Posted On April 5, 2013 by Print This Post

Complacency – A Path Authors Should Never Tread with Handsome Hansel

RU contributor Handsome Hansel talks about complacency, flabby writing, and ways to get your head back into the game.

Complacency. While I loathe it, I still suffer from it from time to time. In most cases I don’t even realize I had become complacent until it’s too late.hh

For example… I live in a part of the country with textbook seasonal weather. While I’m an avid exerciser and feel I’m in pretty good shape for my age, I always seem to slide during the winter months. It starts with small things. The days get shorter so I can’t take my hikes or walks in the evening like I do during the other seasons. Once winter hits, I am out of yard work and outside projects that help to keep me in shape as well. With the shorter days come more TV and movie watching which is only right to do as long as you are eating something sinful, right?

My wardrobe changes too. Gone are my tank tops, fitted shirts, and flat front dress pants; replaced by t-shirts layered with a comfy sweater hovering over loose fitting jeans. Like a typical goldfish, I’m only going to grow into the clothed tank I’ve put myself in.

So I spend my winter fooling myself I’m still ok. That I’m still in shape and whatever few pounds I’ve gained, whatever strength I’ve let go, can be regained with relative ease once I make it past the winter solstice.

It’s not until the weather breaks and I throw on one of my favorite shirts that I realize just how far I’ve slid. It’s the same every year. I stand in disbelief fighting the coming admission that all along I was fooling myself. Which is followed with me wondering why no one in my inner circle said anything and then the determination to get back in shape.

For those of us who have been writing for any length of time our writing suffers the same winter weight gain. For those who are newer to writing, yours will too. Give it time. At my age I love listening to 20-somethings at the gym believing they will always look the way they do now. I feel the need to tell them to come talk to me after they’ve been married, raised some kids, been inundated by life and finally realize not everything is within their control.

So what do we do if we feel our writing is in need of getting back in shape? Work it out. Get it back to basics but first find the passion which started you writing in the first place.

In some cases that may mean finding yourself a personal trainer of sorts. A new set of eyes for what you’re writing. Someone who will be honest in a way those closest to you may not be anymore. It’s been my experience that even your own critique group will water down over time once personalities are known and friendships are deepened. Find yourself a critique group full of Jillian Michaels that will yell and scream your writing to a higher level. Trust me, it’s going to hurt like hell and you’re going to want to scream some choice words back but in the end you will be thrilled with the final result and realize they were doing what was best for you and your writing.

Finding the passion is an easier one for me but it’s not always at the surface where it should be. After-all, we always have the best of intentions but our heart’s just not in it. Since we are predominately all Writers of Romance I feel it fair to say most of us need to be “in the mood” to write. I certainly do. You can’t fake passion. (Ok ladies stop giggling your disagreement at me. :)

Rediscovering the passion for writing is going to be a different process for all of us since most of us came to writing from different paths. For me it was to clear my head of the stories I was telling myself of the people in my surroundings. I’ve written of this before so I’ll not go any further but when I couldn’t stop thinking of a scene I witnessed being played out earlier in the day, putting it on paper with a beginning and an end to go with the middle I had playing on a loop in my head, helped.

If I’m about to write a love scene and I’m feeling creatively frisky, I’ll light some candles, put on some sexy music and make love to my iMac screen. (That didn’t sound anywhere near as creepy in my head as it now looks on the page.) After all, we all know the best sex happens when the stage is set. You’re more in the mood mentally when you are presented with soft music, the glow of candlelight, a romantic meal with wine, and most importantly a lover willing to take their time. Who really is going to be in the mood coming home to a messy house, a Big Mac, and The Best of Lawrence Welk playing? With the exception of the one lady in the back with her hand raised I think it’s fair to say it would be hard to find the passion to write under those circumstances much less anything else.

When we become complacent with our writing we write and write and write because we feel we have to. Even though we are writing more, we become lazy within our writing and we need to trim the fat. Put our writing on a bit of a diet so to speak. Stop taking three paragraphs to explain something when three sentences will do. (Hang on I’m taking a moment to count how many sentences I just used there.)

A great editor will help with this. They’ll help tighten and tone your writing back into the shape it’s meant to be in. That’s one of the best parts in all of this! If I decide to go on a Ben & Jerry’s bender this weekend, it’s still my ass that needs to hit the gym to get me back in shape. When it comes to writing, we can overwrite all we want then have someone else do word yoga for us until we look good in a sexy book cover.

It’s important we admit to ourselves if we feel we are being complacent in our writing. It’s nothing to be ashamed of as long as we are willing to shake things up a bit to get our writing (and us) back into shape. With that, I have to get myself downstairs. I have a date with Tony Horton. It seems I need to get my girlish figure back.

HH

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Okay, RU crew, what’s your method for conquering complacency and getting your head back in the game? 

***

RU’s weapons expert, Adam Firestone, joins us on Monday, April 8th. 

***

Bio: Like most of us, I’ve been around the block a time or two (or three) in the relationship world. I like to think of myself as having a pretty thick skin, however, that skin doesn’t surround the heart.

I’ve been in love; I’ve been in lust. I’ve been hurt and got up to do it all again, each time having learned more of myself as well as “wants” and “don’t wants” for my next relationship. Amazingly enough, I never gave up on that one true love wrapped in Romance. You can visit me here, at http://thedanceofromanceonline.com

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Handsome Hansel

Discussion

32 Responses to “Complacency – A Path Authors Should Never Tread with Handsome Hansel”

  1. Hi HH,

    I like the parallels between exercise and writing. Staying sharp and alert makes the writing crisp and new.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | April 5, 2013, 10:06 am
    • Good Morning, Mary Jo!

      Thanks for the reply. It is important to stir things up every once in a while. Most days I wish I had as much passion for exercising as I do writing!

      HH

      Posted by HH | April 5, 2013, 10:29 am
  2. Good morning, HH. This post really resonated with me. I just went through a little funk when it came to my writing. I quickly found out it’s normal and all writers go through it. I just needed to figure out how to get over it because I had a book due!

    I wound up hiring the fantastic Michael Hauge for a coaching session on my manuscript. I learned so much in that one hour and it really sparked something for me.

    I’ve come to think these little funks happen right before I hit a “growth spurt” with my writing. That the complacency comes from needing to dive into learning more about the craft of writing.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | April 5, 2013, 10:33 am
    • Hi Adrienne!

      It’s those kind of things we need to do sometimes to jump start our passion again. I’m happy to hear you had such a great experience!

      Have a great weekend.

      HH

      Posted by HH | April 5, 2013, 12:16 pm
  3. Wow, great post Handsome. :) Everything you wrote about yourself, I could have written too. It’s not easy to be disciplined, I’m not nearly as disciplined as I should/need to be. This applies to writing as much as working out. I’m trying to write my second book, ouch. So easy to walk away from the computer and watch televison, or make a sandwhich. Discipline. I’m trying to find some.

    Posted by Anonymous | April 5, 2013, 11:00 am
  4. Hey Handsome. I wrote the post from anonymous. I clicked too soon.

    Posted by MaryAnn aka jaustenwannabe | April 5, 2013, 11:02 am
    • Hey M!

      Dicipline is hard to come by sometimes, that’s for sure. I have a habit of walking around while I’m writing. Sounds strange but it helps me. I’ll type out a paragraph or two then walk around my house for about a minute. It seems to help.

      Thanks for dropping by here at RU!

      HH

      Posted by HH | April 5, 2013, 12:18 pm
  5. Oh, Swoonie, when it comes to being honest about something I’m passionate about, I really don’t
    hold back. If it’s crap, I will tell you just that. If it sucks, I will tell you it sucks.
    Obviously with as much respect as possible, there’s no sense in using bad words to get ones
    points across.

    As for writing in general, I don’t think you have to be in the mood to write. If writing is
    your passion, all it takes for you to write is to sit down and do just that. However, you DO
    have to have ideas in your mind to write about, otherwise you can sit and stare and nothing is
    going to come out of your mind and on paper. (Or whatever one uses to write.)

    Making love to your screen, eh? I’m not sure I want that visual. *Tries really hard to get that
    visual out of my head.*

    Sex/love making is overrated. No, it really is. All it takes to have a good sexy session is
    the right person, for all I know one could have passionate, good, long love making at a
    graveyard. (If you’re into that sort of thang, which come to think of it, does sound kinda cool
    in a creepy way.) It’s all about the effort put into the moment. But that effort doesn’t have
    to consist of those typical romantic things. Because those typical romantic things need to be
    planned and correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t love making be spontaneous? Isn’t it more
    enjoyable when it sort of happens? Because when it is/feels planned, you have certain
    expectations. And when those expectations aren’t met, well, you know how that makes you feel.

    It’s the same with writing. You need to be inspired. You need to have ideas. But you don’t need
    to have a plan. If you have even half of my imagination skills, you’re good to go. Because
    personally, my best work, fiction, non-fiction or poetry, happened because it just happened.

    You don’t wake up and say ‘Yeah, today I’m going to write.’ . What you do, you wake up and you
    do your thing. You feel inspired. Grab your notepad and scribble away. And a story writes itself.

    But, then again, this is merely my experience and opinion.

    Posted by Soraya E. | April 5, 2013, 11:12 am
    • Does this mean you’re the Swooner? :)

      I always smile when your comments show up. They do brighten my day.

      I will say that I have always envied those writers who never needed to be in the mood to write. When I said that I needed to be in the mood however, I meant that to write a hot love scene I needed to be in the mood. Writiing to move the story along is much easier.

      Thanks for following me around the internet Lil’ Sis!

      HH

      Posted by HH | April 5, 2013, 4:14 pm
      • I suppose I would be the Swooner. :P

        Well, if I made you smile, that’s all that really matters. :D

        I understand why YOU need to be in the mood to write a love scene, but you shouldn’t need to be in such a mood to write a love scene. Does that make sense? But if that works for you, then by all means, do what you need to do in order to make a love scene happen on paper.

        There really isn’t a rule book on writing. All writers have their own little things they need to do in order to have the exact scene they want on paper.

        I’ll follow you anywhere Big Bro! <3

        Posted by Soraya E. | April 5, 2013, 4:30 pm
  6. I get my head back in the game by writing. Simple as that. My challenge is time and too often, if I say not today, before I know it, days, weeks, maybe even months have passed. I’ll feel a bit down, but I’ve learned that the quickest way to get back in is to pick up notebook and pen and write. Not a computer or other electronic device. Back to the good ole basics. Something about going there always gets my creative juices flowing and I get excited about writing again.

    Posted by PatriciaW | April 5, 2013, 11:36 am
    • Patricia,

      You aren’t kidding about time slipping by if we’re not careful. I tell myself that I want to have so much written by a certain date and before I know it the date has passed. Sometimes it’s best if we just get SOMETHING on paper. :)

      Thanks for sharing!
      HH

      Posted by HH | April 5, 2013, 12:20 pm
  7. I think it’s important to just keep writing, even if you know that you’re work is suffering a little. Then, don’t be afraid to scrap everything you’ve just written. Sometimes the act of pounding those keys and generating words can act as a catalyst for refreshing the way you do things. Also, go back and read the authors who inspired you in the first place, or find new ones with a fresh voice that you love. I know I’m always inspired to do my best when I read incredible work by someone else. It’s that competitive streak and all, but also the drive to always keep learning. :)

    Posted by Elizabeth | April 5, 2013, 12:00 pm
    • Elizabeth,

      Yes! Thanks for bringing up reading others who inspire us. There isn’t any better motivation sometimes than anothers work.

      And we are competitive aren’t we? :)

      HH

      Posted by HH | April 5, 2013, 4:09 pm
  8. Can I put my hand down now please? :-D

    Loved this post and it really made me laugh and nod and make all the right noises in all the right places. I’ve been feeling it today actually, so funny that you should post up about complacency! Sometimes I’m not even sure if it’s complacency that I’m feeling because it combines with feeling lost, sorry for myself, hard on myself, not hard enough on myself…you get the picture, I’m sure.

    I find giving myself time to get things into perspective, sometimes even having a cry or a tantrum helps…but please don’t tell anyone :-D

    I believe you hit the nail on the head when you talked about passion. If you have the passion, which I think as writers you never really lose, complacency will eventually get shelved and our writing (a bit like our bodies) will scream at us to get back in the writing gym and tone up a bit!

    Thanks ever so much for the great read.

    Jess :-)

    Posted by Jess S-C | April 5, 2013, 12:52 pm
    • Dammit, Jess! You made me snort coffee out of my nose! :)

      LOVED the hand line!

      And…your secret’s safe with me. Shhh!

      Thanks for the additinoal insights and I’m so glad you stopped by!

      HH

      Posted by HH | April 5, 2013, 3:34 pm
  9. Wonderful post, HH. And I also love the way you tied exercise and writing together; very appropriate.
    With each, we become complacent when we lose our passion. All that is needed is that spark of motivation to ignite once more. It can be as simple as closing your eyes and envisioning where you’d like to be, who you’d like to be with, and what you’d like to be doing. Then write that fantasy. It can be written into your storyline; perhaps complacency or procrastination comes because the writer himself/ herself can’t truly see the exotic location, the beauty before their eyes; they perhaps can no longer feel their hands on their mate, or their mate’s hands on them; they can no longer hear the ragged sound of their breathing or their voice as they whisper your name… Once you begin to see, feel, hear again… The passion returns.
    However, if anyone has any tips on exercise, I am all ears. Writing, yes, I can do that. Exercise… not so much!

    Posted by p.m.terrell | April 5, 2013, 1:28 pm
    • Trish,

      I couldn’t agree more. And you’re absolutely right (Write?) that we need to delve deeper into our own heads (Heaven help me!) sometimes to get in touch with where we want our writing to go.

      And as far as exercising goes….after Book ‘Em North Caroline, you have nothing to worry about. ;)

      HH

      Posted by HH | April 5, 2013, 3:47 pm
  10. Hi, HH!

    Your topic reminds me of this quote:

    “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” – Andrew Grove

    Writers are a paranoid bunch, and in my case, the paranoia counterbalances the complacency. I tweak constantly, which affects my daily productivity, but I do it because I know there’s always room for improvement. I feel the same way when I scrutinize myself in front of the mirror.

    Thanks for another great post. (BTW…your mention of Lawrence Welk brought back memories of growing up in a single t.v. household and tortuous images of Bobby and Cissy, and Myron the accordion player.)

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | April 5, 2013, 4:51 pm
    • Great quote, Jennifer!

      Wrirters Paranoid? Never! :) And I’m right there with you when it comes to the tweaking. I second guess myself for a living sometimes. You?

      “Ahna One. Ahna Two”

      HH

      Posted by HH | April 6, 2013, 10:25 am
  11. We are co-authors and tend to keep each other in line. This is a great article, by the way, full of good advice and several smiles!

    Posted by Wodke Hawkinson | April 5, 2013, 6:32 pm
    • Wodke,

      Thanks for making the jump from Twitter to here! Much appreciated.

      I’ll admit that having a co-author would in a lot of ways provide a much needed balance when it comes to writing. Do you agree?

      HH

      Posted by HH | April 6, 2013, 10:27 am
  12. HH,

    I just was experiencing this same phenomenon the other day when a respected colleague told me I was my own worst enemy when writing and that I needed to quit working on plot – and get this – work on my passion, so I can so understand where you are coming from. Sometimes even something we love can become a tad mechanical we plan out our story in our heads or on paper and then make it work they way we foresee it going. My challenge is to be more passionate, spontaneous and organic in my writing and to quit plotting things to death. I found your reminder about the need for passion about our craft as a great affirming synchronicity coming on the heels of last night’s conversation.

    Posted by Tracy Riva | April 5, 2013, 9:11 pm
    • Tracy,

      Sometimes life hits you over the head from a lot of different angles until you pay attention to what it’s trying to say to you. I’m happy that I was one of life’s messengers for you.

      Don’t take the lump on the head personally. It’ll go away in a couple of days. :)

      HH

      Posted by HH | April 6, 2013, 10:29 am
  13. Evening HH…

    I’m waaaaaay behind today! =) And I threw away my Ben and Jerry’s when I read your post, and I did my workout for the day, so I’m feeling quite accomplished now. =) (notice I didn’t mention the strawberry cake at all….)

    This is my favorite line ever ..”Like a typical goldfish, I’m only going to grow into the clothed tank I’ve put myself in.” and absolutely true. Might be time to get those skinny jeans out again!

    Thanks for another wonderful post!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | April 5, 2013, 10:33 pm
    • Thanks Carrie!

      As far as the Ben & Jerry’s goes…sorry ’bout that. When we get together I’ll treat you to a new pint!

      And I will say that I have gotten a surprising amount of comments about the goldfish line. When I wrote it, it was one of those lines that remind me why I write. Thanks for appreciating my humor. Means a lot from someone who is a pro at it like you.

      (Put the spoon down now and just walk away, Carrie!)

      HH

      Posted by HH | April 6, 2013, 10:33 am
  14. Boy, this hit close to home. When I saw the title I thought, “Well, I’m certainly not complacent.” But I do need to rediscover my passion for writing. Working on it! And as for those winter pounds, I’ll have to walk until autumn to shed them all!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | April 5, 2013, 11:20 pm
    • Good Morning, Becke,

      For those of us who sometimes feel married to our writing we DO need to try and keep things fresh and interesting. It’s a bit one-sided sometimes as our writing can’t really give anything back to us that doesn’t seem incompletely judgmental.

      Thanks so much, Becke!

      HH

      Posted by HH | April 6, 2013, 10:42 am
  15. Great post, enjoyed reading it.
    My business is too new and exciting for complacency we don’t have time. My body however is a different story, the poor thing has not had as much exercise as it should for all your affomentioned reasons

    Posted by Kaye | April 6, 2013, 2:41 am
  16. Timely advice for me. Whenever I’m struggling to meet multiple deadlines (as I am now) it’s easy to think complacency is the last thing I need to worry about. But wait! Isn’t that complacency itself?

    Yep, and it’s when I’m under pressure to produce that I get laziest in my writing. It’s not that I stop writing . . . it’s that I take shortcuts: I don’t give it the same heart.

    Thanks for the nudge and the welcome reminder!!

    Posted by Gina | April 9, 2013, 3:06 pm
  17. HH,

    it’s me; one of your biggest fans here. Ah, very refreshing. OMG I do not feel weird at ALL after I read the whole, light the candles to make love to your iMac screen. I was literally LOL-ing.

    Been here done this so I can commiserate. Great read though!! Always!

    Posted by Nai'lah Carter | April 9, 2013, 3:35 pm

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