This month I got to see my aunt and my dad. My role was as caregiver. She’s eighty-seven. He’s ninety five. I learned one thing: I can’t write around seniors who blare the TV at level 42. Plus, every time one of them walked into a room, I stared at the throw rugs and just knew my loved one might trip over the rug any second. I had to be ready to spring out of my chair to catch them should they fall. It’s difficult to concentrate under that kind of intense pressure. (I failed even following my protocols for focused writing.)
So I asked my friend Meredith Hinds, who is almost exactly half my age, to share how she gets inspired to write with four children age six and under at home.
About two years ago, I decided I wanted to write more.
I work as a freelance editor. I have choices – at least some choices – when it comes to asking for types of work and taking on certain projects. In August 2020, at a solo-goal-setting-session at a coffee shop, I wrote on a piece of scrap paper that I wanted to take on projects that made me focus on writing. I wanted to take on more writing projects professionally and write more on my own. Over these past two years, these five realizations have helped me write more. I’ve not only created more original content, I’ve found more joy in the process of writing.
Photo by Jason Villanueva and Pexels
Realization 1: No one wants to read my poetry.
I started out my new commitment to writing by creating really short pieces, mostly poems, that I submitted to several different outlets, paying for some of those submissions. And every few weeks, I’d get a generic rejection email. “We regret that we can’t include everyone’s pieces…” I’m thankful for each rejection. I learned that no one wanted my poems, but I also learned that rejection is something I can live through.
Realization 2: Good writing starts as bad writing.
In September 2020, I signed on to my first big writing project—I created 60,000 words of new content in four months. For reference, 60K is roughly 200 pages (factoring decently large typeset and spacing—translation—not sci-fi or academic).
I had to learn to take the time to write as it came. I had to say to myself, In the next three hours, you will write 1200 words, because this is the time that you have. And some of these words will be bad. But you have to begin somewhere. And it worked.
After a while, my bad words couldn’t shock me anymore. Could something I wrote be that bad? Yes, it could. Turns out, bad words provide great inspiration for better words in the revisions. After I finished the project, I started writing my own blog. I knew that I could sit down and write a thousand words—even if the first try produced really, really bad writing.
Realization 3: Procrastination can be leveraged.
I wrote most of my own blog posts in the middle of the work that I was getting paid for. When I got stuck on one of my “real” projects, I’d set it aside and spend some time on something for the blog. Then I’d come back to the other project with a better mindset.
Realization 4: Community is energy.
Even though I was a little more hardened against rejection and less afraid of my own bad writing, I never would have kept writing if I didn’t share it. The sharing is very active on my part—I had these (quickly dispelled) visions of people flocking to my blog, but I usually have to ask people if I can put their email on my list. Every time I do this, I feel like I’m asking someone to join a pyramid scheme. But every time someone mentions the blog or says that they read it that weekend, that awkwardness is all worth it. I still don’t have that huge following I dreamed of. Instead, I get to share my writing with a select group of people who actually care about it. It’s better than what I envisioned.
Photo below by Cottonbro Studios/Pexel (My friends look just as cool.)
Realization 5: Proofreaders are the real MVPs.
The editing that I do develops and shapes the content. I make changes, but someone else is responsible for making the copy “final” after the author accepts or rejects my changes.
A few projects have given me a closer look at the proofing and design process. I now understand that proofreaders are detectives who find the tiniest details in a completely unreasonable timeframe.
Let’s just say that, 36 hours before a project’s deadline to the printer, a person adjacent to the project (but not the author) decides that to change a few significant sentences in several portions of the book. Perhaps the “crowd” referred to on p. 49 shouldn’t be “fierce.” Instead, that particular crowd is better described as “ardent.” That’s all well and good, but did anyone check to make sure that when “ardent” was subbed in for “fierce” in the PDF copy, the “crowd” became “an ardent crowd” instead of “a ardent crowd”? Either the proofreader did, or no one did, and they probably did it at 3:00 a.m. Amazing writing still looks bad if the proofing falls short.
Realization 6: Nonfiction is for me.
I was complaining about the short timeframe of the proofing process to a much more seasoned writer and editor. I asked her if this is how it always is, hoping that she’d say no.
“Yeah, that sounds pretty typical,” she replied.
Toward the end of our conversation, she asked me, “Do you know any metallurgists?”
“I’m writing some historical fiction, and I need someone who could point me in the right direction for some ancient metallurgy details. I have the dimensions of a statue, but I need to understand how the materials would have been obtained, and melted down, and… the dimensions of the kilns? You know, details like that.”
[I, Marianne Hering, asked this for my fiery furnace story. For those of you keeping track of my saga, I gave the publisher a deadline of December 1 to get back to me. Now back to Meredith.]
I like writing. I always have. I liked it more and more as the year of intentional writing continued. But I’ll stick with non-fiction forever. All I have to do is write about what I know already.
About Meredith Hinds:
Meredith writes and edits nonfiction for adults and children who want to love their faith. Her work includes devotionals, memoirs, and curriculums, and she posts original weekly content at stilltoday.substack.com. Meredith has four children age six and under. If she didn’t have all those kids, she’d probably have nothing to write about.