Friday, November 18, 2011

An Open Letter to Lisa Simpson

"When your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt." - Henry J. Kaiser

Dear Lisa,

I just finished watching the latest episode in the television show based off of your family, in which you decide to write a novel. First of all, I'm terribly jealous because you got to meet Neil Gaiman. And second, I have some advice for you.

When you sat down at your laptop and said "I'll just pound out two thousand words," I knew this was not going to end well. One does not just pound out two thousand words, as you soon learned. By the beginning of the first commercial break, after you fell head over heels for the wondrous thing that is Procrastination, my mother was saying, "They should just rename her Olivia." Because I have gone through practically the same thing. Every day for 30 days for the past three years. 

When you're playing Boggle? I'm playing Free Cell. When you're watching videos of cats on YouTube? I'm watching Glee. And when you're getting a coffee because you want to feel like a real writer, I'm making myself a mug of hot chocolate and grabbing a few Oreos from the pantry. Libba Bray wrote an amazing blog post about her "writing process," which is very, very similar. In fact, she mentions you.

The only difference between you and her is that she writes the book anyway. And this is the thing about writing that I have the most trouble with: the book sucks. I am a perfectionist. I don't let even my closest friends read a draft until I've gone over it at least three times. The book is terrible and I know it and every year during NaNoWriMo around the 10,000 word mark I nearly give up entirely, because I know myself to be a failure.

And then I write another 1,000 words. And another. And another. And then I start my list of Edits To Be Made. And I face the same dilemma at 30,000, and then again at 60,000. Both times that I've gotten to 60,000, I've stopped right where I am and gone back over everything I have so far because I hate it so, so much.

But then-- and I've only gotten to this point once so far-- it gets to a point where you realize that finally, you do really like this book. It has flaws, but you can make them better. And you will. But ultimately, you love it anyway.

And you can get to that point too, Lisa. Do NaNoWriMo to give you a deadline. Do it with friends to give you motivation. Turn off the internet to make sure you really do pound those two thousand words out, or at least 1,667.  Check your friends' word counts multiple times an hour. And then read that blog post by Libba Bray, because it's the best writing pep talk I've ever seen.

With love,

Olivia Wood


  1. I loved this post.
    It is helping me bang out those words.

  2. Wooooah, this post is awesome! I haven't seen the show or know who Lisa Simpson is, but you did a good job at explaining it enough anyway. I was smiling all throughout this post.

    My procrastination has involved school events, extreme fatigue, and other grad school related obstacles. I wish I had the time for cat video distractions, haha. So I won't be reaching 50k this year either. Still, though, I'm proud of what I have written. All writing needs revision, but there's nothing like finishing a chapter with a big sigh and smile. Let's do the best we can in these final NaNo days!

  3. I love this!! And I loved that episode too. That is hilarious that your mom saw you in Lisa.

  4. Oh yeah. And Neil Gaiman. < angel-chorus > AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! < /angel-chorus >


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