Thursday, February 7, 2013

K*A*E*P*E*R*N*I*C*K (and S A N D E R S O N)

Last Sunday, my facebook news feed was suddenly filled with posts like this:
  • I may end up being a closeted Kaerpernick fan!! 
  • K A E P E R N I C K!!!
  • I'm a 49ers fan now
  • The man has a rocket for an arm...amazing passes!!

(Granted, 3 of these 4 particular posts were all written by the same woman, but you get the gist, nonetheless.)

I didn't understand all the fuss. I'm not the biggest football fan ever, but even I could see that Kaepernick was leading his team to a spectacular fail. I kept asking my son things like, "Are you sure we're cheering for the 49ers? Cause those Ravens are looking pretty amazing." (In real life, I'm a Patriots fan. But one does have to cheer for somebody at these things, right?)

Then the lights went out.

When they came back on, I became a solid 49er fan, at least as long as they've got Kaepernick. Holy smokes, that third quarter rocked. I could watch it over and over, like it was a particularly fun episode of Psych. Unfortunately, it was 5 yards short of rocking to a victory.  But Kaepernick has a career of Superbowls ahead of him, so it's a little like only ending up as #2 on the NY Times Bestselling List on your first try. I should be so unlucky...

Then I learned why true football fans were so much more amazed by Kaepernick than I was. For those of you who don't already know, here it is: The superbowl was only Kaepernick's 10th start in the NFL. Can you say "overwhelmed"?

Sometimes, as a writer, I feel the way I imagine Kaepernick might have felt. Some of the things I want to write are too big, too complicated, too much for me. Sometimes, I purposely make them smaller, so that I have some chance at success.

Sometimes, I'm not true to my characters, because the line between complex and unlikable seems too fine for me to find.

Sometimes at the beginning of a project, I freeze, because now I've written a book or two, and I sense the enormity of what I'm trying to do again.

Sometimes I let it get to me, and give up.  And then I get so depressed I can barely get out of bed in the morning, because writers have to write, whether they are good at it or not.

But sometimes I get a 'lights out' moment that allows me to get my head back in the game. I often curse those moments, because they might signal the end of a writing era I wasn't ready to end. Story ideas may fizzle, characters may fade from my memory, but eventually, something new always begins.

I read an article about Brandon Sanderson last week. Brandon Sanderson wrote his first 8 books in college while working the graveyard shift at a hotel. He says the first five were terrible, which was exactly what he'd heard would happen. The sixth book was Elantris. I believe he's written 12 published books since then, and six of them were best-sellers.

After a while, he decided to make his books "bigger and full of all the nobility and awesomeness that I wanted to see in epic fantasy. It was flying in the face of what everyone had told me. I wrote the biggest, coolest, epic-est book I could."

He says, "Sit in a chair and write. Ignore this thing they call writer's block. Doctors don't get doctor's block; your mechanic doesn't get mechanic's block. If you want to write great stories, learn to write when you don't feel like it. You have to write it poorly before you can write it well. So just be willing to write bad stories in order to learn to become better. " (from BYU Magazine, Winter 2013, p. 55)

My advice for this week: Write. Write what you want, with characters that are so deep and complex that at first they seem shallow; with worlds so alive and vibrant that you fear you'll never be able to capture them on paper; with the best sentences you can manage to write, and without shame. And be grateful, when the lights go out, for it means something is happening...

(if only that something could be narrated by Ron Perlman, right?)


  1. You have no idea how badly I needed this right now. Yesterday I sat at my computer from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. I managed to eak out 600 words in that time. (My husband had my daughter and my son was at school, so the problem was coming from me.) I tried everything--chaned my music from soft indie rock to metal in an effort to stay awake, tuned out all orlther distractions, like my cell phone full of games. Nothing helped.

    I think what happens is I hit the 20k mark and I lose steam. I get to the end of the beginning/the start of the middle and I freak out about how much I still have to do. I lose that high I get when I start writing something, and suddenly become very self conscious about every word I write. If I let that feeling settle in, the story never gets completed and I feel horrible for a few weeks, until I start a new project, and the process repeats itself.

    Yesterday I was a lot harder on myself. I actually succeeded in bullying myself into getting past my mid-book chrisis. I'm over it now. I think I ended with 31,000 words. But I've got to get back at it today or I'll lose my motivation. I'm so glad I read your post before I jumped back in. You've got me all pumped now. Thanks Melanie!

    1. You can do it, Trisha! I'm glad I could help you over a rough patch. Let us know how it goes today!

  2. Great comparison! Being a bit of a football fan myself I really enjoyed how you related the two.

    Sanderson is correct - Write even when you don't feel like it. King says set aside a time every day and write. It seems that one thing I keep hearing the big names say is that if you want to be a write you write.

    It's that simple and yet it is really the toughest thing to do

    #IWSG Member

  3. Hi! Welcome to the IWSG! This was a great post for our monthly check-in. I've been a member for some time and today I decided to start at the bottom of the list and visit some of the newest members. :)

    1. Hey, Melanie! Regarding your comment on my blog. If you ever need anything or have questions about the IWSG, please feel free to email me :)) Also, you might want to switch off your word-verification thing (it's automatic on blogger). It may stop some from commenting due to the hassle. :)

    2. Thank you very much. And thanks for the tip about the word-verification thing. I didn't even know it still did that.

  4. Melanie what a beautiful and inspirational post. I too am a Kaepernick and Brandon Sanderson fan and a firm believer in writing what you love without fear.

    I think I really needed this right now too, so thank you for sharing.

  5. What a fantastic IWSG post! I might have to reread this when the lights go out :)

    I have become rather fond of writing terribly, I started brainstorming as I knew if I got in the habit of writing I might get somewhere good, it was okay if it was bad, its just brainstorming right? But I somehow managed to develop so many good scenes for all my projects that they seem a bit more achievable than before :)

  6. Thank you everyone who visited from IWSG! And of course, thank all my lovely Prosers. Sadly, sometimes this post is the only thing I write, so it's nice to get so many awesome comments on it. Thank you!


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