family, or to get angry at others, or to turn in a manuscript we feel isn’t our best work, and less likely to miss our deadline and destroy others’ schedules. (As parents, we often think establishing a writing schedule may be unfair to our children, but perhaps it teaches them to respect others’ schedules and how to use time wisely for themselves.) According to Cameron, “In the hands of a crazymaker, time is a primary tool for abuse.” A schedule helps us avoid abusing time.
Go after inspiration. Earlier this week an unpublished writer told me he didn’t want to have to work at a writing career, he just wanted to write whenever he felt inspired, send off the book and collect royalties for the rest of his life. We’ve all heard versions of this from unpublished writers. “You can’t wait for inspiration.
You have to go after it with a club,” Jack London said. Every NINC member knows this. Yet, often when we procrastinate it’s because we are hoping for inspiration to strike so the work of writing will feel easier. Working with a schedule, as recommended above, is a form of going after inspiration rather than waiting for it. Waiting instead of acting creates tension and drama—and crazymaking behavior.
Honesty. Honesty with ourselves is primary, then honesty with others: family, friends, co-workers, editors, agents and all others directly affected by our writing life. Honesty in regard to our writing fears, as noted above, is one of the best deterrents to acting as a crazymaker. Honesty with ourselves includes seeking the approval of our muse, or the Divine, rather than seeking other’s approval. Honesty includes admitting we need to write to be happy and healthy emotionally. It includes keeping our word, which is a form of respecting others, their time and their schedules. Honesty with others includes explaining how important writing is to us and helping family understand that the creative process can be messy and might require quiet time alone on a regular basis.
“No” means “Yes.” Saying “No” to others is often necessary in order to say “Yes” to the time we need to fulfill our writing obligations. This is a hard one for me and certainly hit home while writing this column.
This column will likely arrive in the Nink editor’s inbox the day after I promised it, because I said “yes” to others too often during my writing time today. A friend who recently re-entered my life after many years called. She’s going through a difficult time in regard to her health and her relationship, and I hadn’t the heart to ask if I might call back later. Another friend called about a problem with technology—not asking my advice, but to complain about the people who helped with the solution. A family member called to discuss her fear that another family member might be upset with her over a situation that wasn’t her fault. I spent hours of writing time with these people. My choice to say “yes” to them and “no” to the writing translates into a lack of trust in my friends and family to understand my need to meet my writing obligations and keep my word. My actions today were crazymaking—for me and for the editor.
Healthy actions. We’ve heard all our lives of the importance of a good night’s sleep, regular exercise, and nutritious food. It’s tempting to steal from sleep when racing toward a deadline, especially if we’ve already practiced the crazymaking action of procrastination. Each night that we don’t get the amount of sleep we need, we threaten our ability to work at our best the next day. Some experts say losing even one hour of sleep can slow down our brain function, which we all certainly want working at peak capacity when we’re writing. If we go only a couple nights without enough sleep, we’re on a hamster wheel of fatigue and stress.
Crazymaking indeed. I’ve learned that the sugar and caffeine for which I’m tempted to reach for energy during such times only makes the problem worse. They give me a rush of energy that helps to write late into the night, but make it more difficult to get started the next day. Healthy eating keeps my energy level up. A short walk revives me if I’m getting tired, and revives my creativity, too. Unhealthy practices are self-destructive, and can destroy a writer’s best intentions. Healthy habits are anti-crazymaking.
Responsibility. One of the primary ways to avoid crazymakers and crazymaking actions lies with selfresponsibility, of course. We are responsible for our choices. As easy as it sometimes is to point fingers, blaming others gives away our ability to make choices that lead to serenity, order, self-respect, respect for others, and productivity. “I am responsible” is a mantra that promotes sanity.
The items on the above list are things we all know, but tend to forget when we’re trying to avoid writing even while insisting we’re trying every way possible to get to the page. Here’s the short list:
Follow your muse, not your fears.
JoAnn Grote is the award-winning author of 38 books, including inspirational romances, middle-grade historical novels, and children’s nonfiction.