I am a simple guy. I will read more

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Welcome, FiveString! We're happy you are here, whether you're having a grumpy morning or not. 🙂

      The brown color are the links, but I looked the post over after your comment and took out the red. You're right...it was a bit too colorful. Thank you.

      On the subject of click-bait. We detest it and you will never find that here. We are sticklers for meaty useful writing posts, with an extra dose of inspiration here and there.

      Thank you for taking the time to explore our site. We hope you find it useful!

  7. Linda Staszak says:

    Incredible post--thanks!.Really hits home. Where can I get some titanium panties??

  8. Julie Glover says:

    That Woody Allen quote is one of my favorites. And the Amy Cuddy talk? Priceless! I don't often feel like an imposter, but I do wonder who will want to read my books. (I mean, I do...and my mommy...and...) Thanks for the kick in the pants!

  9. Fae Rowen says:

    You find the best resources for us, Jenny! Thank you! Both talks are well worth the time. All forms of fear assault me when I write. I'm fairly fearless in the rest of my life, so I don't have a lot of coping skills—even after working with some very talented therapists. But what they have taught me is that everything changes, and I am that change.

  10. barbdelong says:

    Awesome post, Jenny! My pants got kicked a few times while reading it. So many quotes resonated with me. Too many. Looking forward to showing up in 2018!

  11. I love Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird book for inspiration when I'm down on my writing. Thanks for the resources, Jenny! I'll be trying the Wonder Woman poses for sure. 🙂

    • Laura Drake says:

      As long as you're not yelling, 'Roll tide!' while you do it!
      ps - you know who I'm rooting for, right?
      GOOoooooo Dawgs!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      The two most meaningful passages (for me) from Bird by Bird:

      “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” (A-freaking-men.)

      “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.”

      I adored that book. It opened a whole new world for me, along with Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones.

  12. christopherlentzauthor says:

    Just watched the full video. Powerful stuff there folks. Watch it. Apply it. Soar with it!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Chris! I have watched that Amy Cuddy numerous times and still, everytime she stops and tries not to cry, I cry. That one moment of covering her mouth nails me.

  13. jamesr403 says:

    Jenny, thank you for a great post. I was going to say, "The timing was perfect," until I realized that I ALWAYS need to hear "Show up, Keep plugging." Besides, any post that includes a picture of underwear has to be great.

  14. What a great post. I have been going through the same doubts myself it was good to hear.

  15. johntshea says:

    Brass bras used to be popular on SF novel covers, but titanium underpants are new to me. Nice to have our nether regions protected by the same metal that envelops the 2,000 mph SR71 Blackbird spy plane!

    Thanks for the videos, which would indeed inspire me to emulate Wonder Woman poses, if I had the figure for it!

  16. dholcomb1 says:

    I needed to be reminded of this.

    denise

  17. As usual, I found total awesomeness here. Congrats on the Top 20 blog rating by Writers Digest. Well earned! Love you guys.

  18. […] talked about daring to suck before. We all suck when we start. Just do it anyway. You learn to write by […]

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