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Writing (and Living) for That “Ah-ha!” Moment

This semester I am enrolled in two writing workshops. When I mentioned this to one of my professors, he asked me, “Are you nuts?” It was far too much reading and writing. I would never be able to keep up with my schoolwork.

I still wanted to do it.

For me, writing is much more than a job or a grade – it’s my passion. I write because I want to and not because somebody tells me I have to. Of course, having a deadline is fairly persuasive in getting me to want to write, but that’s beside the point.

Writing is important to me because, in a lot of ways, writing is like life. It’s life, only it’s told through a specific lens. One book’s lens may be focused on Harry Potter while another book’s lens may be focused on Mr. Bucklesby who goes for a walk through Central Park every Tuesday with his wife. Books, and the writing within those books, show us truths about our lives that we sometimes forget or don’t even know.

It is my job and the job of fellow writers to tell those truths. The only trouble is that sometimes we writers don’t always get it right.

That’s why my writing workshops are so important to me. I can write what I see to be the truth and then have twenty fellow writers point out flaws in my interpretation of the truth  and suggest better ways to tell that truth. I will make mistakes, but I have people to help me along and reach my goal.

The other day in my writing workshop a fellow writer was having trouble depicting the struggle between the father of a son that drowned and the boy who was responsible for the son’s death. All of us around the table were bouncing suggestions off one another until a suggestion of how the two would interact and what they would say suddenly made all twenty of us pause and say, “Ohhh!”

Such agreement amongst writers is legendary. But that’s what we are working for: that “Ah-ha!” moment.

Life is the same. Nobody knows the meaning of life (unless you consider the answer to be 42). We have to make choices that we think are best and, more often than we’d like, we make mistakes. Of course, there are almost always people looking to help us out and point us in the right direction again. We can only hope that we’ll finally zero in on the answer to a perfect life. Then, when we have the answer, we can all pause, sit back, and say, “Ohhh!”

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Deadlines, Borrowed Time, and Excuses

As summer drew to a close, I found my attention being drawn away from my newly begun blog. Between the edits for my manuscript, moving into my off-campus housing, and preparing for the beginning of another college semester, blogging fell by the wayside.

And yet I had promised to become a true blog presence. For heaven’s sake, my first post is titled “Committing to the (Blog) Job!”

I failed to follow up on my promise, and I tried explain away why I had not posted for some time. So my reasoning behind not blogging must be considered an excuse. The lecturer for one of my classes this semester introduced the quote, “Excuses are the bricks that build the house of failure.” As much as I hate to admit it, she’s right. If I had continued to come up with excuses for why I couldn’t post, this blog would have been pointless. I probably would have never added another article.

And yet, here I am. I am once again typing away on my laptop. I will admit, as I write, it is quite late, but that is what it takes. You have to find time to complete your tasks, even if you have to borrow time. As a college student, I have classes, work, a social life, and – until this year – 5:30AM practice with the OSU rowing team six days per week. Where in the world can I find time to fit in a consistent blogging lifestyle?

I borrow time.

Some days I have to stay up a little later, borrowing some time from sleeping. Other days, going out with my friends can wait an extra half hour in order to complete my next post. There are minutes wasted in the day when I’m sitting idly on Facebook or Twitter. If I take those minutes to do something more productive, suddenly I’ve accomplished something I didn’t think I could.

Borrowing time is easier said than done, unfortunately. Yes, there is a large amount of time wasted on the Internet, but how many of us really want to give up our social media? And then of course, there is the ever-faithful couch or bed. Sure, I could write a post, but a nap sounds so much better. Why would I borrow time from these other activities that seem so important?

So my final piece of advice when it comes to avoiding excuses and getting things done is to make deadlines for yourself. Don’t pick a random date, because that’s all it is: random. Can’t you make another excuse to push the date back a little?

Chose a date that has some significance. When I graduated high school, I realized that I had been working on my novel manuscript for five years, and had barely made a dent in it. So I set a deadline at the end of the summer. I knew that if I did not finish my book before I began college, I’d never find the time to properly finish writing. I started with 30 type-written pages in July of the year. I finished with 185 pages before I left for college in August.

We all know how intimidating a good deadline is, and we all know how quickly everything moves out of the way to meet that deadline. So make a good, hard deadline for yourself. You’ll start borrowing time from places you didn’t know existed. And above all else, you’ll be avoiding those excuses.

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Committing to the (Blog) Job

So I’ve decided to start a blog.

Why? I always used to think blogs were a waste of time. Who would ever care what I wrote? When would I ever need a blog? And how in the world could I possibly manage to write consistently on the internet?

Well, times have changed. I’ve realized that blogs are important tools for advertising oneself, especially for an aspiring author such as myself. I still wonder who would ever want to go on the Internet to look up my writing, but if Facebook and Twitter are any indication, not only will people care about what I write, but I should be able to write something on a regular basis.

But there’s more to why I’m starting this blog than just the changing times. I was inspired. I have found the drive to do this and to stick with it. That’s probably the most important reason behind anything we do. We become inspired to do it. For example, I was inspired to sit my ass in a chair and finally write down the story that had been bouncing around in my head for years, and now I have a finished manuscript!

Okay, so inspiration is key. But where do we find our inspiration? Sometimes we get inspiration from unexpected places. I found inspiration to edit my manuscript (as I am currently doing) and rewrite the beginning while I was studying abroad in Croatia. The inspiration to start a blog came from a friend who had started her own. Then there is inspiration that comes from an uncompromising sort of determination.

Throughout my life I have managed to accomplish a great many things of which I am incredibly proud, so I know what it feels like to have that rush of elation, of satisfaction to know that it was ME that just did that. And when I encounter a new problem, I want to have that feeling again. I want to sit myself down and crank out that novel, or to sit down and write a blog post, because I know that when I commit to a job and finish it, I’ll be happy that I did it.