This is amazing. As a grown-up who is just now dealing with what it was like to grow up in an entire world of narcissism, it’s tough to work through what was real and what wasn’t. This article explains feelings and thoughts so perfectly! Thank you!
I know that there are more than just a few who are silently hurting this Mother’s Day. Loss of a child, infertility, those who yearn to be a mother. Then there are also those who can’t celebrate their own mother, the title of mom itself may even be too much considering how they’ve been treated. After many years of hoping for a mother of my own to celebrate, trying to see the good in a destructive tornado of pain and agony, I finally gave in and let go of ever having a mom. We no longer speak, as I’ve found the separation from a toxic and narcissistic parent to be much easier than trying to emotionally believe she is capable of loving me. Some moms may have given birth to their children, but the title of mother will just never fit them. If we…
Think it takes a long time to get your edited novel back?
There are many different things that go into an extensive line edit of your book, but you can help speed up the process. The stage and state in which your novel is received determines the length of time it takes an editor to comprehensively review your work.
Want to know how you can help? Check out the tips below to get your book in the best shape possible before it hits the editor’s desk:
Read aloud for overall sound, cadence, and feel. If. All. Of. Your. Sentences. Sound. Like. This. Oh. My. God. It’s. Time. To. Revise.
Abrupt sentences are great for emphasis. They break things up and serve as interjections in long sections of text. Likewise, cool beans if you enjoy waxing poetic about your passion for life for paragraphs on end, but there’s a limit.
For the love of all the libraries in the world, change things up a bit. Excite us with a little variety. Trust me; it’ll keep us awake, and we’ll get your work back to you much faster.
The point of cadence and rhythm is to let things flow, to feel the language. Everything shouldn’t sound the same. If your book’s cadence is as exciting as the grandfather clock in my mom’s living room, I’m more likely to take a nap than continue reading.
2. Proofread every sentence for grammar. There are nothing more distracting that shittygrammar and speling. It’s difficult to follow even the most badass of storylines if I’m distracted by misplaced apostrophes and abused verb tenses.
Errors? We all make errors. Typo is my middle name when I’m ON FIRE with a great new idea, and that’s why proofreading was invented. We’re human. But when editors run across an entire manuscript full of errors, it tends to throw a wrench in the works. It slows us down until we’re being passed by turtles jogging through peanut butter. Want your MS faster? Give it a good old-fashioned proof before you submit.
Pro Tip: Spell check doesn’t catch everything.
Ex: She set her alarm so she could walk up early for her meeting with the shareholders.
3. Search for passive verbs and kill them. (Seriously, murder the shit out of them.) If you want your work to be interesting, riveting, and have the chance of keeping anyone awake past the rush-hour news, decimate the damned passive verbs.
She was driven to madness. (passive = weaker, not the doer of the action)
They drove her mad. (active = strong, doer of the action)
4. Tighten sentences and cut words that are unnecessary. Eliminate extra words in your writing to make it more concise and readable.
For all intents and purposes, the culprit was Joe, but the police questioned everyone for the purpose of eliminating suspects.
The culprit was Joe, but the police questioned everyone to eliminate suspects.
5. Check every paragraph. Do several of your sentences begin with the same word? Are they all short? Are they all long and complicated? If so, go back and restructure to make your writing more interesting.
It’s very easy to fall into habits; we do it every day in our lives. Why? It streamlines things, makes them easier. So, of course we do it with our writing, too. Be sure to challenge yourself constantly to ensure you’re finding new ways to express your ideas.
6. Question yourself. Before you send your MS to the editor, question the moves you’ve made:
Can everyone who picks up your book understand the terminology you’ve used?
Did you convey the message you wanted to convey when telling your story?
What IS your main message?
Have you written as plainly and simply as possible?
Have you checked every name for consistent spelling throughout your book?
Have you checked your MS format?
Have you checked for consistent style throughout?
Has someone else read your work?
When you feel confident you’ve covered all your bases and your work is solid—with as few errors as possible—then you’re ready to send it to your editor.
Remember, your editor will be most effective when they receive the cleanest work you can possibly give them. They are on the lookout for ways to improve character, pacing, and plot; as well as other issues that may arise. However, when there are fewer small issues, they have more time and brainpower to focus on the larger, overall aspects.
Bottom Line: Help your editor help you! We want you to succeed, but we also know you’re very capable of catching “courldn’t” with a simple spellcheck.
The conversation went a little something like this:
“OMG, are you reading a dictionary right now?”
After glancing up and trying NOT to roll my eyes irretrievably into their sockets, “No, Hon, I’m actually reading a professional guide for editors to refresh my knowledge and see what’s new in the field.”
“So, like a dictionary, but worse?” Laughter and mocking conversation followed as the rest of the family got in on the joke.
“Har, har. You guys are hilarious.” I pushed my reading glasses back onto my nose and once more wielded my highlighter like the weapon it is.
The Importance of Staying Current
You know how our kids mock us when we say things like “groovy” or “psychedelic”? As writers, we spend a LOT of time focusing on speech patterns, slang, and even everyday activities of the younger generations. Why? It’s not because we enjoy watching exotic species in their natural environment. It’s because we need our writing to stay relevant—and, also, we don’t want to be mocked into a permanent room at Shady Acres just yet.
Writers today have many options. We’ve all seen the movies about hermits who decide to become lighthouse keepers on remote islands. They end up writing brilliant novels, and they never have human contact—except for that one captain who arrives in a rickety boat that crashes toward shore once per year with the basic supplies needed for survival. And who among us isn’t clamoring for that option?!
But—and this is just me going out on a limb—there are those writers who want to live an existence in modern society and write about current topics. And that means staying up to date with what is going on around them.
Collectors of Knowledge
We’re collectors and learners and hoarders of facts. And when you think about it, observing new trends, behaviors, and speech patterns are all ways of learning and collecting knowledge.
The intuitive and empathetic nature most creative people possess drives them to not only study and recall behaviors, but also try to understand how they fit into the context of the world surrounding them. All the human emotions and behaviors we learn about add to the worlds and stories we create.
But Why Study Grammar & Editing & Stuff?
The mechanics of our jobs—whether you’re a writer, an editor, a proofreader, or all of the above—are the supporting framework of the creativity we put out there. Think of the inner structure of a building, the weight-bearing support.
Is it all about grammar? Absolutely not. Is it about rule-breaking? Nope, not that either.
It’s about how everything works together to form a balance. It used to be all about grammar, but today I read style guides and grammar books to learn about updates and accepted uses.
THEN, I use my professional judgement, based on the text I’m currently writing or editing. True, there are still a few dusty, by-the-book rule followers who are likely growing apoplectic at reading this, but they are few and far between. Most writers recognize they’ll capture a larger and more invested audience if they “speak their language.”
Yeah, I’d Totally Read a Dictionary
When it comes down to it, I suppose I should apologize to my husband for being so appalled that he mocked me for nerding out while reading an editing guide…because it could have just as easily been a dictionary or a thesaurus. (#Guilty)
Why? I want my writing to be the best it can be. Likewise, I want my clients to get the very best work I can give them when I’m editing. That means they deserve the extra time I put in to stay abreast of current style guide updates and even the latest additions to Merriam-Webster.
P.S. Did you guys know that, as of 2021, “hard pass,” “@,” and “cancel culture” have officially been added to the dictionary? Don’t blink! Things change daily.
Being an editor is great for so many reasons, but I’ll name just a few so we can all get back to writing and creating:
It’s nerdy. Cue eraser residue, chalk dust, and inspirational cat posters. As angsty as 6th grade was, there were still some pretty great moments—a lot of them in English class. While everyone else groaned about singing the preposition song, I annoyingly sang it AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY—for everyone who would listen. I eagerly diagramed and rewrote sentences and volunteered to recite poetry in front of the class. Others called in sick on ‘balcony day,’ but I perched myself atop my teacher’s rickety ladder and proceeded to Romeo & Juliet the hell out of a soliloquy. (Things like safety were of little consequence then. Now, you’d have a lawsuit on your hands before you could say ‘Dodgeball!’)
It’s methodical. Editors are a weird breed. (I probably don’t need to tell you that.) We’re writers, and we’re over-the-top creative, but we can also flip our analytical switch and focus solely on mechanics when necessary. The methodical nature of editing is quite relaxing and fulfilling. Maybe it’s the way all that red ink and those editing marks lend themselves to a feeling of accomplishment. An editor’s marks are a sign that an author’s work is nearing completion! After a long, hard road of research, drafts, rework, more drafts, and edits, a book finally takes shape—and it’s freaking amazing! It is worth all the hard work, sweat, and tears you put into it. Pretty great reason to love editing!
It’s nuanced. The little details of editing are especially appealing to grown-up geeks. Here’s why. Many of us would still be sitting in a musty university library somewhere researching the origins of the ampersand (originally the 27th letter of the alphabet, btw) if we didn’t need to make a living to survive. The great news is that, as editors, we sort of still get to do all that dank, musty research—except now we have laptops and Starbucks, both of which are way more en vogue than old-school card catalogs and micro-fiche.
Super-fun afternoon break idea: Choose a piece of writing and then decide as a group whether or not a specific pause in the writing is worthy of an em dash or if a comma will suffice! (SEEE, editors are FUN people, too!)
Hazards of the Job
If you’ve ever gone on vacation and attempted to NOT be an editor…
Hold on. I’m going to try to stop laughing before I finish that sentence. Starting again…
Editors don’t ever feel like they are on vacation; however, occasionally, they DO attempt to read books for fun. Weird, right? It’s sort of like explaining to kids that their teachers don’t actually live at the school. It usually goes something like this:
Editor arrives at beach with family and doles out 4 beach chairs, 2 totes full of everything needed in case of sudden apocalypse: water bottles, flip flops, hats, towels, sunglasses, water toys, shark repellant, snacks, kitchen sinks.
Trudges across sand, weighing option of continuing to struggle in flip flops vs. burning feet on boiling-lava-hot sand.
Plants chairs, towels, and umbrella in pristine location and shoos kids off to boogie board and avoid sharks.
Attaches sunglasses to face and pulls paperback novel purchased specifically for relaxing vacation reading out of beach bag.
Sinks into chair and opens to first chapter.
At exactly page 7, dog-ears page and works backward to see if protagonist’s name has been spelled consistently. Something seems off.
After verifying, returns to reading spot…only to discover accidental extra space before last sentence on page. Marks spot and digs in bag for pen.
Reminds self not to edit and ignores extra space.
Clears mind, checks on kids who are still safely playing, and flips to next chapter.
WHOA! Why is font size 2 pts. larger on this page? Unable to even more forward like this, closes eyes for a sunshine siesta.
Tries again later…only to encounter a typo and a factoid about a turtle that is really a tortoise.
Puts book down before heart failure sets in.
Ah, the Life of an Editor
If you haven’t yet been through the non-vacation vacation, don’t think you’ll avoid it forever. It will happen to you sometime in your editing career. You’ll sit down somewhere, yearning for unknown worlds and a blank mind—but instead you’ll end up getting a shitstorm of brain noise and the urge to mark all over things with a red pen. It’s unavoidable, so just remember it’s not your fault.
Every now and then, we have to remind ourselves that it all started with a story–and not with a whole bunch of grammar rules. Take a deep breath, order a margarita, sit back and have a good read. Take a vacation, dear editor, discover new worlds just for fun, and enjoy ALL. THE. VOICES.
Here’s What We Know
While vacay practically mandates at least one day of sandy, sunny, margarita-laden book reading with ZERO itinerary and an overload of cat naps, it’s sometimes hard to get our inner selves to cooperate. The pizza stain on page 87 of my new book is proof that I tried.
Before our latest trip, I delivered a mom mandate a little something like, “We’re all going on vacation, and we’re all GOING TO HAVE FUN.” I was determined to set the example.
But for the love of surf and turf, there were factors beyond my control! How was I supposed to kick back while staring at comma splices and run-on sentences? That’s no way to relax.
The Downtime Conundrum
Many people have an inner workaholic that refuses to clock out. For editors, it’s the constant flare-up of Sudden Onset Editor Syndrome that stops them in their tracks. (This should be listed on WebMD so we can research it while we’re up at 1:00 a.m. looking for new ways to kill off characters.) It’s very real and can be debilitating when it comes to reading material for enjoyment or informational purposes.
Sign at WalMart last weekend:
“All customer’s must wear masks.”
Me (after taking emergency hit off inhaler and tightening belt one notch):
“Honey, do you have a red pen?”
Normal people would be able to extract the necessary information from the above sample signage and then move on with their lives. Editors, however, have a gene that prohibits them from moving past such transgressions without righting the wrong.
Editors lose sleep asking themselves things like “the customer’s what?” and “If we don’t stop this, then who will?” after seeing possessives used to indicate plurals.
Work Your Just-for-Fun Muscle
Here’s what trips us up. The very things we critique for clients, friends, co-workers…anyone, really…are the things that pop up frequently in whatever we choose to read for fun. So just like we flip our switch from creative to analytic/writer to editor, it’s important to work the just-for-fun muscle, too.
After all, we’re not quitters. We will have fun reading, dammit. And we can ignore grammar mishaps for the sake of a good story. (We really can!) It might take modern pharmacological intervention, but we can do it.
There was a magical day when we all picked up a book and fell in love. And know what? That book probably wasn’t perfect. (Top secret insider info: none of them are.) But the story was fantastical, and we disappeared into our imaginations—and that’s what made us fall in love with the craft in the first place.
Let’s make a little more time for that. And keep taking time to look for the voices who are creating magic for future readers.
I get it. It’s tough to give readers the benefit of the doubt when you’re talking about complicated subjects like snow, seafood, and shoes. As writers, we all fight a powerful inner force that drives us to explain things well beyond the point of clarity—often to the point of “Hey, in case you’re a dumbass, let me tell you what water is.”
Your readers will get tired of that faster than yesterday’s playlist.
Here’s a quick sample of what’s sometimes put in front of readers…and what they really think when we talk down to them:
Writer:Snow is white and cold.
Reader:No shit. There better be an inescapable blizzard trapping an entire town within the terrorizing clutches of an abominable snowman before you tell me more about this white, cold snow.
Writer: Seafood comes from the ocean…and often tastes (gasp!) “fishy.”
Reader:Unless you just pulled a megalodon from the sea, I don’t need the genealogy of the dinner you’re describing. However, if some prehistoric badassery is going down, then by all means, continue the explanation.
Writer: Shoes are utilized to protect the feet and often worn when leaving the home.
Reader:I’d really want to read more of this…IF the protagonist were running through a volcanic lava flow while wearing the latest lava-repellant footwear. However, I don’t need to be reminded every time Karen needs to slip on her Birks before leaving the house. Move on. We’re all well-versed in the role shoes play in our lives.
Cut the filler. Cut the fluff. Get to the good stuff.
We don’t do it on purpose. But every now and then, we write one of those sentences that makes it seem like our readers have the mental acuity of a box of rocks. Take a look at the last couple things you wrote. Is there anything you can omit (either because the reader likely already has that knowledge OR because the reader would love the opportunity to build that picture up in their own mind)?
PRO TIP: Never make your readers feel like they don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. If you’re planning on a long-term career as a writer, this is BAD for business.
Why Focus on Readers?
When you empower your readers, you create excited, confident readers. You produce readers of more books! Remember every time you had a great book-reading experience as a kid or young adult? What did you do? You went and found another book. As writers, that’s all we can hope for: readers who want to READ MORE BOOKS.
Your Readers Are Worldly, Intelligent & Insightful
Readers have life experience, and you can assume that if they’ve picked up your book, they have interest in the topics you’ve tackled. (That means they probably have at least a little bit of subject matter knowledge, and they’re engaged in your content. Bonus!)
Your Readers Wear Pants
And they drive cars. And they know that water comes out of water fountains. (See? Smart!)
This is momentous insight for writers, because it means you don’t have to tell readers what pants feel like or how they work! You also are not obligated to tell them that cars have steering wheels and four tires; nor do you need to tell them water comes out of fountains. Unless something utterly STRANGE and UNEXPECTED is happening with the aforementioned objects, your readers can paint those pictures all on their own. (And they LOVE doing that. It’s part of THEIR creative process.)
Why Readers Read
Readers are a huge part of your creative process. They are the recipients of your stories, and they turn the words you’ve written into entire worlds in their minds. The best writers, the writers we all return to, are those who create just enough story to intrigue us, draw us in, and challenge us to fill in the blanks. They paint the picture—just not the ENTIRE picture.
Challenge: Read your latest writing and look for signs that you’re accusing your readers of bumblefuckery. Avoid this at all costs, because nobody wants to be known as the reader who needed to be told that “the rain fell down.” (Well I damned well hope so. Tell ‘em something they didn’t know.)
Read the following encouraging signs to remind you that your readers are total BRAINIACS who just want to read some great writing. So let loose, sling some creativity, and stop second-guessing yourself about what they can handle.
5 Pretty Obvious Giveaways That Your Readers Are Smart
They are holding a book. And if they aren’t currently holding a book, they’re likely shopping for a book, telling another person about the book they just read, or reading book reviews online to decide which book to purchase next (probably while listening to an audio book).
They are alive. Meaning, they have experienced life things. If your reader has ever been through a breakup, they know it causes sadness, so get more creative than that when describing a similar situation in your writing. They know dogs bark, but a snarler evokes a completely different feeling. Small changes in your writing infuse more emotion AND give readers credit for being able to fill in some of the blanks.
They speak your language. This is fan-freakin’-tabulous news, because it means you don’t need to fluff up your writing with pretentious words readers don’t understand. They talk just like you do, so wa-bam! You can just start typing. Unless you’re completing a post-grad thesis, uptight writing will only make you seem stuffy and in need of a fiber supplement. Plus, readers will wonder why you’re making their brains hurt.
They can imagine. If you tell readers about the “scraggly, bony-fingered witch who mumbles to herself each time a well-dressed businessman passes by,” you’ll have 500 readers who come up with 500 different mental images of that witch. And that is AMAZING! Do more of that! Encourage your readers to be smart and creative and whimsical. This is what brings joy to reading…and therefore, potentially an inkling of job security to the lowly writers of the world.
They contribute. Yep, that’s right. Think you’re the only one contributing to your writing? Think again. You are setting up a platform that invites readers to enter, absorb, and then create worlds of their own—all by reading what you’ve written. You are dancing with the reader, and there is a fine balance between telling them enough and telling them too much.
Readers are brainy and creative. They are learners, and they want to be part of the adventures in the books they read. As a writer, it’s your job to bring the story into focus. Paint just enough of a picture to connect almost all the dots; and then let readers fill in some of the blanks to envision specifics. Part of the beauty of creativity lies in the give and take between writer and reader.
Now, get out there and write a literary masterpiece. Go…scoot! Before I am forced to tell you that grass is green.
Have you ever needed to sleep soooo badly, but you just couldn’t doze off? Maybe you had a crazy plot line on the brain, or you were reliving that all-too-real horror scene from Carnival Killers you just watched on Lifetime after everyone went to bed. Whatever kept you awake, the only thing that could possibly help you doze off was picking up a chemistry textbook, or maybe listening to a speech about tube socks…or even reading this:
He went to the park. He saw the man he wanted to talk to. The man was dressed in a drab suit and looked bored as he stood there with a newspaper and a cup of coffee. He paced slowly, waiting for someone, but not knowing who. He finally grew tired and sat on a nearby bench, observing the crowd.
Aaaaand, cut to snooze. Could that be any more nap-worthy?
Remember swooning over vocabulary lists in 6th grade with the two other geeks in school? Flash back to the bliss you felt when you learned words like penultimate or coddle. There’s a definite cool factor in play when we get to use powerful new words, and many of us learned that at a young age. (It’s an illness.)
We’ve all written shit. Why? Because it’s easy to slide into the sludge pit of ‘went, said, did, saw…the end.’ It’s a super-simple formula to follow. We’re not necessarily looking for the easy way out, but sometimes we get tired or stuck, and occasionally, the private brain-thesaurus we depend on simply refuses to give up anything useful. So, we settle.
We’ve also written shit because WE ARE DOERS AND TRYERS. We refuse to give up because we love what we do, and sometimes that means experimenting our way through new techniques, challenges, and styles. Writers are bold and brave, and we go out on limbs—and everyone knows when you’re out on a limb, that’s when you can fall and bust your butt.
But those moments when we soar? That’s what keeps us going. There are times when we feel so good about our work that we sing the Evita theme song from the rooftops. (Oh wait, that’s just me. Disregard.)
The Writing Hangover
The day after you create something shitty (or even semi-shitty…which is just about every new piece of work ever), you will be rudely awakened by an unholy dose of sunlight, followed by a vague recollection of adverb abuse and verb catatonia (scientific phenomena found within the writing community). Welcome to the writing hangover phase wherein regret slaps you upside the head and you recognize the fact there’s now a shitstack of writing that needs to be reworked.
Grab some coffee, Shakespeare. You’re gonna need it.
You’ll go to sleep with a masterpiece, but don’t be surprised when you wake up to a disaster. After sleeping on it, you’ll realize the amount of word-slop you glopped onto the page like an unapologetic cafeteria lady slinging a mystery casserole. And you’ll thank the universe you had the forethought to keep your first draft under wraps for the time being. (Don’t beat yourself up too much. We’re all paddling through our own word-slop oceans.)
How to Kill Your Words & Make Better Ones
Rest easy; it’s not as bad as you think. You probably have a phenomenal idea! It’s just camouflaged…behind a whole lot of anemic verbs (and other things we’ll discuss later).
It happens to everyone. It’s easy to fall into the trap of being too comfortable. If you’re a really good writer, it’s even easier. (WHAT?!) Yup, let me explain. As you get more proficient and efficient with your writing, especially if you’re doing it to make a living, it’s very inviting to fall into a pattern that repeats itself. Back to the formulaic setup:
Get up. Write words. Turn in words. Make money. Repeat.
We fall into this pattern in life, too. Get up, pack lunches, send kids to school, go to work, repeat. But be careful, because writing that gets too formulaic will start to look and sound the same. And eventually readers will get bored.
Porridge vs. Fajitas
As writers, we must continually think up new ideas and find ways to create new worlds for readers.
No one’s gonna sit around and eat a bowl of boring-ass porridge when they can have a platter of sizzling fajitas.
Be the Fajita Platter
The basic sentence-crafting formula is easy: Noun + Verb = Sentence. Boom! (In our sleep, right?)
But how do you come up with new ways to say things ALL. THE. TIME?
Fire up the GRILL and COOK FAJITAS, baby! Buckle down, focus, and make it spicy. It takes longer to go back and evaluate your word choices, but in the end, you’ll be glad you did. It takes practice, balance, and a whole lot of shaking things up to find your very own style and voice. But when you do? That’s seriously something to be proud of.
Sizzling Fajita Recipe for Writers
The Internal Battle
An internal battle will ensue. Your inner self will say, “Nah, it’s ok. The grammar is good enough, and the sentences are readable. I have other things to do, like take naps and eat sandwiches.”
But the writer in you will fight, proclaiming loudly that you did NOT need to use the same verb four times. And it will shame you into admitting you singlehandedly abused a pronoun enough times to be considered a menace to society.
Revamping Your Verbs
Here’s the down-and-dirty about revising, re-verbing, and revamping your writing after you’ve discovered the weak spots. First pass: Look at your verbs.
Take an honest pass through your writing and look for verbs that are lackluster, repetitive, or just plain boring. Try replacing them with verbs that have a little more VAVOOM and see what that does for your writing.
If you have a writer friend who critiques you honestly, fairly, and in a constructive way, that means they believe in you and your writing. (Otherwise, they wouldn’t bother.) Ask them for their input and advice, even if it’s for a quick chapter review. You’ll likely get some great direction that will help you as you move forward with your project. (Also, they’re a pretty good friend, so keep them around.)
We’re All Growing
The opposite of growth is decline or lessening, and I don’t know a single writer who wants to do that. Let’s keep growing, supporting each other, and improving so we can put our very best work out there.
It takes longer to go back and evaluate your word choices, but in the end, you’ll be glad you did. You’ll be a better writer, and you’ll gain more readers.
I know. It’s not nearly as exciting as other types of wardrobe malfunctions that have made the news, but if you’re a creative who switches gears often throughout the day (or the hour), you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
You know that project, the one you’ve had in your head for weeks but just haven’t started? The one you’ve been plotting and scheming and planning? The storyline is built out in your head. You know the characters. But when you sit down to write, you end up shooting yourself in the foot. Why? Because you sat down wearing the wrong hat.
Wardrobe selection is key
Recently, I’ve gotten into a habit of trying to write creatively while wearing my editor and proofreader hats—and let me tell you how that works. I sit down, take a sip of my caffeinated beverage of choice, crack my knuckles, belt out a couple of paragraphs—and THEN (this is where things go awry), I go back and read them, rip them apart, and rewrite them. Over and over and over again.
When I’m wearing my editor hat, I may as well type in red ink, because my story will undoubtedly be massacred as soon as the letters hit the screen. When I write with my editor hat on, I’m acting as judge, jury, and executioner to any idea before it even hits the page, when really what I need to do is just get the story out.
The fixing can come later
This is not an anomaly for writers, by the way. We’re all guilty of it. We all have a LOT going on, and some days, it’s really, really hard to be 100% present. We live in a time when it’s heroic to multi-task, it’s admirable to have a completely booked calendar, it’s the norm to eat dinner in the car between extra-curricular events. And it’s not really surprising that it’s difficult to separate all the jobs we do on a day-to-day basis.
In lieu of driving myself stark raving mad, I’ve written job descriptions for some of the various hats I wear, which will, ideally, help keep me on track (and working productively toward my goals):
Editor Hat: This hat gives me complete freedom to rip apart, change, and update copy in order to benefit the brand or story I am representing. With a focus on mechanics, readability, and seamless messaging, I take a line-by-line view of the content I’m editing and offer suggestions for grammatical corrections, as well as clarifications for consistency and style. The nerdy, sentence-diagramming girl in me really LOVES this hat.)
Writer Hat: This is a flamboyant, creative, might-only-make-sense-to-me hat. It’s a wear-it-with-sweatpants hat or a dress-it-up hat or a write-on-a-park-bench hat. All of these are ok, because right now, I’m the only one who’s going to see a single word that made it onto my screen. Half sentences? Run-ons? Rambling thoughts? Everything goes! (Honestly, they’ll make me angsty, and it will take every ounce of willpower I have NOT to correct things, but this is exactly where they belong…in the writing and creating phase.) This is the get-it-out phase, the fast-and-furious phase of getting words and plotlines into some semblance of a story. Everything does NOT have to be perfect at this point.
Idea Generator Hat: This hat is a hot mess. It has feathers and sequins with a dusting of glitter. It has a little bit of felt mixed with satin and wool, topped off with a glued-on band that’s partially falling off. It’s pretty much a hodge-podge of everything—an anything-goes hat. If an idea crosses my mind, it goes into the book or onto the list or wherever I’m keeping the latest compendium of evil plotlines. Absolutely NO editing or writing should happen with this hat. It’s a collecting hat of out-of-this-world ideas and what-if concepts. No correcting allowed.
Not Creating Right Now Hat: This could be the Mom Hat, the Family Hat, the Netflix Hat, the Shopping Hat…you get it. It’s the Don’t-Expect-Creative-Output Hat, the one that indicates it’s time to pay attention to other things and be fully present in equally important stuff that is NOT related to writing. (GASP?! What?) This hat’s pretty cool because it delivers a VERY necessary brain break—and it reminds you that it’s important to focus on all the really awesome LIFE stuff. BONUS: All that life stuff is what inspires our really awesome stories.
I’m hopeful that by choosing the correct hat for the task at hand, I can keep ME from sabbotaging myself! Very often writers find themselves going backwards in the middle of the creative process because they’re focused on the tiniest details of grammar and story construct, when really, what should come first are their personal insights, feelings, and learnings. Grammar and construct can be refined anytime, anywhere. Experience, nuance, and story are much more difficult to reconstruct.
Choose your hat
No more self-sabbotage for writers. More self-confidence. More finishing; fewer excuses. More moving foward; never backward. More confindence and pride in hard work. More excitement to begin again. More learning and listening. MORE CREATING.
Your hat—at any given moment—defines who you are, what’s important to you, and what you’re working toward. So, don your chapeau, author…it’s gonna be a helluva ride!
We’ve all been making alarminly different fashion choices since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and we can blame that mostly on the fact that we’re spending more time (A LOT MORE TIME) at home. I feel a duty to report that standards have been on a steady deline as many of us continue to work from home.
It all started just over a year ago. Back then, many of us had cute, matching workout outfits from places like Fabletics and Victoria’s Secret and even Target. It was easy to look cute for the occasional WFH day. Now, however, months have passed, and much like the elastic on my underwear, the lycra in most of our leggings is waving flags of surrender.
Admit it or not, we’ve all made the it’s-just-to-the-mailbox walk in our mismatched pajamas and slippers. And a lot of us have been balancing work with futile attempts at trying to educate our own children. (My kid asked if frogs had hair the other day, so we’re gonna need to play a whole lotta catch-up to ensure our future is secure.) Everyone is overdosing on board games and Netflix, and no one wants to play ANYmore educational video games. Even the dogs are ready for us to get the hell out of the house. I think that about sums it up.
We’re all just trying to hang in there
If you find yourself suddenly needing a refresh before your sanity completely escapes you, here’s a handy-dandy list of updated fashion rules to help you navigate the stress of working from home, kid-wrangling, and facing the possibility of never seeing the light of day again. (We’re all hanging onto the edge of this cliff together, so there’s no shame in the game…let’s just help each other out a little.)
1.Prioritize laundry cycles by ALWAYS washing pajamas first. You will wake, function, sleep, and do it all over again in these functional clothing pieces. Don’t let yourself stress over matching tops with bottoms. At this point in our lives, nothing needs to match. The only people you are going to see are the Amazon guy, the FedEx guy, and if you’re lucky, the GrubHub guy. If your undies and pjs are fresh, you’re good to go!
2.Sort your nighttime pajamas from your daytime pajamas. This will help you clearly outline your day and stay on track. Obviously, daytime pajamas are for people who have a plan and want to execute and be productive. Daytime pajamas either match or they are paired with a sporty t-shirt so you can pretend you’re part of the up-and-moving crowd. Nighttime pajamas are for those who are DONE. They are reserved for Netflix and wine, and they almost never match. These are the ones with faded cats, over-stretched elastic, and frayed hemlines–but damn, they are comfy! When you keep your pjs aligned to your goals, you’ll end up feeling much better about your day.
3.Re-name your clothing staples. Leggings are essentially exercise pajamas, and we’re all living in them now, so let’s embrace it. Just before coronavirus hit, I remember sharing a meme about leggings not being pants. Now, when I see that, I just laugh and laugh. Also recognized as “dressy pajamas” or “going-out pajamas,” leggings are extremely handy for extreme bouts of physical activity like going to the grocery store or sneaking in quick trips to Target.
4.All sock-and-sandal rules are null and void. Seriously, if we can now wear leggings that come in skin tones, then we can wear socks with our sandals. And do you know why we’re wearing socks with our sandals? Because we haven’t been to get a pedicure in approximately 6 months, and our toenails could rival the claws on a pterodactyl. It’s a new world, and we’re ALL wearing fuzzy socks–in the summer, with our sandals, on the porch, any which way we please.
5.Roots are the new highlights. We’re letting things go a little longer than we used to, but this isn’t just a fashion tip about what’s going on from the neck up, ladies. The other day, I stepped into the sunlight, and the glint of the light hit my shins in such as way as to highlight the amber waves of…OMG I need to order razors! (Another reason to opt for the leggings.) The fun part of letting our roots grow out? You can go purple, blue, or pink. Whatever you decide, get a little crazy with it and perk up your WFH day with a splash of color. Even if it goes haywire, it’s just you, the fam, and a quick run-in with the Amazon guy, right?
6.Ponytails are perfection! Down low, up high, in the middle, messy bun, loopy-do, half-pony…girl, you do YOU. If your hair isn’t full of grease, twigs, or actual birds, that bird’s nest will fit right in with all the other looks happening right now. It’s hot, we’re stressed, and nobody’s got time for hair flying all over the place.
7.If you tuck it in or wear a belt, you are fancy. If you’re feeling like a fancy stroll to the mailbox or a glam day of homeschooling, simply tuck your hoodie into your sweatpants or layer a belt over your ensemble to add dimension and style. Covid rules are different, and you’ll get points for creativity. Just remember, not too tight with the belt or it’ll be tough to eat ice cream while you’re watching Dr. Phil.
There will be tests
Stay strong and stick with your uncanny sense of pandemic style. Tests will be sent your way, but when you look your best, you feel your best. Or maybe now, it should be…When you feel your best, you feel your best? So whip that hair into a messy bun, pull on your softest sweatpants, and deal with all the sarcasm, bullish attitudes, and I-don’t-wanna-do-it attitudes that are thrown your way every day.
Just remember: every challenge you face is merely a chance to build up your willpower to last until the kids’ bedtime before breaking open that new bottle of cabernet and switching the TV to the Lifetime Movie Channel. Fortify yourself in stretchy clothing, and wait for the younglings to collapse into exhausted oblivion.
And as for creativity & productivity
If you’re trying to produce new material right now, Dear cats and kittens, remember to turn of Tiger King before doing so. (Yes, we’ve all seen it…at least once. No, I will NEVER admit to owning Tiger King socks.)
It may not seem like it now, but we’ve all been given an opportunity to flourish and grow. You know how weeds grown through concrete? Yeah, we’re gonna grow through this, too. We’re figuring it out, and we’re moving forward. I mean, we look pretty ridiculous in leggings and bathrobes, but we are persevering.
The finish line
That feeling when you can see the finish line is pretty damned gratifying. Especially if you are a fat girl who is really running (and not writing a metaphor). OMG, sometimes that finish line seems so far away…and donuts seem even further away! But we can all do this if we stick together.
So gather up a load of casual laundry and cue up a disastrous, yet affirming, Lifetime movie. Check on your friends, feed your kids, curl up in a blankie, luxuriate in those over-worn leggings, and disappear into someone else’s fictional drama for a couple of hours.
We’re gonna make it through this. And someday, history books will reflect on this period of fashion and dub it “Covid Chic.”
I get it. People are tired of being cooped up in their houses and going on long, solitary walks and sitting on their front porches reading books and well, generally being not surrounded by people. It sounds absolutely excruciating—unless you are an introvert, in which case, you’ve been given an extended vacation from people-ing that is akin to winning a getaway to a tropical island filled with coconuts, island breezes, and cabana boys—the kind that deliver drinks and don’t want deep conversation.
It’s not the most popular opinion. Most of my friends are chomping at the bit to GET. OUT. THERE. To get back to normal, whatever that was. To get back to the office, get back to the grind, the carpools, the birthday parties, the over-committing, the general busy factor of life. But what if… What if this has been a way to get us all to slow down, look around, and appreciate what we do have? So take a minute. Look around. Breathe. Play some silly games and watch Netflix. We WILL all be back out there soon. Soon the tide will turn, and it will be the introverts who are uncomfortable again.
This post is for you, introverts. We’ve all become accustomed to being at home, and quite honestly, we’re loving the fact that we don’t have to work so hard to bury our introvert tendencies just to function in the real world. We can be productive, work successfully, and NOT be in such a loud, extroverted world. We don’t have to worry that the spotlight will turn on us in meetings—but we can still do amazing work. We LOVE our teams, but we don’t have to worry about team-building activities that include constructing the tallest spaghetti towers. (Please stop doing this to us. It’s unnecessary, and we don’t need spaghetti to understand the concept of teamwork.)
But I digress. Let’s get down to the business of taking care of your inner bridge troll. My inner bridge troll is the one who does not want anyone TROMP-TROMP-TROMPING over her bridge (or getting in her personal space). She’s an unpredictable troll because sometimes she likes to go out, have fun, and kick back…but those times are exhausting—and they require recovery time. You see, we introverts LOVE our people, but we recharge in our solitary environments.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure your inner bridge troll is the happiest troll around—and in turn, you can be sure to be the best friend, co-worker, and family member to those around you. They’ll understand you better, and you’ll FEEL better, so just go for it:
Don’t overcommit. I know, it’s difficult, but when things get back to some semblance of normal, everyone will want to do ALL. THE. THINGS. And probably all at once. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, introverts. You’ve been in your house for weeks with nothing but your kids and your toilet paper stash, so ease back into outside life gradually.
Prioritize. There will be things you really, really want to do—and then things you feel like you have to do. Here’s the thing: you don’t have to do anything. Be gentle, be kind, and learn how to say no.
Do what you love. Things are changing daily—heck, probably even hourly—and no one really knows what’s coming next. What do you love to do? Answer that question…and then REMEMBER the answer. Don’t forget to do the things you love. I love to write, make mosaics, spend time with my family, and currently, my new fascination is bullet journaling. Don’t let any of those things go. Instead, build on them—even when life lets us get out and about again.
Reach out. Ok trolls, here’s the hard part. You are not the only people on the planet—and there are people out there who love you and care for you. That means you have a responsibility to not only focus on your own introverted comfort, but also look outward and focus on the needs of your loved ones. Try picking a day or two a week to make phone calls and check in on people, send good old-fashioned cards, and plan coffee dates with friends. If they can respect us as introverts, then we can at least go get a damn cup of coffee.
Relax. Life will go on. We will adapt—humans are good at that. Let’s all just lean into each other’s strengths and get through this thing. Some of us are good at people-ing. Some of us are good at introverting. Let’s all work together.
My hope is that from all of this we will emerge smarter, more intuitive, and more able to respect boundaries of those who work differently, play differently, and live differently. That’s the beauty of being human. Find your people, love them, and appreciate them even more after all of this is over.
Bridge trolls: Come out of your caves occasionally to chat with people and get in touch with what’s going on in the world.
Extroverts: Reach out the introverts and try to understand that it’s sort of tough for us to leave our Hobbit houses and socialize…but we really love you and want to be your friends.
And there you have it. Bridge trolls, meet the extroverts. Extroverts, meet the bridge trolls. Now, y’all work that shit out.
I killed a character today. And it was hard because I sorta liked her a lot. I was digging what she stood for, how she carried herself, and how she had her shit together. But she took a turn…in my head and in my imagination. And suddenly, she just wasn’t the same girl anymore. She had to go.
All that was left was to figure out how to murder her.
It’s not easy to kill your darlings
But sometimes it must be done. Why? They no longer serve the purpose of your story. They’re no longer the people you thought they were. There are lots of important reasons, but first and foremost, they simply don’t fit into the story you’re telling anymore.
The corporate world has been my darling…
As a creative writer just starting out in the world, I constantly heard my mom’s words reverberating in my head, “You can’t make any money writing. Why would you want to major in Liberal Arts?”
I thank everything on this giant spinning globe that I didn’t listen. She tried to get me to shoot for an international business degree, and since checkbooks, banking, and generally anything dealing with finance sends me into a bout of hives, that would have been a disastrous decision.
So, when I landed my first corporate job as a proofreader / transcriber, I was elated. BOOM, Mom! See, there are jobs for those of us who prefer diagramming sentences to solving equations.
From that moment forward, I never left corporate. I’ve proofread, edited, written, marketed, planned, organized, branded, rebranded, and worked my way up as a pretty decent word nerd extrordinaire. But here’s what I just learned.
Writing in the corporate world
Writing for companies and large entities is a unique experience, and I believe all creatives should give it a shot. Why?
Because it gives you experience in learning to write to the voice, tone, and feel that another person is directing. It gives you the experience of working with a team to develop an overal concept that’s not your own. And it gives you the experience of not owning your work. It makes you tough. And resilient.
We’re all human
Writers are often portrayed as “too sensitive,” but that’s only the case because we HAVE to let our expressions, words, and feelings out in order to pour them onto paper (or a screen). Spreadsheety McNumbers doesn’t have to do that in order to get his job done, so a lot of the time, he doesn’t understand that. (That leaves it us to we sensitive sorts to be a little more understanding.)
Giving up control is hard
There’s nothing worse than feeling extremely protective over your work and then having to give up control over it. I’ve recently had to step back and learn this, both at my money-making job and at my creative-outlet job.
Here’s what I’ve learned about myself, both in my personal writing and in writing for a corporate entity:
I will take on too much. I will continue to take on projects, work, writing, whatever you can throw at me until I break. And then I will keep going.
I won’t tell you. (#IntrovertProblems ?) Could be an introvert thing, but I don’t think just introverts suffer from this phenomenon. Maybe it’s more of a pride thing. If you keep handing me things, I’ll keep doing them. And I won’t stop until they complete and correct.
I won’t answer the phone. OMG don’t call me. I love you, but don’t call me. I have email and text, and I am exhausted from human interaction. I answer the phone for a very select few people, and if that’s you, then you know I would also throw myself in front of a bus for you because I love you that much.
If I’m backed into a corner, I will fight. And I won’t fight fair. I think that’s true of a lot of people, but I’ve learned that a lot of people won’t admit it. They just get nas’y. See how I let people know in advance? That’s the sensitive side of me!
I’ve worked hard, and it sucks when it feels like someone is downgrading that. So if I see that happening to you, I’ll fight for you, too.
I will respect you, but I want respect in return.
No company will ever value my family and my personal time as much as I do. That’s true for me. It’s true for you, and for everyone else on this planet. So if you’re working somewhere that you don’t feel valued, it’s time to re-think your situation.
I’ve been too hard on myself, but then again, who isn’t? Here’s a little secret about creatives: you don’t have to be tough on us or our work. We’re already WAY ahead of you there.
There are still a LOT of old thinkers in corporate America. They may throw around words like “innovative” or “bold,” but many of them will balk the first time you give them new-day, new-thinking ideas. Often, they don’t want to be the first ones to take chances.
I thought it would be easy to walk away from a corporate career. It’s not. We’ve been brought up with this mindset that a corporate title determines our success. You’ll finally feel free of that B.S. when you dip your toe into the slow lane…the one that chugs along outside the Rat Race.
I have more pride than I thought. Pride can be a good thing, but don’t forget, there’s also that old saying about it coming just before a fall. It’s all about balance. Don’t let your pride get too big to simply put it in your briefcase and walk away.
I’m underselling creative talent to please other people. And so are you. Your talent for creating, writing, editing, and imaging new worlds is phenomenal! (Honestly, you think that guy over there putting all your accomplishments on a spreadsheet can come up with next year’s kickass tagline? As my teenager would say, “Naw, fam.”)
Question for my writer friends: Are we selling our creative souls for the sake of funding our present comfort?
So what’s next? Here’s what I propose:
Take a look at your darlings. Do you still love them? If so, then they get to stay in the story for a while. If they are meaningful, add depth and intrigue to the plot, let them stay. (I loved being in the office for a long time! I loved the hustle and bustle and deadlines and watercooler meetings. And it’s ok to love that!)
But when it’s their time to go…when it’s time for a new chapter, don’t think twice about choosing your murder weopon and OFFING your darlings.
Also, I did just kill a fictional character, and it felt pretty good! But if anyone runs across my online search history, I expect you all to vouch for my “research” endeavors.)