Knowing When To Be A Writer Show-OFF

I ended up talking to some of my writers about this, this past weekend, so I thought I’d share it with everyone. It’s pretty fun stuff and a helpful thing to know.

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it,” said novelist Elmore Leonard.

Sometimes writers fall in love with words, and that seems like a lovely thing, right? Words are writers’ commodity. Writers are word merchants. They deal in words, flinging around and ordering about on the page in the hopes of creating an army of sentences that become a story.

But sometimes writers (like everyone else) show off.

And that showing off makes readers go, “Blech.”

Readers who go ‘blech’ are readers who probably aren’t going to keep reading. No writer wants that because then their words and stories don’t have a chance to motivate or distract or move the reader. Plus, crap reviews.

In his book, Writing Tools, Roy Peter Clark writes:

“Most writers have at least two modes. One says, “Pay no attention the writer behind the curtain. Look only at the world.” The other says, without inhibition, “Watch me dance. Aren’t I clever fellow?”

He likens these to understatement (the first mode) and overstatement or hyperbole (the second mode).

You don’t want your readers to be noticing all your writing adroitness and flourishes and showing off.

You also don’t want to be so underwhelming during really important moments that the reader shrugs and says, “Should I care that the universe imploded and Lassie died?”

Clark creates a little rule that he says works for him.

“The more serious or dramatic the subject, the more the writer backs off, creating the effect that the story tells itself. The more playful or inconsequential the topic, the more the writer can show off. Back off or show off.”

Here are a couple of examples where I’m writing about the same thing.

So, I was at the Boston Marathon today to take pictures of my friend, Lori, running and then crossing the finish line. Before the marathon I had lunch with my daughter Em. She was nervous.

“I have a bad feeling,” she said. “You need to be careful.”

“You have no faith in me. I am a perfectly capable person.”

“I just am worried.”

“I will be fine,” I told her. I insisted it, actually.

But I did several things that I don’t normally do. I didn’t take the T. I chose to walk from Cambridge to mile 25.5 or so of the race route. I figured out the T route and everything, but I just didn’t want to go on it. Walking was healthier, I figured. I was going to watch a marathon.

Pretty understated, right?

Here’s me writing that flamboyantly.

It is the kind of day where people blossom into heroes in Boston and become a part of a legend, a story bigger than themselves, the day of the marathon, a day of heaving chests, heartbreak hills, strangers cheering them on for just moving forward, step by step, mile by mile, until the make it (or don’t) to the finish line. My friend Lori was one of those people—the hopefuls, the push-your-way-through-its, the runners.

While she was on mile eighteen or so, my daughter and I were having lunch in Cambridge before I’d leave her to the doldrums of college and head out to the race route, somewhere around mile 25.5.

Before I left, my daughter hugged me. She smelled of hummus and coconut shampoo, her windblown hair flinging itself into my cheek as she said, “I have a bad feeling.”

You see the difference, right?

How do you work on this in your own writing?

Look at other people’s writing. Newspapers are great examples of this. What stories are on page one because of how they are written versus how newsy they actually are.

Take one of your own scenes and rewrite it like it’s spare bones. Then rewrite it like you’re trying for a very flowery Pulitzer.

Read humor. Great humorists have really mastered the difference between hyperbole and understatement and use it so well.

I took this when I was running this week. It’s so beautiful here.

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HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Stopping Doomsday Thinking

A lot of great clients and students that I’ve worked with have what I like to call Doomsday Thinking. I’m pretty sure I didn’t coin that phrase.

What is doomsday thinking?

It’s basically catastrophic thinking.

In Psychology Today, Toni Bernhard J.D. writes, “The term refers to our irrational and exaggerated thoughts: thoughts that have no basis in fact, but which we believe anyway.”

Those thoughts become so big and so distorted that we get anxious.

I am a pro at doomsday thinking

I basically had these kinds of thoughts until last year.

Those negative, spiraling thoughts can become so big, so huge, that it’s almost impossible to be happy about who we are, what we’ve done, what we will do, or our life.

We forget there can be good outcomes too.

Instead, we think about all the bad potentials and build them up like super stores, giving them so much space in our thoughts that they take over.

The why is it always me syndrome.

One of my most brilliant and adorable relatives does this all the time. She gets stuck on a highway coming home from work because of a traffic jam and thinks, “Why does this always happen to me? The universe hates me.”

When in reality, she’s not alone in that traffic jam, right? It’s almost self-absorbed to think that the frustrating things are out to get you and only you.

Or, we get rejected when we send our book to an agent and think, “This is impossible. I will never get published. I am doomed to suck forever. I give up.”

When in reality, you don’t suck at all. Writing is subjective and that particular agent just wasn’t for you.

Change happens.

In doomsday thinking whenever something bad happens, we assume that this is the way it will always be. It isn’t.

The world is chaos and full of change.

I just was texting with one of my friends the other night and I wrote, “I bet Five-years-ago Steve would never have imagined this.”

The this was good stuff happening in his life. And he hadn’t. He hadn’t predicted any of it.

We’re all like that. I didn’t imagine I’d be where I am five years ago. That’s because change happens. Even the bad doesn’t stay always bad. We can’t predict the outcomes and all the variables even when we think we can.

Here’s the good thing about change

Since things change, it means that you don’t need to stay stuck forever. And you don’t need to stay in those negative thought patterns forever either.

Why not? It’s pretty easy to lean into your internal critic, right? But you don’t have to. You can stay calm. You can take chances and make choices and shut them up.

We all have inner critics, but we also need inner cheerleaders

I used to imagine my inner critic as John Wayne (the dead movie star/cowboy). He was so harsh on me. Always telling me to work. So, I created an inner cheerleader who turned out to be the Muppet, Grover. Yes, from Sesame Street. My brain is a weird place.

John Wayne and Grover would duel it out for supremacy in my head.

Weird! Weird! I know. But by giving an identity to that negative voice/inner critic, it helped me to recognize that doomsday thinking and shut it down so that I could take chances and risks and do things.

Allow yourself to treat challenges and projects like you’re playing

Another thing that helps is giving myself a chance to play and fail. You can do this, too.

Find something you’ve wanted to do. Start a blog? Make a video? Learn to paint? Ride your bike every morning? Make it something that excites you.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Give yourself a time frame. I have 30 days to do this! That sort of short timeframe.
  2. Schedule time into your day/week to do it.
  3. It helps if you have an end project. So, tell yourself what your end product will be.
  4. Do it.

By giving ourselves a product and a timeframe, we give ourselves a chance to try things. It doesn’t seem like a forever-worry that way and it usually shuts up our doomsday thinking and John Waynes a tiny bit.

You’ve got this. I believe in you. You need to believe in you, too.

xo

Carrie

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.