Pots and Black Kettles


Something happened last week, and, as usual, I stuck my foot in my mouth. I’ve had a week now to think things through and re-assess and reconsider and … sadly I stand by my comments, even though they left skid marks on my tongue and ticked off some people. Worse, I am going to expand on my comment and expound on my statement: poop or get off the pot. My thoughts begin with —

I …

That is a dangerous word. Who we are changes every year, every week, every day. Sometimes every hour. How we define ourselves is subjective, is marred and punctured and uplifted and focused by events and other people.

I am rude, kind, evil, good …

When I do something nice for someone, I am a good person. When I do something less than nice (even cutting off another car in traffic) I am not. Even if I am taking a neighbor to the doctor and was about to miss a very important turn. (Totally fabricated. I’ve never taken my neighbor to the doctor. Family members and friends, yes, neighbors I barely know, no.) Even if I am saying something that needs to be said or doing something that needs to be done. Does that mean I sometimes call the kettle black? Ummm. Maybe. I am surely denting the kettle. Because everyone has a unique way of looking at the world and my way will not be anyone else’s way. Back to subject at hand.

I …

I am friend to many, lover and wife to one, student, teacher, gentle, brutal, conservative, liberal, Christian but not judgmental, law abiding, but willing to speak out against unjust laws. I am religious, spiritual, a natural skeptic, a believer, confused, accepting …

I … Is dangerous. One single *I* can change the world for good. Or destroy it. Bring peace and order or war and chaos.

I am …? So many things, so many changing, evolving things. And I believe that we all should be evolving and changing beings. If we don’t change, we are no better than our own worst, two dimensional characters in a world that has no hope of getting better. So, I am many things—as is the “I” of each of you.

“I think, therefore I am.” But for me, of all the things that I am, I am first and foremost a writer … I write, therefore I am.

When I have a sale, a nice royalty check, a good review, I am a good writer. When my work gets a bad review or an editor says no to a book my agent submitted, I am not.

Writers write. It *is* the self-descriptor we use when we describe our deepest selves. We *write*. All the other jobs and responsibilities and beliefs and worries are secondary. Of course we *think* about the market and our time constraints and our families and our obligations. Of course we work at the day job and spend time with our loves and responsibilities. But at the heart of it all we put blinders on to all that critical, crucial stuff, and we *write*.

Many of us are afraid of that. We fear that if we stopped all the exterior stuff we do in life (blogging and commenting and reading society and Hollywood info and listening to political commentators and watching stupid TV … all the time consuming *stuff*) and just wrote, we would not be good enough. So we worry it to death.

The Hebrew word for worry has its roots in the same word as gnaw. When we worry, we gnaw things to the bone and eventually turn it to painful slivers.

We writers need to stop that. We need to poop or get of the pot. Stop all the other stuff (commenting and blogging and worrying and watching meaningless TV) and *Write*. If we spent all the time we do with other things and just *wrote* we would be able to finish a book every year. That is what I mean when I say poop or get off the pot. WRITE! Finish a book. And then start another one. That is what writers do.

Okay. I’m getting off my soap box. If you want to make a comment about the stuff you do that keeps you from writing, go ahead. I’d like to read it. If you want to make a comment about how you describe yourself when you look inward and see your own soul, go ahead. I’d like to read that too. Then get back to writing y’all. It is all that matters.




24 comments to Pots and Black Kettles

  • Stopping in while on the road to comment…

    “I” is most definitely a dangerous word, particularly here in this forum, where those of us who write professionally are trying to impart some small measure of wisdom to those who aspire to a professional writing career. Because in addition to all that Faith has said so eloquently, “I” is inherently idiosyncratic. There is only so much we can say about our own experiences that will relate to the potential experiences of others. I agree with all that Faith has said here, and yet I also know that right now even I — one of the aforementioned professionals — cannot find the time or the space in my life to write as much as I want to. Too much other stuff. Too many distractions, including an impending release about which I am both excited and terrified. This is hard. But I’ve said that before.

  • David, I am on a writing *hiatus* of sorts myself, and not by choice. I’ve managed only 78 pages this entire year, while I should have written 200+. It will get better but so far it hasn’t.

  • TwilightHero

    Wow. I like this post. I like it a lot, since it appeals to me on multiple levels. First, because the ever-shifting nature of our personae, the myriad masks or hats or other articles of clothing people can wear depending on the situation, has always fascinated me. No one is ever entirely good or truly evil or even just a denizen of the grey areas in-between. Like it or not, we are all a mix of all three.

    Secondly, because I too need to stop spending so much time on ‘stuff’ and more on writing. I was just debating with myself something along those lines – to write for a while or go do something else – so this is a timely reminder 😛

    But most of all, I like this post because it’s the most original thing I’ve read in ages. I fully agree with the point you make – both here and in that comment last week – that sometimes you just have to do it, whatever it is. (Of course, agreeing in principle is easy…) But how you arrived at that point here isn’t something I would have expected at all. It truly surprised me – in a good way! – which, by now, not a lot of what I read can do. So for what it’s worth? Nicely done.

    And now I need to go write. I’ve spent too much time on this already 😛

  • I’m trying a new approach this year, my 2,000/10,000/100,000 goals, though evidently there are other things in life than word count… Yeah, heard that recently… From someone I didn’t expect it from… Ah well. I mean it’s not like I get a whole h3ll of a lot of time to actually write as is, otherwise I’d be getting twice the count per day and finishing a first draft in 5 weeks instead of 10. Of course, I could be writing right now…ah yeah, that’s why. Little’n interruptions. Wondering if my count will increase next year when she goes to school for a full day or whether it’ll stay the same. Depends on whether I can exert some self control and stay off the net, I guess. I was looking at it and realizing that I could, potentially, depending on how long it took for revisions, finish 1-2 books and have a third in revisions by the end of a year. Of course, in the words of the Dread Pirate Roberts/Westley – That doesn’t leave much time for dilly-dallying.

    But to quote Yoda, do, or do not, there is no try. Or in country/southern speak: poop or get off the pot. 😉

  • Deb S

    “I” is such a mercurial thing, a thin line, fragile and solitary on one hand, but also strong enough to stand on its own while still being versatile and complex enough to combine with others and recreate itself.

    Okay, enough with my esoteric thoughts, time to ponder something really important. Like what’s for lunch.

  • Thanks Twilight. You left me with a smile. I don’t often write a post and then tweek for days, but this one needed attention and time. I appreciate your kind words.

    Daniel, I’ve been watching your work count on FB. You are tearing through it! But yes, there are more important things than word count which is why I’m behind. Family health and needs simply come first. Hugs!

    Deb, I love that first line: “I” is such a mercurial thing, a thin line, fragile and solitary on one hand, but also strong enough to stand on its own while still being versatile and complex enough to combine with others and recreate itself. Thanks for that.

  • Hmmm. I’ve been sitting her a while and thinking about whether or not I can say of myself what you say of yourself. Is “writer” the essential word to describe me? The thing that I am when all the other stuff is swept away. Or is “writer” one of the things that gets swept away (albeit as part of the “crucial stuff,” but swept nonetheless) for some other thing in my life? My first, gut response to this questions was actually “no. Writer isn’t the essential word.” But then I gave it a bit more though. I’m prone to not liking essentialisms. I’m not one thing (and you’re not saying you are either), but I don’t like the idea of sweeping everything else away.

    But I thought about it. I’ve swept away pretty much all the other stuff in my life at one point or another to write. I’ve made DSO (dear significant other) irritated when I told him “no I can’t do what you want, I am writing at that time…” I’ve made writing a priority over other things. So, as I examined my life and my behavior, I’ve come around to “maybe” or even “probably.”

    “Writer” and “I write” is certainly among what I would call the “core bits” of me. I can’t imagine me without it. I’d be so different if I hadn’t done it. I’d give up a lot of other things willingly to continue it, etc.

    And I know what you say about fear is true. If I just give in, say it is what I want, who I am, and throw all my eggs in that basket, what happens if I fail? Am I forced to admit that I was mistaken? That no matter how much I want it, I’m not good enough for it? Maybe. I had that thought a few days ago. I have to plan for what happens when my novel gets rejected by every (respectable) agent on the planet because that is a very real possibility (even if it is fabulous!). So I’m afraid. I’m afraid I’ll fail at this. And I’m afraid not just because it will suck, but because it will hurt so very, very much.

    So, yeah, I am a writer, and I am terrified.

  • Diplomacy can smooth over many things, but sometimes the other person just isn’t willing to allow it. Then, when called on it, that person is surprised and hurt. I’ve seen this scenario play out before, particularly when a variety of personalities is involved.

    “I” happened to agreed with your original statement last week because that has been my experience as well.

    Like most of us, I have obligations that are overwhelming at times. I also know I waste time with tv and the internet. I fully accept this, but write anyway.

    I’ve worked on my first draft for three years and I’m only now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But, by God, I WILL finish it. And then, I WILL revise it. Despite the mistakes, life that got in the way, wasting time, and shelving it at one point.

    I made a conscious decision to continue. It finally came down to the fact that I knew if I quit, I would eventually regret it.

  • Pea Emily, your comment brought me to tears. Yes, that is it exactly. That fear is so huge. So dark and dangerous. Yet, when we face that fear and … I don’t know, stab it in the eye with with a fork, we accept a solid, firm, ongoing part of ourselves, a central tenent of the meaning of the word “I”. And then the fear begins to fade. Yes, I might fail today. Or tomorrow. But today I write. It is what I am. It seems it is what you are too. Go girl!

    EKC, yes! If we quit, if we find reasons to not write, we have lost part of ourselves. It took me 3 years to finish my first novel, and well over 20 years to see it into print. I am excited for you to take a stand and swear by all you hold holy to FINISH yours!

  • Pea_faerie said, And I know what you say about fear is true. If I just give in, say it is what I want, who I am, and throw all my eggs in that basket, what happens if I fail? Am I forced to admit that I was mistaken? That no matter how much I want it, I’m not good enough for it? Maybe.

    It never fails to amaze me how the one thing we fear is sometimes the one thing we know for certain how to do. Even though it hurts, failing is easy, because we know how. Don’t write the words, don’t turn in that paper, don’t show up for work on time…so many ways to fail, but we all know how. It’s succeeding that’s a bit of an undiscover’d country. Succeeding takes work and commitment and love of what you’re striving for, in the face of the fear that encourages us to just do the easier thing and fail.

    Faith said, If we quit, if we find reasons to not write, we have lost part of ourselves.

    So true. The fear makes us stop writing, and then the misery makes us believe we should never start again. It’s a horrible cycle.

  • Well-said, Faith. This post affirmed what *I’ve* been worried about. I’ve been making time for writing and putting other things aside. DH is okay with that, because for the most part it means he can spend the time playing video games (have I mentioned we’re geeks?) and watching TV. I’ve given up a lot of TV shows that seem interesting but take up valuable writing time. I don’t see friends as often as I’d like, but they’re either accepting of that, or we’re not as close anyway and this just proved it. But here I’ve worried about not being as social as I should be, as people expect me to be. I’m not learning the rapier as well as I could be, but I’ve skipped classes if I felt I needed the writing time, and made them up when they fit. This is what I want.

    Like Emily, I’m scared, too. It can be crippling, and I’ll be submitting to agents myself later this month. For me, for now, I’ve mostly put blinders on. It’s all I can do. It’s what I have to do. And if eventually I don’t find traditional success, then I’ll find a way, but for now I’m focused on what I *can* do, which is write (and revise, and submit).

    You’ve also chosen a subject that is one of my personal gripes: “Writing vs. Talking About Writing”. When I was younger, I used to spend a lot of time talking about writing with writing friends and in online communities, and not actually doing much writing. I got fed up with it. It still happens occasionally, but there is only so much talking about writing that I can do before I feel the need to retreat. (I don’t usually get that feeling here. Probably because here I feel that I’m usually actively learning, so it’s *productive* talking about writing.) So I’m glad you brought this up. Thanks (and thanks for letting us get into our personal “I”s!

  • Susan

    I *create*. What I create changes from day to day but I MUST create. I MUST have some kind of artistic output. If I don’t, I am not being true to myself and I am miserable.

    OTOH, this also resulted in more than a few arguments with my mother when she was living with us. She doesn’t understand the need and wouldn’t listen when I tried to tell her/describe it. Creation for me is as essential as breathing.

  • Misty it’s sometimes like being sucked down into a water-filled cavern with no way out. It feels like drowning. When I started my second book as Gwen, (False Truths) the panic was so horrible that I nearly quit. I am so glad I didn’t. I am so glad I pushed on through. Being a writer is the one that is totally fulfilling. And remember, when you feel that fear, you can always call me. SUSHI!

    Laura, you are wise to focus on what *you* can do. That is really all that matters. I admit that I still make time for NCIS and The Big Bang, my two favorite TV shows. But for me, it’s family stuff that keeps pulling me away from writing. Keep at it. It’s worth it. 🙂

    Susan, I totally understand. Jewelry making is creative for me too, and frankly, I can lose myself in beads and gems as easily as I can in writing. I like to say that creativity is what brings us closest to the devine. Of all the beings in the world, only humans crave creating.

  • sagablessed

    To be blunt, I suffer the fear myself. One day I will say, “This has promise”, and the next I am totally depressed because it is no where near good enough and I feel like a complete failure.
    Yet without my writing, I feel like I loose part of myself, or that something inside is dying. I would rather grow a weed than sterilize the soil.
    *I* will make something. Boon or bane, it shall be done, and none may gainsay my will on this.

  • I think one reason that many writers focus on blogs and other “non-writing” writerly things is that we have control over them.

    I have control of building a website or blog, following and commenting on other’s blogs to both interact with other writers as well as playing the whole social media game.

    I do not have control of an agent taking me on or an editor buying my book. Now, I’m not saying I have no input in those things- I can make sure they NEVER happen ;). But aside from writing my tail off and constantly looking for ways to improve my craft, I have no control over whether I get published. I can just make myself as publishable as possible, and keep cranking out books and submissions.

    But, having the illusion of control is good- so I, like others, blog-LOL.

    However, I do agree with the ‘poop or get off the pot’ point. The bottom line is we’re writers. We write. Nuff said.

    Nice blog post 🙂

  • Saga, I think every writer (every artistic person?) feels this way. Do push on. Tell your story. Be true to that deepest self.

    Thank you Marie. Excellent insight. Yes, we fear things we cannot control. That it is exactly! If we spend time and creative effort on things we can control, we will never be published. Only by taking that leap of faith (rolls eyes) and dive into the deep end of the pool, can we find success as writers. And that fear is intense and horrible and … maybe a little wonderful too.

  • I will say only that I am amused at your choice of topic for this week. 🙂

  • Hepseba ALHH

    I am not a writer. I am a maker. This is probably at the heart of my non-ambition to make writing my career. But I am a maker. I have to build beautiful things into my life and I have to find an outlet for the wonder that piles up inside my brain. And writing is definitely a very important outlet, one I want to learn and explore fully. So I *WILL* finish my book, and polish it, and write another after that. There are worlds I need to let free. But if writing were swept away, I would make other things.

  • I’ll speak from the perspective of having stopped writing for over ten years. Not a single one of those three-thousand-six=hundred=fifty=plus days passed without my thinking about writing. Without my thinking of myself ~as~ a writer. A writer may stop writing for awhile, but the stories don’t stop. The BIC muscle might atrophy, but that’s just exercise. If, after ten years, the words continue to percolate, build steam, and explode into tales wanting to be told, you ARE a writer.

  • Thanks Faith :). It’s not the fear so much, it’s the soul sucking pain when those rejections slam into you-LOL. But I’m a sicko, just I have a pity party for a bit, then dive back into the mess.

    Obviously, I do need psychiatric help ;).

    Thanks again for reminding me I’m not alone, and this is all self-inflicted :).

  • Stephen, 🙂

    Hep, I love that term. A maker! Yeah, I feel that way when I make jewelry. It is satisfying on many of the same levels as writing. I like.

    Lyn, I took a writing hiatus for a year once. Or I tried to. I wrote two half books and several proposals. I called it *for funzies*. (rolls eyes) Yeah. I couldn’t stop. I’m an addict.

    Marie, we all need help. That’s why we write. And write. And write. We pour our internal madness onto the paper and hope that it will all work out right. And when it does, we are freed for a while from the demons that whisper in our ears. Demons / characters / stories. All the same thing. Which is very scary!

  • mudepoz

    “I”. Wow. I’m more than middle aged and I have NO idea what “I” is. Yes, good friend to a great many people. Evil when I don’t recognize some of the people I’ve met via the net or judged. Oh, yeah. Dog judge. Um, supporter, artist, Santa:) High Priestess of the Peanut Butter Powers That Be. Top Ranked Dog trainer. Botanist, zoologist. Teacher. Skeleton builder.

    Dog writer. Zombie writer. Hopefully fantasy writer. Just was approached to do a journal article comparing phenology, bird migrations and food availability. So, technical writer.

    “I” guess I’m a writer. However, I’m stretched thin, like Faith. My foster child committed suicide several weeks ago (now I want to write a childrens’ creative non-fiction piece)

    Did I mention I have ADD? I want to participate more here, but my job changed big time, and I work off an Ipod or my laptop from the greenhouses here. So, I also work a 7 day work week. Good thing I have ADD. OoooOOooo Shiny.

  • Mud, you are the most busy person I know. I have no idea how you do all you do and still stay sane. Of course you *do* write zombie stories… I’d certainly be one if I had your schedule. 🙂 That said, you still find time to write, a little at the greenhouse, some at home, on 3 different computers. And you write beautifully, with a YA voice that is so true to most kids that it rips at the poorly healed scabs over the wounds of my own youth. I hope you keep writing.

  • mudepoz

    *snort* I forgot, nearly 27 year happily married to a baby attorney who works 100 hours. He likes it when I’m busy. Likes it better when I write. Especially if I’m home. I’m not that busy. With any one thing.

    I like this writing stuff. Keeps me sane. Um. Did “I” say sane? *Grabs Ritalin*