I don’t wanna push it, but…. (Encore)

Getting behind, for me, is inevitable, damn it. I’ve got lots of stuff to do, and when it comes to saying “No!” to new projects, I suck harder than the Atlanta Braves in the postseason–and coming from a die-hard Bravos fan, that’s sayin’ a lot!

Sadly, it’s true. But for those of us seeking a silver lining, it’s also forced me to be productive even when I don’t feel like it. Much as I’d like to sit back and let the Muse deliver a massage, or whatever other tender mercies the ol’ gal has to offer, what I mostly need to do is put my posterior in a chair and my fingers on a keyboard. Typically, the end result is something I can eventually manhandle into usable shape. It might not be pretty, but it’ll be okay enough to do the job. This blog, f’rinstance, is a great example: ugly more often than not, but serviceable.

If there’s a life lesson in here, it’d be, “Learn how to say, ‘No!'”

GuiltI tell myself most folks are just like me when it comes to a decision like this. Instead of thinking only about ourselves, and our need to be timely and productive, our usual hard-as-nails personas get all squishy when we’re asked to do something for someone else. And it’s usually kids. “Think of the poor kids, you miserable  heel!”

Naturally, I do start thinking about those poor kids. They’re legion, fer cryin’ out loud. Why doesn’t someone ever come ’round and ask about homeless strippers or lingerie models? Surely they need some love, too, right? Call on me, dammit!

What I’m driving at–poorly, I admit–is that there are times when we’ve got stuff to write, and very little time in which to do it. Our options are pretty limited. Either we grovel about the unfairness of life; we find someone else to do the work for us, or we cowboy up and write the best stuff we can write as fast as we can write it.

In case you weren’t sure, I’m a big supporter of option #3: shut up and work. If you have time to read it over, then, by all means, read it over. If not, just pray you did the best job you could do in the time available. And then, move on to the next project. The world won’t grind to a halt if you mangle a little punctuation or fail to craft the perfect sentence. I also suspect something will happen that allows you to go back and fix the problems that you didn’t have time to fix earlier. And there are always things to fix. Always.

The Muse is fickle. If you rely on her for inspiration, you’ll be disappointed, unless writing a few hundred words every other year is enough to satisfy you. Sometimes you just have to sit down and work, no matter how you feel or what else you have to do. Sometimes you have to write a LOT in a very short time.

Do the best you can. At the very least, no one can say you didn’t try. And if they do, the people who know you will ignore them for the idiots they are.

Write on!


About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
This entry was posted in Historical writing, Memoir, novel writing, short fiction, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to I don’t wanna push it, but…. (Encore)

  1. Hi Josh! I am halfway through Zeus’s Cookbook! Great read so far!

  2. Doris Reidy says:

    And how many books have you written? Few writers can match your productivity, so whatever you’re doing must be working.

    • joshlangston says:

      I don’t consider myself especially prolific, but I’ve stayed busy. I’ve got 14 novels in print along with a half dozen short story collections and four textbooks. All were published within the past 10 years. Thank you for asking!

  3. I try to have stamina like yours. I work (an outside job) three days a week and write (work), or attempt to, four days. My problem is the huge number of distractions. I know other writers must feel like I do. If we don’t take a writing break and come out of our cocoons, we are considered antisocial and here we go on our guilt trip. Well, I love to make up stories and if I want to, I will stay in that cocoon. Why? You all know- because we’ve lived and worked for a long time for someone else! (Insert gesture in your first picture) I LOVE to say NO (end of rant) JM

  4. Annel B Martin says:

    Please keep on staying busy, Josh. I sure have enjoyed all of your books. I may have missed a few of the short story ones but I’ve read all the others. Plus, I enjoy your weekly blog. It keeps me motivated. Staying busy is good for many things…and writing is included in my “staying busy” projects. Someday, who knows, I may finish a novel.

  5. Needed this encouragement today, especially the last paragraph!

  6. Barry Womack says:

    Thanks, Josh. Point taken.

  7. Barry Pencek says:

    Thanks Josh for motivating me to get off my sorry ass and hit the keyboard.
    Write on!

  8. Sonya says:

    Love this, Josh. Thanks for the wake up call.

  9. Lloyd Blackwell says:

    Amen, grumble it and then keep on “pluggin!” You have come far and made a name for yourself. You know more about grammar, useage and structure – and humor – than I will never know.
    We do have similar motivations and drive, except my feeding interest is in reality around the world: Flying a kite at the North Pole, expeditions and living among primitive Indians in the Amazon Jungle, driving a race car to a top speed of 176.5 mph at Talladega – rafting the Colorado River the entire 277 mile distance of the Grand Canyon, or simply dog sledding with the Eskimos (Inuits) among the icebergs in Greenland, all a soothing ointment to my itch. Now, at age 87 and poor health, all I can do is reminisce or write, truthfully, almost all reminiscing. Best wishes for a continuing great journey.

  10. Susanne says:

    Like Patsy, I appreciated reading this post today after opening my email and reading another “Thanks, but no thanks” letter.

    I belong to a small writing group and we’ve named ourselves Ass in the Chair (AitCh) which sounds like itch. Writer’s itch. There’s no ointment and no cure. You just have to scratch it.

  11. Your line about homeless strippers or lingerie models made me burst out laughing. Thanks for the good advice on going to work on whatever one needs to write. But I have great excuses.

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