Story Panic

My sister contacted me this morning in my role as systems administrator for my family’s accounts. It came in the midst of one of those moments of writing hate that periodically overwhelms me.

If you write regularly, you know what I mean. It is that moment when everything you are writing feels like irredeemable trash and you have no new ideas. Nothing to replace the trash you are writing today with something better. My story is due tomorrow and I feel a bit of panic because not only do I not have a story. I don’t like anything I’ve tried.

I spent years mastering my panic when things went wrong with a server or an IT schedule or for a user. When a system went down, I took a few deep breaths, and told myself to think of Jeff Wilkins, CEO and founder of CompuServe and Metatec. At my first true disaster in the workplace at Metatec, he told us: “There is no blame. There are only fixes. We don’t look backwards. Now let’s get to work. Who has an idea of how to fix this?” I almost cried with relief that day.

Computer problems are easy to deal with now. I try not to blame myself. I just iterate solutions until I find the right one, presenting to the world a smooth, compassionate image of competence no matter how close I am to panic. (At least I hope I do.) Today’s computer problem was no big deal. I only needed two iterations to find the solution. Done and dusted. It felt good to solve something today.

Writing is another story. Literally. I need a new story for tomorrow and nothing I’ve written feels right. Perhaps it is time to revisit Jeff Wilkin’s command. Don’t look backwards. Brainstorm, iterate, move forward. Trust that if I work it, the solution will come. Onward.

I hope that your projects are moving smoothly forward and that there is no reason for panic. If you are in the mix with me, may you find the peace and forward momentum you seek. Be well, friends!

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