How to Write When You'd Rather Netflix and Chill and the 15 Steps to Get There.

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You’ve made progress on your novel. You’re on your second draft and past the halfway point. You can’t believe it. Once you’re done with this, the novel will need work, edits, polish, maybe even one more rewrite.

The second draft is coherent in a way that the rough draft was not. The rough draft was a mess. Once you have finished the second draft, you have finally finished a book - a novel that needs work, but still a book.

Then your monkey mind starts swinging through the trees and your ADD goes off the chain. You can’t focus.

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You remember you forgot to pay the garbage bill. Then while you’re on your phone to pay that bill, you see 2 Facebook Messenger notifications, and wonder who is reaching out to you?

You open them only to find out it’s a nudge to say hello to your latest Facebook friend and another is an annoying group chain.

You leave the conversation and scroll through your feed only to find garbage. You wonder why don’t have the nerve to disable your Facebook account because the bastards are violating your privacy anyway.  

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Then you remember that you forgot to pay the frigging garbage bill, and if you don’t pay it today you’ll be charged late fees. So you actually pay the bill, and suddenly, watching your favorite Netflix series sounds like the perfect reward for paying that garbage bill at the 11th hour.

But wait a minute. You haven’t written your pages today. You didn’t write your pages yesterday either, or the day before. You feel the stirrings of panic in your belly and guilt weighing your shoulders down into the I-hate-myself slump.

You lose momentum when you miss writing days. You know every day you miss writing only makes it worse because then the Shame Monster comes to life and laughs in your face.

“Slacker,” the Shame Monster chortles. “You’ll never finish that book. I knew you didn’t have it in you.”

I like happy endings.

So in this version of the story, your will resurrects from the dead and comes to the rescue.

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Step 1) Tell the Shame Monster to go *%$# itself;

Step 2) Grab a notebook and pen.

Step 3) Write every bit of nonsense and distraction you can think of, every random thought that comes to your head. Write freely and keep your pen moving. Write until you feel calmer, more focused. If you want to time yourself, go ahead.

Step 4) Have a light snack. This step is optional.

Step 5) Open your laptop (or typewriter, some people still use these) and get to the last chapter you were working on when you got distracted. Read that chapter out loud.

Step 6) Any awkward places or light editing that comes to mind, go ahead and make those changes. That gets you back inside your story.

Step 7) When you get to the last lines of the unfinished scene, WRITE. Even if your writing is clumsy, KEEP WRITING until you finish that scene or that chapter.

Step 8) If the writing sucks, allow it. That’s what rewriting the next day is for.

Step 9) Have a light snack.

Step 10) Keep writing. If finishing that scene or chapter didn’t bring you to your minimum word count goal, continue writing the next scene or chapter until you have.

Step 11) If your writing sucks, allow it. That’s what rewriting the next day is for.

Step 12) Write past your minimum word count goal. You’ve slacked off and you need to push through that resistance until you’re in love with yourself and your writing again.

Step 13) Once you feel complete, close down your laptop.

Step 14) Do a happy dance.

Step 15) Netflix and Chill without shame.

For more advice on how to discipline that ADD monkey mind, click here.

When the Rhinos F*ck the Cows

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An acquaintance of mine from Portland shared an article her husband wrote about finding one’s voice as a writer. Since he’s published and I’m not, and he is a very nice man, I read it and a line in there reminded me of the most extremely short-lived job I ever held in my illustrious career of job-collecting.

Since this was commission-based, I made no money at this. Promotions in Motion was the worst of the worst sales jobs. We went door to door at various businesses, ignoring “no soliciting” signs to interrupt people at their work to sell them something they don’t need. The vast majority of the time, we were told no anyway. Fortunately, most people were pleasant about it but it was still embarrassing.

I don’t even remember what we were selling, but I vaguely recall a promotion for an obscure comedy club. I trained for two days and decided to bail. My first trainer had been a stripper before this job. She was pretty cool and I had fun while I trained with her. The next trainer was nice enough, but he had a lot to say about our POC supervisor who was making it “in a white man’s world.” He spent the entire drive back to the office trying to convince me to stick it out with a psychological head-trip of “It’s not easy being a leader.” But I’d already figured out that such a job would have been a daily exercise of humiliation where my dignity chipped away to nothing. Later, I met somebody who worked for them for about a year. He said he “made money,” but he also said he worked well beyond the 9-5 time slot, and often went to homes and businesses until 9 at night to make about $1500 a month. (This was in the 90’s btw.)

They didn’t tell me that when they were selling this job to me. 

So how does this have anything to do with the title of the blog or the article my friend’s husband, Johnny Shaw, wrote about finding your writer’s voice? Patience, please, because I’m getting there.

On my first day of training, the former stripper told us about their morning meetings where they get pumped up with a Rhinos vs. Cows cheer. We were the “Rhinos,” of course, and everybody else working a regular job with guaranteed pay and some benefits were the “Cows.”

“Rhinos fuck shit up,” she said. “Cows just graze.”

On my second day of training, I got to experience this for myself. All the door-to-door sales associates were there and the POC supervisor who was making it “in a white man’s world” started the cheer.  

“WHO ARE WE?” he roared.

Everybody made the “hang loose” sign - aka “shaka” in Hawaii - with one hand. Then they defiled this expression of mellowness and peace by putting thumb to nose so their fist and pinky finger made a facsimile of a rhino horn.

“WE’RE THE RHINOS!!” they called back.

“WHAT DO WE DO?”

“FUCK THE COWS!!”

“I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!”

“FUCK THE COWS!!”

“SAY IT AGAIN!!”

“FUCK THE COWS!!!”

“GREAT! NOW GET OUT THERE AND MAKE SOME MONEY!!”

Yeah. It would have been the wiser choice to bail right then and there, but I’m a firm believer in stepping outside of one’s comfort zone to find inspiration. This was one of those moments. Experiencing the sheer lunacy of people was priceless.

Johnny Shaw’s article made a reference to fucking a cow too, but that was for the sake of artistic merit. If you would like to know how his article triggered this memory when I was young and clueless, check it out here. I don’t know if this experience helped me find my writer’s voice, but perhaps Johnny’s professor would have been gratified to know that such a story was out there.