Are you a F.A.T. writer?
Well, Kristin, my weight and/or girth is none of your business, you say. Agreed. I’m not talking about your Body Mass Index, but whether you are F.A.T. Your F.A.T.-ness directly relates to your success as a writer. Let’s break it down:
loyal showing firm and constant support, steadfast dutifully firm and unwavering
Did you ever have a faithful pet? A dog, cat, hamster or boa constrictor that was always waiting at the door when you got home from a stressful day at work or a date gone wrong, happily wagging its tail and giving you its undivided attention? Okay, if you have a boa constrictor that is doing this, you might want to cut back on the bacon-scented cologne. Your pet was always there for you, it didn’t matter if you hadn’t had time for long walks or romps at the dog park. It never got mad at you for your lack of attention, it would just go to its regular place next to your lounge chair, sit with you, follow you to the bathroom, lick behind your ear when it was time to wake up, day after day. It would stick to the regular routine of your relationship with nary a whimper, non-judgemental and hopeful.
This is how we need to be with our writing. Be faithful to write, to let the words flow, not to judge in its formative stages, to go back to it day after day. Show your writing firm and unwavering support, even when it feels like a duty. Be faithful to your writing and the discipline you develop will be faithful to you.
not otherwise occupied, free, not subject to engagements or obligations
Think about a love connection you were hoping to cultivate. You always made sure you looked your best if you ‘happened’ to run into them at the coffee shop, the laudromat, or in the halls at school. You sat by the phone waiting for them to call (those days are gone). You made sure nothing else was on your calendar just IN CASE they MIGHT call. If you did get THE CALL, you were on point: hair just right, your most attractive outfit, scrubbed clean and minty fresh (avoiding the bacon-scented cologne again hopefully), practicing saying just the right thing in the mirror. Practicing your seductive, devil-may-care giggle instead of your normal ear-splitting cackle (Come on, you know you practiced.) On a date, you were completely in the moment: savoring each snippet of conversation, alert to any hidden meaning of professed love, thrilled with an accidental brush of the hand against your skin.
What does this mini-romance have to do with your writing? Treat it the same way. Be available. Make specific time in your calendar for writing. It doesn’t have to be every day, but as often as possible that you can steal a few minutes away together. Be alert to an idea that might pop up at anytime. Carry a notebook and pen. Make yourself available to ideas. Practice writing. Be present in your writing. Let it be the only thing you are focused on at that moment. Make your Muse feel like the belle of the ball. She may repay you with an embrace of inspiration.
ability to receive instruction, or cause to learn by action or experience
Don’t you love four year olds? They are old enough to have learned a couple things, and they love to show off their skills. “Mama, I can count to ten now!”then they proceed to demonstrate said skill over and over for an hour. They try to go to the next number, but can’t remember what it might be. They rack their brains, but since they have not had the life experience to lose their common sense or humility they cheerfully ask “What’s the next one, Mama?”
Fourteen year olds, not so much. They now know everything, and if you are named Mom, Dad, or anyone over the age of thirty who has not appeared on MTV, you know nothing. They don’t want instruction, advice or a demonstration of any skill. “I got this” and if they don’t, they won’t admit they can make mistakes, that someone may have a wee bit more experience than they do, and their pride is the giant neon sign they carry everywhere. After a few life experiences, most fourteen year olds will take the hint that the universe can teach them a thing or three and start paying attention.
Some writers are like the average fourteen year old. They have acquired enough skills to begin their writing journey, but don’t give them any advice or constructive criticism. They don’t need no stinking books about writing. They don’t care if you are Stephen freaking King, ‘they got this’. Then after they’ve written their masterpiece, shopped it around to rejection after rejection, they get bitter, when instead improving their skills through study and instruction, receiving advice from more seasoned scribes and staying humble would have done the trick. Don’t be that writer.
You can apply the F.A.T. principle to any area of your life. Do you want to be a successful parent? Are you moving towards a successful marriage? Would you like your spiritual life to be better? Focus on being Faithful, Available and Teachable. It’s a winning combination.
Question: Which one of the F.A.T. principles do you need to work on most in your writing? Which one is your strength? What are some strategies you can share with us?