Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been 39 days since my last blog post. I accuse myself of the following sin:
I stopped writing.
As a writer, especially one who has only recently released a debut novel and a short story, ceasing to write is perhaps the deadliest sin that one can commit if one wishes to enjoy a productive career putting words on paper.
Having said that, my sinful actions have in fact helped me to discover an author’s most important skill. This aptitude is so important, in fact, that I believe it to be applicable to all folks in all industries and all facets of life. Listen (or read and comprehend) closely; I’m only going to discuss this once.
As a writer, we all admire our peers when they prove to be adept at skillfully constructing imaginative prose and tightly-spun plots. Though not all of them realize this, the most successful writers are actually those who know how their minds work.
In other industries, the meaning of this can vary. But in the writing world, the way your mind operates means the difference between a writer being a “planner” or a “pantser,” or a streaky writer versus a writer who consistently works at a snail’s pace. Knowing how your mind works will help you avoid traps like the one I fell into.
How do I find out how my mind works, you ask?
Check out the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator. Some websites allow you to take (watered down versions) of the test for free while others (like this one) allow you to look at the different variables and decide for yourself which personality type you are.
I took the Myers-Briggs test more times than I care to count in college, so I am pretty familiar with my personality type. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty, gory details of my personality type…that’s not essential to this post. But, after having lived for eight years after my last Myers-Briggs test, I can now see all of my personality quirks with 20/20 vision.
According to the test, I am an INFP. If you don’t know what that means, this site explains each personality type wonderfully. (As an aside, I think a large majority of writers are INFPs. As you can see in the explanation, writing is a skill that is just about inherent in folks of that personality type.)
As it pertains to my “deadly sin,” one bit of INFP information particularly stood out to me:
“When an INFP has adopted a project or job which they’re interested in, it usually becomes a “cause” for them. Although they are not detail-oriented individuals, they will cover every possible detail with determination and vigor when working for their “cause”.
When I wrote Agents of Change, there was little doubt that it was my “cause.” I spent every waking moment of my free time working on it and finished it in four months…and that includes the one month I waited for beta reader feedback.
That’s the blessing.
In the meantime, I paid little attention to anything else (including my health and my wife, though, to her credit, she didn’t complain…I was writing a novel!).
That’s the curse.
I’m kind of a streaky writer. I’ll go months at a time without writing a single word. Suddenly, though, I’ll get an idea or thought in my head and run with it to the tune of a spitting out a novel in four months or a screenplay in two months. It’s definitely a double-edged sword. I’d love to be able to consistently write gobs of pages without crashing. Unfortunately, I have to be in the mood to write with the same voracity to which I’m accustomed and, to be honest, it’s why I was never good at keeping up with journals that were required for school (or blogs, for that matter).
So why did I crash?
Well, other issues (some more pressing than others) presented themselves and I lost my writing mojo, if only temporarily. Among those issues were a new video game and the fact that my wife and I were suddenly parents, sort of* (if you care for an explanation, it can be found at the end of this post. If you don’t care, carry on).
While these issues were presenting themselves, I did plot my sequel and I did write the first two chapters. Unfortunately, because writing was no longer my “cause,” I can’t say I wrote those two chapters with the same vim and vigor that I had enjoyed while writing “Agents.” Without a doubt, it felt like I was writing because I had to, not because I wanted to.
That said, I should never have stopped writing. Even if it felt like a chore, I should have at least written a page a day. Heck, even a sentence a day would have been more productive. As each day passed without having written a single sentence, my writing and I have grown further and further apart. I now have to work that much harder for my writing to again become my “cause.” And that’s not a good thing.
The funny thing is that I’ve been excited to write this sequel from the moment I wrote the last sentence in Agents. I got even more amped about it as I plotted it. Unfortunately, because it’s not yet my “cause” I have to accept the fact that I’m not likely to finish this story in four months. On the other hand, I’m not tied to a contract that says I must have this story done in four months…it’s one of the benefits of being an indie.
So, what will I do now?
Well, I’ll start writing again. I’ll pick up where I left off. I won’t beat myself up if I only manage to write a paragraph on a particular day. Why? Because now I know how my mind works. And now that I’ve acquired that which is an author’s most important skill, I know to keep writing, even a sentence at a time, until my next story either becomes my “cause” or it doesn’t.
Either way, the sequel will be written…and all shall be forgiven.
*One of my many interests, other than writing, is working with teens in a counseling-type role (that’s another trait I share with INFPs). I am currently an area representative for a high school foreign exchange program…I identify and screen potential host families, match them with students from foreign countries, and help guide the students during their academic year here in the States.
Well, one of my students, a girl from Germany, had to leave her host family. My wife and I liked her so much that we decided to let her move in with us…we had the space and we were going to host an exchange student at some point, so why not?
That, my friends, is how my wife and I “suddenly” became parents, sort of.