On what happens when you stop trying


I’m allergic to cats. I sneeze, my eyes turn red, I break out in big blotchy hives, I can’t breathe. So if I’m ever in the vicinity of a cat, I do not touch the cat, I do not say the cat’s name, I do not even look at the cat. Of course that means within ten seconds the cat is climbing all over me. The harder I ignore cats, the more they want me.

This is, of course, extremely aggravating to Jessica because she loves cats, especially the very small and fluffy ones, and wishes they would let her pet them but the moment they walk in a room she’s all, “Look at the pretty kitten!” and then they immediately know to ignore her and come to me so at to maximize our mutual pain.

I inadvertently discovered that this strategy works for book ideas as well. I have been working on two novels for the last many months but I haven’t had any good ideas for new ones in quite some time. This is bothersome to me because I’ll soon be done with the two current book projects, whether by getting them published or flinging them into the fire, and then I’ll need a new project, but I don’t have one.

I tried everything I know how to do. I went to the beach, I drank margaritas, I sat and thought for hours on end, I flirted with abstract algebra for a day, I watched movies, I eavesdropped shamelessly on people at the coffee shop, and nothing. Oh I had the glimmer of an idea once but the moment I looked at it, it fell apart. And I had one brainstorm that had me thinking  for an entire thirty minutes that this might be it. But it wasn’t. Try as I might, I didn’t have The Idea. The one that I don’t mind losing sleep over. The one I will pet, cajole, and force into shape over the next year or two. Some people look for a soul mate to spend their time with. I look for The Idea.

After a good long while I soberly and painfully faced facts. I had used up my lifetime allotment of ideas. There were to be no more. I was finished; my work here done. My life going forward would be a long gentle slide into oblivion. To be fair, I was kind of looking forward to getting my evenings back. I would edit during the day, and give gentle sighs about my own lost art, and in the evening I could watch as much Burn Notice as I could stand.  It would be the first time since I was five years old when I wasn’t thinking you should be writing about everything that isn’t writing.

I accepted my fate with some sorrow and a little sigh of relief. And of course ideas being like cats, that was when I had the MOST AMAZING IDEA EVER. OMG this one is STUPENDOUS.

I just wished this approach worked on editors.


Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter so that I can share news about my stupendous idea once I get the thing written. Just put your email address in that little bar and get a free copy (ebook) of Dojo Wisdom for Writers just for signing up. Also, Travels with Jessica, my collection of stories about, well, travels with Jessica, is available here. It includes my account of what happened to my underwear in Rome.

My buddy Robyn Neeley has a novel, Batter Up, in the Hot Hometown Hunks bundle which releases October 6 and costs a mere 99 cents. Preorder here.

Another buddy, Angela Smith, has a new novel, Solace, releasing October 27th. You can preorder here.