"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati, Date My Pet, South 85 Literary Journal and other award-winning sites.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Guest Post by Rebecca Kiel

Host's note:
Today we have joining us Rebecca Kiel.
Rebecca is a writer, blogger, former psychotherapist, and member of Chicago Writers Association.
Here she discusses how being "driven" has allowed her to achieve her creative and personal goals. Please welcome her. Enjoy!

Whenever we returned from a family roadtrip, as soon as the car was off, my dad would yell, "Run around the house!” My brother and I would clamber out of the car and set off running as hard and as fast as we could. We would fly around the house, chasing, racing, releasing any energy pent up from being trapped in the car.

There was only one problem: the bush.

At the front corner of the house grew an enormous dogwood bush as tall as the garage. To run around the house we'd have to run all the way around the bush. And running around the bush always slowed us down. One fateful day, while my parents worked in some other part of the yard, I decided to do something about that bush. I got the longest tool from the garage my nine year-old frame could manage, and began cutting. When I was done, I had made a spectacular tunnel.

Problem solved.

This is how I've always been. Oh, there's a bush in your way? Trim it, make a tunnel! That century-old dresser full of clothes needs moving? Then take your 5 feet 3 inches and move that sucker! My husband teases me for my “driver” quality. My response in always the same: "I get things done."

It's true, this “driver” quality of mine has allowed me to write 85,000 words in a year and a half despite raising two young children, and relocating ten days before Christmas. I get things done.

While the wise saying goes, the only way out is through, I don't think this is always meant to be taken literally. Sometimes this driver part of me ends up in the maiming of fine greenery, or in me missing that it really is important for my son to show me the dirt he dug, or in me hurting myself (because I really have no business trying to move that antique dresser).

Stepping back or slowing down is a challenge for a tree-trimming-make-things-happen kind of gal who really wants this novel ready to send. As a writer, being a “driver” doesn’t always work.

Good writing takes time. It needs time to rise like a warm ball of bread dough. We all know there are times that our writing, to be its best, needs fresh eyes. It is difficult to look at something with fresh eyes if you’ve been staring at it every night for three hours.

The point is, there are times we need to walk away from our writing. Consider a moment of writer’s block or a stuck point in the plot a sign that it is time to do something different, even if for a couple hours. Step back and give yourselves the perspective that might save your manuscript from looking like it belongs on the grounds of Disneyland with my crescent-shaped dogwood.

So what to do about the desire to finish a book, build a writing career, or get on to the next project that is waiting in the gates like a thoroughbred? What do we do with the part of ourselves that doesn’t want to wait a week to review that query letter, but send it off and send it off now?

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Image: dan


  1. Great post, Rebecca - and thanks for leading me to Jennifer's site!

    After doing a blogfest in April, and a multitude of other things that (saved me from) I mean kept me away from my WIP, I returned to it over the last month or so and was able to do sme major editing that was much needed, but that I couldn't SEE while I was hammer-hammering away at it.

    Sometimes we do need to step back and away, read some other stuff, work on some shorter pieces, whatever, to get our "writing muscles" ready for the next part, and our writing is better for it. Writing in Flow

  2. Jennifer Brown BanksJune 8, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    Thanks Rebecca, for sharing this with my readers.

  3. Jennifer Brown BanksJune 8, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    Hi Beverly,

    WELCOME! So glad to have you joining us. I appreciate the "follow" and look forward to future exchanges. :-) Thanks for the feedback.

  4. I can be found in 'driver' mode sometimes, and while it has its good points, it can be exhausting too. A break is a wonderful thing, even if I'm not stuck or facing writer's block, for I make myself pull back and do other things. And then I remember, too, that I like to do other things besides write. :)

    Enjoyed the post, thanks Jen and Rebecca! So Rebecca, did your parents get mad about the tunnel?

  5. Karen, the infamous bush is often brought up at family gatherings. It is a good reminder that being able to stop and laugh at ourselves is itself a small break! Thanks to everyone who has stopped to read. And thanks to Jennifer for being a gracious hostess.

  6. Great post Rebecca. I'm a doer too. Gotta get things done! Good trait for a writer to have. :)

  7. Sometimes, L.G., being a doer is what gets a writer to sit down and work especially when they aren't in the mood!

  8. Rebecca, terrific and fun post--and I too wondered what happened after you built the tunnel. (I was picturing dad walking around to say, "nice job, Rebecca!" :)

    A recommendation for a follow-up to this piece: advice for those who take on too much then try not to let everything cave in around, um, them. I'll be watching. ;)

    And Jennifer, what a great site!

  9. Supriya, and by "everything cave around them", could you be referring to the towering basket of laundry I need to put away? Writing is always, ALWAYS more fun than laundry! Thanks for visiting. I love your blog.

  10. Thanks, Supriya,

    For the compliment and for taking the time to share your thoughts. :-)

  11. Great post Rebecca! I completely understand how you feel. I have the same mentality that you do- I always want to move forward and get things done. I really have to hold back and take time with my writing, even though I want to forge ahead and do crazy things like send off a query before my first draft is even finished (for the record I have NOT). I don't have any strategies for it. I just know that I want to send my best work out there and if that takes time and patience, then I must pretend to be a patient person :-)

  12. I KNOW I need to set things aside, and one of the number one problems agents keep saying is with new writers is that they don't let things sit. I jump into another project, so I have the patience to let the first one simmer.

  13. Fun post--love the attitude! and the insight. It takes a mix of both I think--dogged determination and the wisdom to know when to wait or take it slow. Depends on the day which way I lean :-)

  14. I think you're right about having wisdom to know when to let your work rest. It can be difficult for me especially when I am excited. But you don't want your writing to end up like that bush. Trust me on this. I'd love to hear what people do to hold themselves back.

  15. I hate having to put a project aside to let it "cool off" too - I'd much rather finish it up and send it out as soon as possible. But since I know I need to take a break and come back with fresh eyes, I try to always have another project waiting in the wings at some other stage of development.

  16. I wish I knew. Rushing is one of my biggest faults. Hello, I am so guilty this. Sending out stuff before it's ready. Maybe I need to set myself a cooling off period.

  17. Susan, having a project on the side sounds like a useful tool for cooling off periods. There are some who read during that time. I catch up on housework! Thanks for visiting.

  18. I hear ya, Angela! It can be difficult especially when you feel a sense of completion or are filled with excitement! I have this funny image of a safe you put your work in to prevent yourself from sending it off! :)

  19. Rebecca,

    I am a girl who loves to see a job get done . . . and so I, too, tend to blow through things (much like you pruned a hole in your family's bush). But I always, always regret this approach with writing, a process in which simmering works best.

    In fact, I just spent twenty minutes editing a post I prematurely published late last night, because in the clarity of this morning's re-read I figured out a better way to get my point across.

    Ah, the power of slow.

  20. Thanks, Nihara. It's always a pleasure to see you here. :-)

    I think both approaches have their advantages.