More On Writing, Pt. 1

Left Bank Books


(Photo taken in New York’s West Village, October 2008)


A few months ago, I joined a writer’s coaching meeting that consisted of myself and two other people (who are near and dear to me). The ringleader for this meeting was Paul, who made it very clear that we ARE NOT TO READ OUR WORK ALOUD. No, instead THIS meeting is about kicking our collective asses and holding us all responsible for producing something. Meeting goals, if you will.


Now each Wednesday, I attend our meeting and must explain whether or not I met my writing goals for the week, and if not, why not, and I’m also tasked with identifying pitfalls, priorities (or lack thereof) and new goals for the upcoming week.


In the above, you may have noticed my usage of terminology like “tasked,” “must explain,” and “kicking asses.” This isn’t so much a warm and fuzzy meeting (although often there is wine) as it is an accountability meeting. You know, right? We all talk about finishing our book one day, or I gotta write that, or I’m a writer, or I’d die if I couldn’t write, and so really? Really? THEN WRITE. WRITE. WRITE!




See, I have this problem. I talk a lot. I espouse my goals and ambitions and my wanting to finish this manuscript and I can’t wait to tell this story and blar de blar blar. But have I concertedly worked on my manuscript?







This, despite asked for the full manuscript from two agents who read the first 20 pages at a writer’s conference. TWO (or THREE?) years ago. Despite wanting, really wanting, to write it. Have I?







So I’ll admit: At our first meeting, I wanted to talk to Paul about what I was writing (or not writing), why I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and while we’re at it, what is he writing? And really? We’re not going to read our work and get feedback and what is this accountability stuff anyway? Because I have blocks, Paul. BLOCKS. I’m scared my work won’t be good enough and it’s paralyzing. FREEZE-MAKING. I don’t always know how to advance my plot so I don’t move it forward at all, because then it can’t be wrong or bad and suck and if I don’t finish this book, I won’t find out that I’m not a writer after all and then what? THEN WHAT? What will I do? Who will I be? I don’t want to write it because I don’t want to discover I cannot write.


We’ve got deep-seated issues, folks.


But no. This meeting is not about talk. Or blocks. This meeting is about “did you do what you said you were going to do?” This meeting is not about I was too busy or the kids are driving me crazy or I’m tired or I might suck. This meeting is about “did you do what you said you were going to do?”


Right. So at the beginning of our meetings, I started with lofty goals like “Write 1,000 words this week” and “Write for two hours straight.” And I did not meet those goals. And I discovered things about myself, which I will detail in Part II. But for now, my more reachable goals are “Write for 30 minutes” and “Write for 40 minutes.” And have I met those goals?






Through these meetings, I’ve learned to see my excuses for what they are and to identify the difference between an ideal and a value (Do I want to be a writer someday? YES. Am I valuing that ideal enough to live it through action? NO.) So due to these meetings, Paul (and Kristine) have gently pushed me to see some of my writing issues more clearly and have given me helpful feedback and tips. Henceforth, I thought I’d share them with you because I’ve got a feeling some are universal.


So please stay tuned. The writing rubber hits the road in Part II.


But meanwhile, I leave you with the below questions asked weekly at our meetings (and I hope Paul won’t mind that I’m sharing, because he came up with them):


Have you changed the nature or priority of your writing/publishing goals in your life since our last meeting? If so, are you giving up on a goal or dream — or just adjusting the target. Do you feel a lack of drive/incentive due to another problem? If so, why?


Did you achieve 100% (or more) of the goals you set for yourself last week? If yes, share how you did it and any pitfalls you avoided?

If no, please share your pitfalls and ask the group how you can avoid making this a recurring pitfall.


And so I say YES! This group is exactly what I needed.






16 Responses to “More On Writing, Pt. 1”

  1. Kizz says:

    Wow. Just wow. That sounds like just the kind of meeting I need right now.

    I’m having the same plot advancement problem. Let me know when you crack it, will you?

  2. Danielle says:

    This is me: “I don’t want to write it because I don’t want to discover I cannot write”
    I skipped the last prompt because really I was too embarrassed to show everyone my work in progress. It’s only a outline of sorts, that is a high level overview of the actual book. But I read it again and I was like no, I cannot post this because what if is REALLY bad? I probably should have just sucked it up and posted it.

    So I am impressed you’re taking on your goals and fears head on. And you’re making it happen. And the other part is YOU ARE GOOD. Or really I wouldn’t come back to read your blog everyday. I mean I’m not but not THAT nice.

  3. Danielle says:

    Ok, well apparantly I’m not a good writer because I forget words. My last sentence should be ‘I mean I’m nice but not THAT nice.’
    The thought that I sucked made it happen…

  4. stoneskin says:

    I spent (literally) a good half minute trying to figure out what twth means. But sounds like that meeting is a good thing, I mean it teaches you to say “no I have not” in a really strong and firm way right?

    Seriously, glad it is working.

  5. bejewell says:

    Those meetings sounds absolutely excruciating. And also, like something I should probably do myself. But I won’t. Because I am lazy and iresponsible but I don’t really feel like saying that out loud to anyone. I said it here, that’s good enough — right?

  6. I’m scared. I love you. Bye.

  7. Da Goddess says:

    I so need a group like this for my writing AND my photography. I need an ass kicker or three in my life!

    I’m so proud of you for defining, redefining, and WORKING on your dream. You’re my idol.

  8. kate says:

    hi. okay. bye.

    because what my wife said.

    paul? eek!

    in a good way.

  9. JCK says:

    What a fantastic idea for a group! And yes, what you write of here is universal! Oh, to do what one sets out to do from one seven day period to the next…

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. Suzanne says:

    This was an amazing post. I felt like I was looking in a mirror and hearing myself recite the various reason I can’t or haven’t written. Glad to hear that you have put yourself in a place where you can be accountable to yourself for your writing and get back to it…I can tell you’ve got the talent (and apparently so can two agents!!!!)

  11. vodkamom says:

    I am getting ready to start a writing group when school is out! I love these ideas! I’ll be getting back to you on this.

    now go KICK YOUR OWN ASS.

  12. Blognut says:

    Yup. Terrified.

    Don’t have time? Or, won’t make time? I’m not sure which one. I most certainly have issues.

  13. Jennifer says:

    I’ll be joining a writing group next month. One opposite of what you describe here. One of encouragement and brainstorming. Along with a few prompts here and there. This will be good for me since I’m not all that sure that I can write a book.

    Good luck to you and if you ever doubt your writing ability just check back on the comment love.

  14. This was so honest…and so close to where I’m at most of the time. Incredible how a little accountability and new goals can change the game, huh? I’m finding the same thing.

  15. tinsenpup says:

    Wow! That sounds fantastic. You are getting on track. You’re really going to do this! And I’m thinking I might actually get to read more about those witches. :)

  16. she says:

    I want to live near you and be in this group! I’m not scared. Well, maybe a bit!

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