by Melissa Tagg
I like to think of myself as a fairly confident person. I mean, I’ve not pulled a Julie Andrews and gone singing through the streets of Salzburg about my confidence or anything. But I’ve not generally been all that self-conscious…
In the past few months, I’ve been writing-and wincing and replotting and rewriting-my second contracted book. And I’m pretty sure somewhere along the way, I got bit by a radioactive spider of insecurity. (Don’t worry, I’m not scaling buildings or anything. Or wearing red Spandex. Thought I’d spare the world that little joy.)
But I’m guessing I’m not the only one who’s ever struggled with a case of second book insecurity…or third or fourth or fifth. That feeling of, “Um, what if my story is so-so instead of so-awesome?” is not fun.
However, a couple weekends ago, I fought back. I spent almost an entire Saturday pondering my story and rediscovering my passion.
After some prayer and an amount of caffeine I’d rather not admit to, I got the idea to pull out a pad of Post-It notes. And I started writing down one word on each sheet and sticking it up on the wall next to my desk. Each word represented how I want readers to feel as they’re hanging out with my characters and the qualities I want to capture in this story.
Then, as one of my author heroes Susan May Warren suggested, I started telling myself my own story out loud. I played storyteller to an empty room until renewed excitement had me bouncing in my seat. (Or, fine, maybe that was the caffeine…)
But it paid off. By the end of the weekend, I felt focused, productive and passionate.
And then, like always seems to happen on this writing journey, I got the niggling feeling maybe a little more was going on in my heart and head than simply rediscovering my story love. After a little mulling, I’m pretty sure God parsed my thoughts down to this one whisper of truth:
Melissa, I want you to care as much about the story of your life as you do this novel.
We’re writing stories every day, aren’t we? Flesh and bone stories which rarely have a defined ending but always have the opportunity for impact.
So…what if we brainstormed that story?
What if we took the time to write on Post-It notes words to reflect how we want to make people feel?
What if we were bouncing off our seats with excitement for the stories we’re living out each day?
And what if acting on these what ifs meant the difference between so-so existence and a focused, productive and passionate life story?
How about you? What word(s) would you put on a Post-It Note for your novel…or your life?
Melissa Tagg is a former reporter turned romantic comedy writer. Her debut novel, Made to Last, releases from Bethany House in fall 2013. In addition to her nonprofit dayjob, she’s also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy. Connect with Melissa at www.melissatagg.com and on Facebook and Twitter (@Melissa_Tagg).
Love this idea–both for writing and life!
I love this, Melissa!! I can get so un-passionate about my own life (is unpassionate even a word? It is now). I like the idea of getting the passion back about my daily life. Minus the red Spandex. 🙂
Wow. I love your insight to be passionate about our lives as well as our stories. Unfortunately, in my life I’ve already gone through my black moment, but–yay!–now I’m living my own happily ever after. So I’m passionate about sharing my story and what a good God we serve.
“Second-novel syndrome” is a passing malady. It sounds like last Saturday’s pep talk got you through the worst of it. I can’t wait to hold your first and second (and many more) novels in my hand. You’re an awesome writer!
Post-It Notes: “I am loved” and “God has plans for me.”
Glad to hear you got yur groove back Melissa! You’re hilarious, btw. And if I put a word on a Post-it note and stuck it on my forehead so that the writing faced me, because I need just about that much reminding, the word would be, “Breathe.” Because, I am a spaz by nature. [I know that surprises you! Haha!] But when I stop long enough to calm down for a second, here and there, I find stories that I hope will take a reader to that place? where I take his or her ? breath away!
Happy writing, friend.
Post-it Notes, here I come.
And maybe a little caffeine, too.
Love this post.
Loved your thoughts this morning, Melissa! You are such a blessing.
I live by sticky notes. I like all colors. Especially the neon ones.
Here are the words I keep on mine:
Goals: Something I try to realistically shoot for with God’s help.
Dreams: Something beyond the scope of the tangible, but completely possible with the One who moves mountains.
I loved meeting you in person at ACFW this year. I’m still reeling from your opening devotional, gal!
I’m laughing because I know what your caffeine consists of! I’m on my second “mug” of caffeine this am and have my colored Post It notes ready to rock n’ roll.
Thank you for sharing. :0)
Ooo, great post. How often do I get so focused on some goal, some THING I want to do, that I forget about the other parts of my life…the parts that have a huge potential to influence others, show them God’s love, etc.?
So glad you rediscovered your love for your story!
Thank you so much. I needed this today as I look at a ripped up manuscript 🙂
My Post It: The Healing Love of God.
Inspiring and important thoughts here. Lisa, I know your 2nd will also be phenomenal, and your 4th, and your 8th, and . . .
Love Susie’s suggestion of telling ourselves our stories until clarity and enthusiasm hit–going to do that soon. Thanks, Melissa
Anne–Thanks! Excited about your book being free on Kindle today–it’s sooo good!
Jill–Unpassion…yep, I end up there too. For sure. And if it’s not a word, it is now. As for Spandex, I bet there won’t be any in heaven. Or if there is, we’ll all rock it.
Roxanne–Oh my, yes, you’ve been through a massive black moment…but seeing your joy (in person, through blog posts, etc), oh, it’s just wonderful. I love how God has turned your sorrow into joy!
Raj–What?! I never would’ve thought of you as a spaz!! Hehehe…but seriously, breathe. That’s a good word. For sure. Um, I may have to copy you on the slapping-it-on-my-forehead thing.
Beth–Yes, caffeine. Always caffeine. 🙂
Cindy–Thank you bunches for your encouragement and for the kind words about the ACFW speech. 🙂 Love your definition of goals and dreams!
Alena–Hehehe, yes, if anyone knows about my caffeine needs, it’s you. 🙂 I’m so glad I had the opportunity to somewhat convert you to the dark side of black coffee. hehehe…
Linds–It really does not surprise me that you have faced the same thing, since, you know, we’re pretty much the same person. Hehehe…
Lisa–Oh my, those are some good, good words. I hope the ripped up manuscript gets put back together eventually. You can do it!
Dee–Yes, that trick from Susie was just what I needed to remember why I’m even writing this story and rediscover the spark.
Melissa, you crack me up! I totally had a vision of you scaling the skyscrapers of Des Moines in a red spandex! 🙂 Just typing that made me laugh all over again!!
I love, LOVE your passion for life and for the calling God has placed on your life. I can’t wait to see where He brings you – I’m so thankful He’s called me to come alongside and encourage you as you go.
It’s hard for me to even think about nailing down just one message on a Post-It note…in my mind I imagine my entire house covered in reminders of God’s unfailing love and all the things He wants me to think on. But, if I could only have on, it would be: “Trust in the Lord.” He’s got this. Totally.
What would I put on a post-it note? My go-to verse in Isaiah 43:1. Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are Mine.”
Would love to see you decked out in your Spiderman red spandex. And where was I when Susie gave us that trick?
Haha, Gabe! Only problem is, there aren’t actually that many skyscrapers in Des Moines to scale. Hehehe…a couple hours and I’d have all six or seven covered. 🙂
I’m so thankful, too, that you’ve become a part of my “story” in this past year…and vice versa. You are awesome and I’m excited to see what happens with your writing and life…AND to come visit in June. 🙂
Pat–Susie gave us that trick at the most recent Storycrafters Retreat. I’d never thought of just sitting down and telling my story to myself. But there was something so excitement-sparking about the process. And that’s an awesome verse!
Great article, Melissa. I suffered from 2nd book syndrome too. (and 3rd, and 4th, and 5th and…well how about EVERY book syndrome?) Telling myself the story was a great cure. So glad it worked for you! I know your next book will be awesome – can’t wait to read it!