#RutBusterBook: My 2019 new year’s resolution

Our copy editor vows to bust a persistent creative rut this year by writing a book – and journaling her process along the way. Won't you come along?

 

In 2019, I hope to become a cliché.

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My new year’s resolution, like so many writers before me, is to write a book. And not just to write it, but to find an agent to represent it and hopefully get it published.

I know. I know. It’s so beyond banal to start this journey on Jan. 1, to count on doing something for my career that I never seem to do in my personal life – keep that resolution. The only resolution I have ever succeeded in achieving in 42 years was to floss my teeth more. My dentist noticed.

So why am I becoming a cliché? Because of another cliché: A midlife crisis, of sorts. Writing this book is a way to reboot, a way to shake up a career path that has become more about meeting deadlines and pushing out copy than about words and ideas and alliteration and magic.

You see, in 2006, I began to lose my writing mojo.

It didn’t just go “poof.” There were circumstances.

During my first 30 years, writing came easily to me. In college and through my early career at a newspaper, my prose had a rhythm, a beat. It flowed with a cadence that came naturally.

Then, in 2002, I switched jobs. I began working for an online magazine where I wrote nearly every word we published. Soon I was pumping out 3,000 or more words a day. My stories got choppier.

I completed assignments quickly, but there was little art to it. And when I tried to write something longer, something better, I found I could no longer muster the right words. (See? Muster wasn’t the right word there. I know that. But a half hour and a thesaurus haven’t netted me anything, so there you go – my writing brain no longer passes muster.)

Somewhere in the last 12 years, I got scared to try harder. I became frightened because the words no longer flowed from my fingertips.

The truth is, I often fear I’ve lost that voice for good. I’m terrified I can no longer tap into that word rhythm that once banged around in my head. What if I try and it’s no longer there? And as long as I’m not trying…I can’t be sure the talent is gone.

Time for a new challenge                                       

I thought about this one day while I was out on a run. I was listening to my favorite podcast, “Presidential,” only half paying attention as I mulled my writing rut.

As I reached the base of a long hill, I pushed my thoughts out of my mind and concentrated on narrator Lillian Cunningham’s anecdote about an obscure president and a little-known part of his presidency that changed the course of history. I became lost in the story; the hill passed in a flash.

And as I crested the top, I had an idea.

The anecdote would make a perfect topic for a children’s book. A project that could break me out of my rut. I’d have to put myself out there, really do my best to actually accomplish it. The next two miles flew by, my head moving faster than my feet.

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By the time I finished my run, I had a concept, a theme, and a pitch letter outlined in my head. I zoomed straight to my laptop and held my breath as I Googled my subject, terrified someone had already used this same idea.

They hadn’t. I exhaled. And project Rut Buster Book 2019 was born.

Over the next 11 months, I’ll take you with me through the process as I research, write, and pitch my book. I’m excited and nervous and exhilarated and utterly white-knuckled to put this commitment out there. But I know I need to keep myself accountable lest another 12 years of uninspired writing pass by.

Are you writing a book in 2019? I’d love to follow along with your journey, too. I’ll be tweeting with the hashtag #RutBusterBook, and I invite you to reach out.

Let’s get this cliché started.

 

Toni Fitzgerald is the copy editor at The Writer and a freelance writer/editor for hire. You can find her on Twitter at @tonifitz76.