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VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: Writers: Wake Up and Stop Wasting Time
Hello and welcome to this week's LitHabits for Writers broadcast! I am so glad you're here, and I am so excited to talk with you about our topic today. Today, we are talking about a concept of time. Just as a little forewarning, this episode, this broadcast is going to be a bit heavier than my normal stuff, so this, we're going to talk about some actionable strategies to get you writing and working on your creative work, at the same time, there's going to be some adult language and there's going to be some heavy topics, so just putting that out there right now before we get started.
First, does this sound like you? Do any of these kind of discursive thoughts ring a bell in your head? Maybe these are on a constant loop in your mind:
“I don't have enough blank to write.”
Maybe that for you is, "I don't have enough time."
"I don't have enough money.”
“I don't have enough energy.”
“I'm not creative enough.”
“I'm not ..." blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
"I don't have an MFA."
"I'm not enough to write."
Guilty. Those have totally crossed my mind many, many, many times. Or maybe what's running through your mind is, "Nobody's going to read or care about my story. I'm a nobody, so why even bother?", or, "People will rip my work apart. It's all been done before. I'm not a real writer," or, and this is a big one for women, "Blank has to be done before I write, the laundry, the vacuuming, the cooking, the care-taking, the errands, the running to the post office, that email."
That is totally me. I am totally guilty, and you might get waves and waves of interesting ideas or fantasize about Hagrid bursting into your home saying, "You're a writer, Renee," and I'm just so sorry, but Hagrid is not coming, right? He's not coming to whisk you off to Hogwarts Castle where you're going to magically become a writer and have all the space, and time, and money to work on your dreams. He's not coming, so you have to make that space, that time, that energy, that creativity all yourself, or else, it's never going to happen.
There's more at stake in that, in me saying that, but it's never going to happen unless you make it yourself, and I'm going to tell you why, because, and this is really the heart of my talk today, is you, you, watcher, person, creative spirit, writer, storyteller, you do not have time to screw around.
I'm going to talk about two writers specifically that saved my life. Now, I have so many artistic, creative, spiritual, writerly influences, and all of them have contributed to my well-being, and worldview, and perspective, and who I am as a person, and I want to highlight two of them today.
I want to tell you a little bit about my darkness story. Back in 2015, I was at a very, very, very low point. Now, this is a picture of me back then. I just love the lighting in this picture, but you can really see the look on my face and kind of the width, the hunch of my shoulders.
I was not in a good place. I was severely, severely depressed. I was completely crippled by anxiety where the slightest thing would trigger me and set me off, and it was blocking me from writing, and I was at the point of like, "Well, guess that's it. This is it. I'm done. I guess I'm not a writer, and I'm just going to have to come to terms with that."
To be honest, my anxiety and depression were so crushing. I had difficulty getting out of the bed in the morning and life for me felt almost too painful to live. That's where I was at that point, just to give you a picture. I've since made a tremendous journey. I still struggle with anxiety and depression, but I don't see this girl in me, in 2019 Renee. This girl has really made kind of a 180 recovery, and I'm going to talk about what helped spark that recovery.
The first writer I want to highlight is Brian Doyle, and he was really kind of my entryway into healing and choosing a joyful, healthy, creative life. To me, reading his work, reading his beautiful novels, Mink River, Martin Marten, which won the Oregon Book Award in 2016, I felt his words were like light in the dark, like that, not naive or cheesy or sentimental light where it's this ooey-gooey positivity, and everything's going to be okay, but true blue hope, true blue like a balm to the soul, and hope is really the best way I can describe it. I actually had the honor to interview Brian Doyle in 2015, and if you go to Ruminate's blog or search Brian Doyle Ruminate, you'll find that interview with he and I, and it's one of the blessings of my life that I was able to interview him.
When I got to The Plover, the main character is a sailor, and I, as a water-baby myself, I grew up on the ocean in a boat. Not in a boat, but I grew up boating on the water, and so it really resonated with me, this main character, and one thing he kind of kept as a mantra throughout the entire novel is this Gaelic word, misneach. I'm probably butchering the pronunciation, but misneach, and translated from the Gaelic, it means courage, and to Irish sailors, as Doyle explains in the novel, it meant stay afloat, stay with the boat. Reading that main character's journey and him clinging to that mantra of, "Stay afloat, stay with the boat. Stay afloat, stay with the boat," that that is all you have to do, that cracked open everything for me, or at least like creaked open the door so a little bit of light could get in through the darkness, and I was able to breathe a little bit. I literally remember the day I read it, and it impacted me so much.
I wrote it on my chalkboard that I kept above my desk, which I would also see every morning when I was getting out of bed, and I drew a little doodle, and I'm not a great artist at all as far as like drawing, and I drew misneach, stay afloat, stay with the boat, and I drew a little sailboat. That was my grounding point to decide that all I had to do in that moment, in that darkness was to stay afloat, stay with the boat, and so much so that I ended up getting a little sailboat tattoo to kind of commemorate that word for me, misneach, courage, stay afloat, stay with the boat. That is how profoundly Brian's work impacted my life.
I would go so far as to say engaging with his work when I was in such a dark time saved my life. That's my story of reading Brian Doyle's work.
The next writer I want to highlight is Rachel Held Evans. Going back again to 2015, I was really struggling with my faith as a person of faith, as a Christian.
I was very against the idea of the Christian faith excluding LGBTQ and other people of different demographics. I felt I was kind of tired of the exclusionary traditions, and I wasn't really reconciling my values with my Christian faith and the idea of Christ, and so I started listening to this podcast called The Liturgist. It was hosted by two men who were grappling with these same ideas with the, "How do we reconcile progressive values with the Christian faith, or with the Christ figure, or the Bible, or all of those things?"
They were asking those tough questions about doubt and spirituality and inclusivity, and one guessed that they continued to have on as a voice of a woman was Rachel Held Evans, and I always went straight to the podcasts episodes where she was featured because I felt seen by her. I felt as a woman myself, I felt understood, and seen, and heard by her, so I really resonated and gravitated to what she had to say on these questions of faith and these really tangly, thorny topics.
Rachel Held Evans is a New York Times bestselling author, so I'm reading her bio straight off her website just so I can give you kind of an idea of who she is.
Bestselling author whose books included Faith Unraveled, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Searching for Sunday, Inspired, and she's from Dayton, Tennessee, and she's been featured as a writer in The Washington Post, The Guardian, Christianity Today, Slate, The Huffington Post, the CNN Belief Blog, NPR, The BBC, The Today Show, and The View, so she definitely had a wide-reaching influence.
I really started following her on Facebook, and that was my primary way of engaging with her work, and she again, very similar to Brian Doyle was very much a balm to my kind of troubled soul at the time, and I felt so seen and understood by her because she was grappling with questions I didn't realize people were also asking. I wasn't the only one asking these questions and grappling with these issues. That is Rachel Held Evans.
There's a wonderful New Yorker piece about her that I'll share below in the transcript, so you can check that out if you'd like to know more about Rachel Held Evans.
By Evans and Doyle sharing their work, they impacted my life on such a grand scale that I would go so far as to say they helped save my life. If that happened to me, I guarantee it happened to thousands, if not, millions of other people.
In my darkest times, I felt seen, I felt encouraged, I felt supported, I felt soothed because their words to me and their professions of faith and stepping into truth helped me feel seen and understood, and eventually, I was motivated to share my own soul's work, such as this blog, and then my other blog series called How to Save Your Life, where I do a little bit more lyrical ruminations.
I'm telling their story because I want to emphasize that they didn't screw around, okay? Remember, flashback to that earlier slide that I was talking about, these discursive thoughts, these things going into your brain, “I'm not blank enough to write,” or “I don't have enough blank to write,” they pushed past that. They moved past that because they knew––and I'll show you why Brian Doyle specifically knew this, and I know Rachel Held Evans knew this as well––they knew they did not have time to screw around, and I'm going to tell you why.
Brian Doyle passed from a brain tumor in 2017, and he was 60 years old. At the time of his death, he'd written countless essays, short stories, and 20 plus book-length works. That is a heck of a lot of amazing writing, and I am so grateful that it exists in the world, and he put it out there for us to enjoy and to engage with for years beyond his life.
Brian Doyle chose to share those shards of light and laughter and grace over listening to those discursive thoughts, which I guarantee you he also had, same as you, same as me.
Okay, so Rachel Held Evans. Her story is actually really what prompted me to discuss this topic because when I went on Facebook in April, and saw that she unfortunately went into the hospital, was treated for an infection, and then had to be put into a medically induced coma because she was experiencing seizures, when I saw that she had been put into a coma, I was really shaken. I'm 31, Rachel Held Evans was 37, and it made me realize how little time we have to do our life's work here. I was just floored when I saw that on her Facebook page. She went into the hospital in 2019, and her brain swelling became too great, and eventually, she did pass away in May 2019. Again, she was 37 years old. At the time of her death, she had written four books and including The New York Times bestseller, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church.
I'm not just telling their stories and sharing what their work meant to me as a way to scare you into doing creative work because I don't think that actually works. Why I'm telling you their story are two reasons. Number one, I want to honor and thank them from the bottom of my heart for heeding the call to do creative work, for heeding the call to put their work out there.
I know I speak for many folks who were so impacted by their work, and on behalf of all of us, I want to express my deepest gratitude. The second reason is I want to express the critical importance of showing up where you're needed, and most likely, if you follow my blog, you're a writer or some storyteller, some sort of creative person and do some type of creative work. The reason I'm highlighting these two stories is to show you how they impacted my life, and that if they had not chosen to heed the call and do their soul's work and spend time on their work, there would be no more time left. They're gone. There is no more time for them to do their work, so thank God they did it when they were called to. And they started, even though they felt inadequate, even though they felt they were not enough because again, all of us feel that way. If you're a human being, you feel that way when putting yourself out there into vulnerability, into creativity, so you're not alone in feeling that way, but you still must heed the call regardless.
Yes, again, not to put so much pressure on you, not to scare you, but someone, someone is waiting for your story. Someone is waiting for your work, for your words, not anyone else's because you do not know if it's your work, even if it's something lighter, something, maybe if you're a comic book writer or any sort of genre. It doesn't matter. Someone is waiting for your words, and maybe you're going to be someone's chalkboard mantra, like me, like my misneach. You don't know what part of your work might do that for somebody, so it's so important to heed the call.
Again, your potential impact in this world is bigger than your fear, it's bigger than the laundry that needs to be done, it's bigger than the discomfort it requires to produce a crappy first draft, and it's bigger than your ego.
There's a paradox that I want you to embrace because we're talking about time, and it's one of my favorite subjects. There is a paradox that I want you to embrace, and it's this, "You have all the time in the world and you have no time at all." This is what I mean by that.
These are the things you do not have time for.
You don't have time for reacting to fear. You don't have time for excuses. You don't have time for procrastination. You do not have time for perfectionism. Hell no, you do not have time for perfectionism.
That's a big one. You don't have time to listen to the lies from the inner critic. You don't have time to listen to lies from society. You don't have time for the someday syndrome, as in, "Oh, yeah. I'd love to write my great American novel someday."
No, you don't have time to wait to feel ready, and you don't have time to feel like a fraud, to feel the imposter syndrome that folks like Maya Angelou felt her entire life. Also another great example of someone who heeded the call and did it anyway.
Okay, things you do have time for. This is why this is a paradox. I don't want you to take away from this broadcast that you have to hop to it right this very minute, and write your novel in one night because you're going to get hit by a bus tomorrow.
No. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm saying you have all the time in the world as long as you practice consistency. That is what I mean by the consistency caveat. All of these things, you have all the time in the world for as long as you practice consistency, and you cut out all these other things on the left.
These things include you have time to spend on your first draft. You have time to get published. You don't have to get published on your first go around. You have time to let that build. You have time to develop your craft. You have time to grow your writing network and your professional publishing network.
You have time to finish your book. You have time to grow your community. You have time to grow your platform. You have time to master a new skill. You're not going to go out there. You're not going to open the Google Doc after this video and write the perfect poem, or you're not going to email a potential interview candidate who's this big star, and expect them to respond to you with a yes.
You have time to grow all of these things.
Rachel Held Evans, Brian Doyle had consistency, and that is how they were able to be fruitful and prolific, and make the impact they had in this world. Rachel Held Evans did not start out with a million followers. She started out with one, and it was probably her mom or her husband, and she grew from there. Those are the things you have time for. Everything else on this side, you don't have time for it.
Get rid of it, move past it, acknowledge that it's there, and move on. All right. I want you to do a little exercise with me. I want you to write down five writers or artists who've made a significant impact on your life, your art, your worldview…
I want you to do that now, so pause the video. Just do step one first. Write down five writers or artists who've made that impact in your life. Do it now, pause the video, go!
Okay. I hope you paused the video.
Step two, I want you to choose one of those writers and write one to three sentences in a thank you note, thanking them for their work and why it was important to you. Pause the video. Set a timer for one minute. Do it now.
Our next exercise, I want you to do really quick, and really this is so important. This is going to help you push past all that nonsense that was on that left-hand column that you don't have time for.
It's going to help you push past all those discursive thoughts we talked about in the beginning. Step one, I want you to picture yourself 10 years down the road. You've written your book, your screenplay. You've achieved a few of the biggest dreams on your list. What does your life look like now?
All right. Pause the video. Just set a timer for one minute. Do some journaling on this question. Do it now.
I hope you paused the video.
Step two, picture a fan who's been greatly influenced by your work 10 years down the line for the better. It's changed their life in some meaningful way. Write a one to three-sentence note from them to you, thanking you for your work and your contribution.
Set a timer for one minute. Pause the video. Do it now.
All right. I hope you did it. If you didn't do those exercises, and you want to develop a writing routine and writing habit and heed the call for your soul's work, go back and do those exercises.
I promise you're going to see amazing results.
I'm just going to leave you with this. You don't have time to screw around. All that's holding you back is fear. I promise, that's all it is.
You're going to make it. You're going to make it through that fear. I believe in you, because you, my friend are bigger than your fear.
If this was helpful to you, but you're still feeling like you're struggling, if you still feel like you struggle with writer's block, analysis paralysis, procrastination, fear, the inner critic, all the things, if you struggle with that, well friend, I have a treat for you.
I invite you to become a LitHabits VIP, and it's completely free. Essentially, a VIP gets instant access to my articles when they go live. You'll get an email from me every single week with inspiration and actionable strategies to overcome all of the things we talked about in this video, those discursive thoughts, those, "I'm not enough” things. You'll get a note from me every single week with real strategies on how to overcome these things. I hope you'll join us in the LitHabits VIP community and sign up. It's completely free.
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All right, my friends. Thank you so much for joining me today.
It's such an inspiration to come here with you every week and be in your inbox, so I really hope you enjoyed this video. I really hope you did the exercises. You're welcome to rewatch the video and do them again anytime you'd like. My deepest gratitude to you. Thank you for heeding the call, and I'll see you next week at the LitHabits blog. Bye!