Wednesday, January 7, 2009


They say the first step to changing a bad behavior is facing it, admitting it. So, here's my confession: Hello, my name is Susan, and it has been one year since I have written anything significant.
I've talked about it and diddled around with maybe 100 words at a pop. This has gone on for at least the last twelve months. Okay, fourteen.

Most of the folks on this blog sneeze and a hundred words hit the paper. But for some reason, this past year and this book and this all-or-nothing personality of mine have conspired to create a wee bit of some kind of er, ummm…, BLOCK!
There, I said it. And I do NOT believe in writers' block.

Here's the thing: I want to write. I plan to write. It's what I feel I'm on this planet to do. Honest. But every day, I don’t. I can make enough excuses to fill a dozen blogs, let alone this one. The truth is, I've procrastinated because writing is hard, and it doesn’t pay well at this point in my career. The odds are that it will never pay well.

The pay well part is important because I am largely motivated by financial recognition and furthermore, I like to eat.

But here's what happened. The receptionist at my doctor's office left me a voicemail last night. She had just finished my second book, Little Shop of Murders. After the various and sundry appointment information, she launched into a gushing riff on how much she loved Little Shop.

This morning I called to change my appointment. She called my book the best book she'd read in a long time. She proceeded to say that she stayed up until 4:00 AM finishing it. She said that what she loves about my books is that they are funny with a good mystery, but that there is something about them that is just a tiny bit sad underneath. No one else has gotten that yet, but I meant for it to be gotten.

And she asked that I put her first on the list for the next book.

I am bottling that phonecall and putting it on a shelf in the writers' room in my head. I'll take a sip every day and use it to inspire me to get back on track. 2009 will bring another book. I swear.

Anyway, eating is overrated.
So, what keeps you guys going?


G.M. Malliet said...

Truth is, I have no idea what keeps me at this. Really, I don't. I enjoy writing, once I get down to it and quit fiddling about. Hours pass and I'm not even aware they've gone. I'm sure you've had that sensation, too. So maybe put that in the bottle, too?

Susan Goodwill said...

Good point. I forgot abput the zone.
That deserves its own bottle.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

When people ask me what motivates me I say: "Breach of contract." I find it much easier to keep my butt in the chair when I have looming deadlines. Before these hardset dates were in place, my mindset meandered shamefully.

Susan, do whatever it takes to keep your fingers moving across the keys. I also store away comments from readers for those little boosts. It's almost like a jolt of caffeine.

Cricket McRae said...

I can find any number of ways to avoid writing. But like G.M.,once I, as Richard Rhodes advises "apply ass to chair," I almost always end up enjoying the process. So, for me at least, it's less about inspiration and more about just showing up on a regular basis. I always have to redevelop the habit when I start a new book, and I also keep whatever kudos come my way -- they push me forward those times when it feels like I'm writing through molasses.

Keith Raffel said...

Dr. Johnson said, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money."

Susan Goodwill said...

It's all in how you define money, Keith.
There's money and there's MOOONNNNNEYY!
I think I'd better stowe those positive comments away in the larder as well as the writing room. And I need to follow my sage fellow writers' advice and write long enough in one sitting to remember how good it feels.
It's always great to stop by the ol' blog. Thanks guys, you're worth a million.

Deborah Sharp said...

What an honest entry, Susan ... I definitely feel your pain about finding a million things to do BUT write. On the other hand, comments like you got from the receptionist are SO motivating to me. How many people have told you they'd love to be able to write, but don't have the skill. You do, and that is SUCH a gift. And gifts are meant to be appreciated ... and enjoyed, right?