And boy, does he comes across as a great guy. Click here to read on…
Joel Canfield here. Starting today, I’ll be giving away ten copies of DARK SKY on Goodreads.com to some lucky winners.
Oh, and by the way, I don’t really think DARK SKY is the greatest book of all time, I was just trying to get your attention. You can find the greatest book of all time by clicking HERE.
If I’m honest with myself, probably not.
After all, a blog post isn’t gonna change the world. At least, mine isn’t. It’s not likely to contain the secrets of the universe, or a cure for some horrible disease, or a piece of crucial, absolutely-must-have information people are waiting for on the edge of their seats.
To be honest, I’m not sure people would even notice if Seth Godin or Elizabeth Gilbert or some other guru-type person missed a weekly blog post. Provided they actually post weekly blog posts.
Would you? (Miss it, I mean.)
So here it is, Friday afternoon, almost 6pm, I’ve been working all day and I’m ready to stop. But this is the day I usually do a blog post, and I have to admit, I completely forgot.
So here I am.
Here we are.
And, as you’ve no doubt noticed here, several paragraphs in, I’m doing it. The blog post, I mean. Because, if you’re out there, and I’ve connected with you in some way, I don’t want to let you down. And hey, maybe you need to hear, right at this moment, that you’re not the only person experiencing a “To-Write-Or-Not-To-Write” existential crisis over a blog post. Maybe you need to hear that, while it will be absolutely, perfectly FINE if you skip it, and the world will not end, and your business will not close next week because of your Blog Posting Failure, it still does matter if you do it.
Maybe only for one person.
Maybe only, even, for you.
That’s why I’m writing this one.
And of course, I’d be remiss – and a terrible biz person – if I didn’t take this opportunity to let you know that if you really, really hate writing blog posts…I can help make it a little easier (for not a lotta dough). You can click HERE to find out how.
And whatever you do, have a lovely weekend. Mine is starting right…now.
Earlier this year, I made a commitment to take Fridays off. I was burnt out and hating everything and felt like if I didn’t get some serious rest, I might die. Which, looking back, was probably just a tad alarmist, but I felt really, really crappy at the time. So after some conversations with friends and colleagues and coach-y/mastermind-y type people, I decided I would not be working on Friday for the rest of the summer.
That lasted about two weeks.
However, you’re reading this, which means, unless I really am a ghostwriter (get it?), I’m not dead. And I don’t even feel particularly crappy. Because, while I’m not exactly taking Fridays off, I also make sure I dedicate a good portion of every Friday to the pursuit of sloth and self-indulgence.
This actually started back when Joel and I had our TV promo agency in L.A., although our name for Friday was something very specific I’m not going to repeat here. Running that business, especially the first few months, was really demanding – so we built in our “special” Fridays as a survival tactic. We wouldn’t take the day off (a weekday off was not really an option in the TV biz back then), but we would work on our terms — starting late and hanging out in bed if we felt like it, or going home or to the beach for lunch, or whatever sounded like fun that day.
We still got stuff done. Just in between the fun stuff.
It worked out pretty well. Friday became our favorite day of the week, because it wasn’t for the kids, who were young and all-consuming back then, or the business, which consumed whatever was left after the kids were done with us. It was just for Joel and me. So when I couldn’t make the whole Fridays off thing work this summer, Joel and I brought back The-Friday-Ritual-That-Will-Remain-Nameless. And it’s turned Friday into my favorite day of the week — again! (Not that I didn’t really, really like Fridays before…)
Now I write all my blog posts on Friday — since I start work when I feel like it, it’s not a day when I’m realistically gonna deal with hard deadlines. And okay, technically a blog post I plan to post the same day has a deadline, but I’ve reached the point where stream-of-consciousness-ing 500 words or so every week is kind of easy.
Seriously. I’m not even trying right now.
But the best part of Friday (besides the doing whatever I want part, which is admittedly the actual best best part) is that it’s the day I get to be creative. Being totally relaxed about work puts me in a much better place to let my brain wander and explore than sitting down at my computer with “gotta get this done, gotta get this done” repeating over and over in my head. It makes what I do fun. And when writing is fun, different stuff comes out.
By now, you probably get where this is leading…but in case you’re not on to all my tricks yet, I’ll spell it out. If you’re stuck on something creative – say, a writing project! – and you need a new perspective, it might be time to try some good old fashioned sloth and self-indulgence for yourself. Take some time to give yourself whatever you crave (within reason), to do whatever feels good, and see what that shakes loose.
The worst thing that can happen is you’ll have a good time.
Of course, there’s another way to get past writer’s block — and that’s to download my FREE guide, The Positively True, Actual Professional Writer’s Guide to Beating Writer’s Block. Reading it might not qualify as self-indulgence – but it might clear some sloth space on your schedule…
When it happens to me, I’m usually in the bathtub.
I’m naked, of course, and covered with bubbles. Work is the last thing on my mind.
And then, all of a sudden, the light bulb comes on.
I have an IDEA!!!
But it’s more than a simple idea. It comes at me fast and furious, in complete sentences. The wording is beautiful, like something from one of those sprawling Great American Novel-type books I can only dream of writing. It’s the absolute most perfect, crystal-clear way of putting this thing I’ve been wrestling with, or maybe of starting something I’m planning to work on later, that could possibly exist in the entire universe.
It’s so perfect it physically HURTS.
So I jump out of the tub, wrap myself in a towel and run down the hall, leaving a trail of bubbles behind me. I get to my desk and open a document on my computer, plop down on my chair and get ready to write.
And then, just as fast as it appeared, it’s gone.
Whatever flash of brilliance I had like 30 seconds before vanishes without a trace. And I’m left sitting naked in a desk chair, wrapped in a towel, dripping bubbles on my keyboard…for no discernable reason.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever had what you just KNEW was an amazing idea, but the moment you were in a place where you could record it and save it, it disappeared?
Or am I just crazy? (not that the two concepts are mutually exclusive…)
The thing is, this scenario actually happens in my life – a lot. Since I’m always writing something, and usually multiple somethings, ideas are always coming to me at rather inopportune places and times. To the point where I’ve considered adding things like a waterproof voice recorder or a bathtub-friendly white board to my bathtime accoutrements.
this is where the magic happens…
But then the other day, I was writing a guest blog post for a friend about different types of writer’s block. And when I got to that one – Disappearing Idea Writer’s Block – it hit me. Maybe those ideas don’t actually disappear…because maybe I never actually had them in the first place.
(Yes, I even blew my own mind writing that last sentence.)
Maybe what comes into my head during those moments of bathtub inspiration aren’t actually the full-formed ideas I think they are, but are really only the beginnings of ideas – more like notions, kind of floating around in the air where anyone can grab onto them. Maybe my brain is just processing possibilities – but those possibilities are only really worth anything if there’s a place where they fit in with whatever I’m trying to communicate and make sense and make the piece better.
And if that place doesn’t exist yet – if I haven’t yet constructed the container where those ideas fit – they just kind of float away.
That might sound a little woo-woo – especially coming from me, the least woo-woo woman ever. But I like being able to think about my phantom ideas that way. instead of beating myself up for “letting” a flash of brilliance somehow escape me, I can trust that there wasn’t actually a place for it, that I wasn’t ready, and that, when I am, the right flash of brilliance will be there when I need it.
And if it’s not, I’ll go take a bath.
If you’re struggling with writer’s block — whether it’s the Disappearing Idea version or some other kind, I can help! Download my FREE report, The Positively True, Actual Professional Writer’s Guide to Beating Writer’s Block by pushing the green button I made just for you!
I’m a lucky man.
First of all, if you read my previous blog post, you know that my new novel DARK SKY, just released about two weeks ago, was an insane rush to get what was in my head on paper. I had the idea on May 24th and the book was up on Amazon August 14th. Finishing a 300+ page book in less than three months doesn’t happen very often – but I’m not bragging, I was literally downloading this book into my head from…well, somewhere, it all depends on your individual belief system.
So that’s the first big reason I’m lucky.
The second and just as important reason is that I happen to work directly next to a wonderful editor and writing coach – my wife, Lisa Canfield. Because I did barrel through this book so quickly, I needed an objective eye to tell me what worked and what didn’t. My wife has very, very high standards, despite the fact that she married me, and she quickly identified the areas which needed work, including one whole chapter that was (a) crucial and (b) a trainwreck (and not a funny one involving Amy Schumer). My wife does not tolerate stupidity in any form, as she informed me outside the airport in Rome about 25 years ago (another story), so she let me know what was wrong with the book – while also, thankfully, telling me all that was right (writers have performance anxiety too, you know). Anyway, with her guidance, I rewrote the whole problematic chapter and actually ended up splitting it into two. She also rewrote my prose as necessary, to make the book flow smoother, punch up certain sections, fix typos and, in general, do everything a fabulous editor should do.
So what’s my point, other than I can never divorce her because who would fix my books?
My point is all writers need an editor. A writer can’t help but have some blind spots in terms of how what’s in their head is actually coming out on the page. Even the most subjective writing piece needs an objective eye to make sure the author is being as clear as possible and is delivering what he or she intends to deliver in as powerful way as possible. The first part of that task is pretty simple – it’s just about making sure language makes sense, grammar is good and you’re not omitting crucial information. But the second part – the part about intent – requires an editor who truly understands the storytelling complexities of the writing process and what the author is attempting to communicate with his or her audience. Well, my wife gets all that and more, since she is an amazing writer in her own right.
When it’s just about the first part – the part about making sure your grammar is correct – it can make for a very bad outcome, especially in the kind of writing we do. For example, when I finished ghosting a biography for a good ol’ country boy, I didn’t hear back for a while. What I didn’t know is he had given the manuscript to his old middle school English teacher to look over. Now this is a book I had written in his voice, something a ghostwriter absolutely needs to do so a book reads like the client actually wrote it – but she objected to that approach. For example, I had written, “The day before, he had taken me turkey hunting for the first time and dang if I didn’t bag a bird.” Her response to that sentence was, “This wording here is pretty informal and brings down the voice. It should be reworded into something more formal.” You don’t know my client, but believe me, this would have been like telling Johnny Cash not to sing about prisons because they’re unpleasant.
The fact is it takes more than a little book learnin’ and some fancy big city college degrees to edit a book. It takes marrying the right woman. If you’re not ready to make that big a commitment, you can also just hire her.… But believe me, my arrangement is a lot cheaper.
God, I hope not.
if you’re like me, and are trying to do all the Stuff You’re Supposed to Do, like write a blog post every week to remind people that you exist (hi people! I exist!), you’ve probably asked yourself that question.
Maybe more than once.
Nobody wants to be boring. Nobody wants to put something out there in the universe that anyone and everyone can read that isn’t at least a little interesting. Nobody wants people to see a post from them and immediately think, “oh, God, not HER again…”
At least, I don’t.
Unfortunately, sometimes the need to not be boring is enough to completely derail me. According to my husband, who just wrote and self-published a novel in under three months because he doesn’t worry about stuff like that, that’s because I’m afraid to let myself fail. I won’t allow myself to put something on a page that I don’t think is profound or hilarious or insert-your-favorite-superlative-here.
And he’s basically right. (We have been married for almost 25 years, so he’s usually right.)
But seriously – how crazy is that? I’m so afraid to fail that I won’t take the chance of writing something less-then-spectacular EVEN IF I’M THE ONLY PERSON WHO’S EVER GONNA SEE IT!!!! It’s not like whatever I type is automatically entered into some sort of permanent record where it will be held against me for all eternity…
But even as I realize how totally ridiculous that is, I’m still doing it now, while I’m writing this. I keep going back and checking over the words I just wrote, and changing them as I go. I just changed the previous sentence – just this second! And every couple of minutes, I really, seriously fight off the urge to check Facebook again. Or maybe my email. Or…hey, am I hungry?
So yeah. I’m a little crazy.
But then again, if I do this, I’m probably not the only one.
Now, I know this is the part of the blog post where I’m supposed to offer a magical solution that will make the problem go away. But honestly, I don’t have one. At least not a magical one.
What I’m doing right now, in real time, is what I usually end up doing when I reach this point. And that is, is I stop thinking.
I make a commitment to draw the line. To move forward no matter what. To write what I’m gonna write till it’s done, then read it to make sure it makes sense and that there aren’t any glaring mistakes or typos, and that’s it.
I take a deep breath, and I hit “publish.”
And I forget about it.
Is that a healthy response to writer’s block? I’m honestly not sure. But you are reading this now, right?
I just hope it wasn’t boring.
If you want some help making your writing “not boring” (how’s that for a segue?), or if there’s some other reason your copy is driving you crazy, and you’d like some help from an actual, genuine pro copywriter, click the button below to join me on my (virtual) couch for a 1:1 hour of Copy Therapy.