Writers – Green Lights, Red Lights (and how to turn them green again!)

Congratulations to every writer who weathered the social, political and climatic storms of 2012 and kept writing in the face of it all. It is that ability (or is it need?) to write that helps us all to get through the difficult times as well as to share with loud voices the grand times.

Which leads me into a brief soapbox stance on Writers’ Brains and Governors (No, not the political governors–I’ve had enough politics for awhile!–but the mechanism in our brains.) The writer’s brain is like none other (at least in my opinion). It sizzles with characters and plots and twists along the way. Random or delineated, these ideas form a huge and palpable stuff in our brains and all we have to do is let it pour out.

Non-writers have brains with a governor function from the get-go; they see a huge new project and their minds say, “Whoa! Lots to think about here: sales appeal, marketing, time commitment, ability.” And they walk away from the project 99 times out of 100. Not writers! We plunge ahead without a backward glance, enjoying every scene as we go. Which is a good thing: that’s how books get written.

At some point—after all, writers are still human too—our brains DO switch on the “reality alert” button and all efforts cease. It may be when we first click the “new page” on our work processor and face writing a title to start the book. It may happen when you type (that’s “input” for you younger ones) the words “The End.” But at some point all the seemingly logical reasons you canNOT write and publish a book flood you into paralysis. Your brain kicks in with loads of reasons why you can’t succeed:


  • Your situation is unique and ultimately unfixable.
  • You would have to learn to create a digital book and you don’t know how.
  • You know that book designers are expensive and you can’t afford one.
  • You don’t have the time.
  • Your ideas are too ordinary, just repeats of what’s been written before.
  • Your ideas are too unusual to find an audience.
  • You just aren’t Hemingway.
  • … Or so your brain’s governor states with firm authority (and it is right on that last one, but who would want to be?).

Frankly, I think that governor is a throwback to simpler times, when anything beyond pulling roots for dinner and stoking the fire against the wolves was wasted effort. It really doesn’t pertain these days. Why? The truth is that people are writing, publishing and SELLING books every day, in situations far more challenging than yours.

“Well, they’re stronger/smarter/more talented people than I am,” you may say. No. They are not stronger, not smarter, not more talented than you. They are actually pretty ordinary. Ordinary people (albeit writers, who are a special breed) who pushed their governor to the side and, “Forget that noise, I’m going to find a way,” and then they wrote to “The End” and got through the publishing process, even though at times it was confusing, frustrating and irritatingly slow. Think about it: everything we do for the first time is like that!

The “unique” obstacles you face are a lot less unique than you think. “Ah,but my life is complicated!” is the reply of EVERY writer (we do get melodramatic t times). But other writers discover ways to find time to write, search out resources to promote their books, and jump through the hoops. Other writers DO work around every obstacle that you think is facing you. People just like you. Ask yourself, “How do other people work around this problem?” Then search out the answers, ask questions and be ready to succeed.

So if you are heading into 2013 with your “I can write a book!” green light switch still lit up, great! Write it! But if (or when) that red “reality alert” button starts to flash, remember that there are tools, methods, tricks and lots of other people all out there to help you negotiate through the process at the other end of writing the book. After all, you are a writer! You can speed across galaxies faster than light, unearth lost treasures and face down dragons.

Enjoy 2013!

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