Oreos Are Making Me Stupid: Determination and the Writer’s Wall
Oreos have been on discount at the grocery store for the past month. That’s, like, an eternity in cookie years. Plus, Oreo has some really interesting flavors and combinations nowadays, like birthday cake (not recommended) and mint (yes! yes! A thousand times, yes!).
I usually stay away from store bought cookies and breads because, well, I have this gluten thing to deal with. I don’t get crazy-sick like some people, but I can tell I get a little, well… SLOW… after a few consecutive days of gluten consumption.
But to pass up discounted Oreos? You’ve gotta be out of your unicorn lovin’ mind.
I noticed my mental demise yesterday mid-afternoon as I was settled in front of my laptop after lunch, trying feverishly to write the next chapter of Pebbles in a Stream. Through experience, I know that by the time I can tell something is wrong with my brain, the fog has reached its peak density.
In short: I was screwed.
The morning started well enough…
9:00 AM. Laptop on and fingers racing, I was off to a running start. My brain spilled forth wonderful ideas, graphic imagery, and tense dialogue that materialized as words on the screen.
Still, I pressed on, not really feeling like any of what I wrote was “clicking”, but confident that typing something was better than typing nothing. (Right?)
12:30 PM. About three solid hours in front of my screen and my eyes felt like they were bugging out of my head and going crossed, much to the assumed disappointment of my younger sister, who happens to be an optometrist. (Sorry, Boo.)
I figured I was simply in need of sustenance, so I got up and fixed myself a little meal.
Maybe all I needed was a little stretch, a little nutrition, some water, my vitamins, an Oreo (or four). After that, I was back at the computer, preparing myself for more of the amazingly mind-blowing writing that would undoubtedly come.
1:00 PM. I sat staring, waiting for the magic to gush from my fingertips.
Me, about mid-day yesterday. Frightening.
But it didn’t. My brain had checked out. I sat like a lump, my yearning writer’s heart still super determined to type out just one more page, just ONE more scene, but my mind was taking a nap in the shade of its sandwich cookie tent (a minty green one, at that).
I was a writing zombie, wandering aimlessly in a land filled with delicious words, yet none satisfied my soulless appetite.
Then I realized what had happened. I had hit “The Wall”.
It was over. Defeat ensued.
I whined a little internally then moved on to a different task.
…as Determination is to Writing.
Um, sure. But trying doesn’t always lead to success. Therein lay the deception.
So what happened? I had done everything right. I had gotten up (relatively) early. I’d gotten dressed, even put on shoes and makeup, which is the stay-at-home trick to feel like you’re working instead of endlessly lounging.
I’d picked myself out a quiet place, free of distraction. Had even dispatched the cat to the garage to prowl for bugs and mice while I labored away at the keyboard.
I’d specifically cut out a full day to dedicate to my novel. No drawing comics, no housework “breaks” (yeah, cause those are fun breaks), no writing for clients or working on other projects. I wasn’t going to reward myself prematurely or procrastinate. No, not this time.
I was fully, 110% dedicated to Pebbles in a Stream, and I was determined to keep on writing it until the day’s end. Or, at least, until I had to stop to make dinner.
I was super determined. Like, crazy determined.
Because I’d just read some article somewhere about determination and how it made the difference between the successful and unsuccessful. (The fact that it’s “some article somewhere” and not anything that I can directly reference just points to how deeply the article impacted me. 😐 )
Similar to many like it, the article was full of positive affirmations and go-get-’em phrases like
It doesn’t matter how well you do it, as long as you get up and try!
Mistakes are proof that you’re trying.
You can be anything you want to be!
But, now that the feel-good-effervescence from that stimulating read have disappeared like the bubbles in a flat soda pop, what do I have to say about it? Well, what I want to say is a mass of assorted four-letter words that I’d rather not publicize, but I will say this:
That’s all that feel-good stuff is: A bunch of stinking, spoon-fed, double-edged, short-sighted malarkey that does nothing for nobody in the long term.
Malarkey. [muh–lahr-kee] 1. speech or writing designed to obscure, mislead, or impress.
That’s how I feel about that article and others like it. It’s an article whose feel good message is designed to make its readers feel empowered now, but whose practical application yields less than promised later.
It obscures the truth of success behind a mirage of “good efforts”; it misleads the vulnerable and hopeful into thinking determination = success.
But, really, Jessi. You aren’t saying that thousands of career coaches and successful business people are wrong, are you?
Well, yeah, I am.
Why inspirational writers can bug off
The Generosity Scam
First of all, when a successful writer goes out and tells aspiring writers “Yes, you can! Just get up every morning at 5 AM and sit down and type and, eventually, you’ll have a novel!”, you’d better believe they’re trying to sell something. Maybe not for money, but to impress someone (hey — isn’t that the third part of the malarkey definition?) and earn trust where it’s truly undeserved. And trust on a blog = $$$.
Remember: You don’t know that person. Comparably, they don’t know you. Sure, maybe they’re good people and in a general sense care about humankind, but they don’t don’t care if your novel sells or not, or even if its written well at all! They’re not your friend and whether you succeed or fail matters little to them. Why trust them?
Besides, you’re already reading into their advice, swallowing it up like a kid with a chocolate malt on a stool in a ’50s diner. They’ve already won you over. Your click onto their blog has paid them their advertising royalties; your click to an Amazon link (and subsequent potential purchase) has earned them hard cash through an Amazon affiliate program; and, if you signed up for their newsletter, you can bet you’ve earned them some money there, too.
Bloggers aren’t giving advice out of the kindness of their hearts. It’s a BUSINESS. Don’t be fooled. They may love writing, but they also love making money. That doesn’t make their advice worthless, but it does mean you should take what they say with a grain of salt.
Secondly, as a freelancer I’ve seen too much of the product that comes from this “Just write” BS. If there were a possibility for it, I’d find some way to hire a mass of people who read books all the time to read manuscripts all the time and discard the bad ones in an effort to rid the world of them before they’re printed into terrible, terrible books and are distributed to slowly torment an ill-prepared population.
Lastly, sometimes making mistakes isn’t a sign that you’re on your way to success. Sometimes it’s just a sign that you can’t. I know it’s against modern thinking to tell someone “You can’t do that,” but — trust — there are some things some people just CAN’T do. For me, that’s calculus. For you, maybe it’s writing a book.
We all need to know where our determination crosses the threshold from “You can do it!” to “Okay, this is stupid.”
Back to my cookie problem.
I. Will. Write.
But then there are Oreos. They’re like my kryptonite. They’re the delicious cement that holds together not just one of my writer’s blocks, but a whole freakin’ wall of them.
It’s like writer’s block, but worse. I think of a block as a hiccup in the progression of prose issuing from my brain. A block is when you can’t find the right word and it sends your mind off-track and you lose your place; a block is a tripping up, an ADD moment, a series of segues that lead you too far away to remember what your point was in the first place.
(On that final example, I had writer’s block with this article. I went into a rant that I’ll not mention and had to stop, remember what I was supposed to be writing about, and return to the task hours later. That’s a block.)
A wall by definition isn’t just one block; it’s hundreds of them stacked upon each other and somehow held together. In the case of writer’s wall, it’s a whole series of gigantic, rebar-enforced concrete pillars looming 50-feet upward and seemingly infinitely in either direction.
I shouldn’t judge the Oreo’s. It’s not their fault they’re not gluten-free. I shouldn’t put the blame on them for something that is most obviously MY fault.
I shouldn’t have purchased them. They shouldn’t even be in my house. I’m to blame.
It’s MY fault for buying into their malarkey by buying them. I was fooled by their sweetness when I sure as hell knew that their crunchy exteriors would catalyze into cement when they mixed with my brain juices.
I say “my brain” because every writer’s cement is different. Some other examples of writer’s cements are:
an obsession with reading “How to Write” books/articles/blogs
fear of failure ( = never starting!)
trying to wait for the “perfect” time to write
That said, it isn’t always a lack of determination that bars the aspiring writer from success.
Sometimes it’s stupid cookies.