Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Late one night while I was writing my second novel, Havah, I dragged myself home from from a business trip—tired, bloated, grouchy, stinky…  and on deadline. I had two solid days at home before my next work trip, and 5,000 words to write.

Why then, the next day, did I want to do nothing but pick my cuticles, read my mail and watch the SyFy channel?

Fatigue is probably among the top three reasons not to write on any writer’s procrastination list (along with sudden onset of gout, spontaneous junk drawer cleaning and inspection of the hair follicles on one’s knees).

Fatigue, I am used to. I confronted it in my days of technical writing, during Demon’s early drafts (which took place during my divorce, in the midst of a move, and against the backdrop of a full-time on-the-road consulting job). I was published, wise to the ways of writerly misconduct and on to myself.

So how, then, did I find it especially convenient to contemplate the merits of dying my hair purple again? Why the sudden fascination with the more obscure features of the DVR menu and, when duty kicked in and I sat down at my desk, the sense that I was digging my heels in like a mangy shar pei on his way to the groomers?

Because I was afraid.

I could not admit that it was fear that had crept up the back of my calves and twined about my waist and latched on with tiny suckers to the back of my skull. But that’s what it was, whispering that I was a poser, questioning my word choice, my sanity, and whether I was dying of a rare skin-eating disease and just didn’t know it.

I know of only two ways to remedy fear. The first is to pray. Prayer, I find, requires a certain amount of honesty—or as much as we have at the moment.

Secondly, write. That’s what we do.

Also, stop thinking about your readers. I’m sure there’s something patently wrong with this advice, but it’s the only thing that got me through Havah. Because somehow, thinking about what my editor, my mom, pastor, English teachers, and neighbors would think really wasn’t helping.

Write with all the uncensored honesty you have. Pour out the beauty, the ugliness, the questions, and bleed the fear. Time enough for censoring later (there was plenty of that with Havah, too). I meant it in the dedication when I said I wrote that book for you, but while I was working, you were not with me. I was alone in the beginning of the world with the adam, and with God.

Perfectionism… I’m not sure it’s all bad, personally. My friends will argue that I’m this side of mentally ill, but I’d like to think there’s genius in and time for perfectionism. Nitpicking has its place. But it isn’t while you’re writing. Honesty is messy. Let it out.

In the end, we are the only ones who jointly own this thing we have done in conjunction with the creative hand of God. In the end, you are the one sitting alone, naked with The One. Like a prayer prayed out loud for the benefit of others, we are the ones who suffer the loss of that intimacy if we worry about sounding right to those around us.

So go ahead. Pray, be honest, and keep writing.

TOSCA LEE left her position working with Fortune 500 Companies as a Senior Consultant for the Gallup Organization to pursue her first love: writing. She is the critically-acclaimed author of Demon and Havah and is best known for her humanizing portraits of maligned characters. She makes her home in the Midwest.

TED DEKKER is a New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty novels with a total of more than 5 million books in print. He is known for thrillers that combine adrenaline-laced plots with incredible confrontations between good and evil.

By Ted Dekker & Tosca Lee

Many years have passed since civilization's brush with apocalypse. The world's greatest threats have all been silenced. There is no anger, no hatred, no war. There is only perfect peace... and fear. But a terrible secret has been closely guarded for centuries: Every single soul walking the earth, though in appearance totally normal, is actually dead, long ago genetically stripped of true humanity.

Fleeing pursuit, with only moments to live, a young man named Rom stumbles into possession of a vial of blood and a piece of cryptic writing. When consumed, the blood will bring him back to life. When decoded, the message will lead him on a perilous journey that will require him to abandon everything he has ever known and awaken humanity to the transforming power of true life and love.

But the blood will also resurrect hatred, ambition, and greed.

Set in a terrifying, medieval future, where grim pageantry masks death, this tale of dark desires and staggering stakes peels back the layers of the heart for all who dare to take the ride.

"...mammoth twists and head-pounding turns that will have readers and book clubs debating the roles of emotion and logic that drive human existence." (Publishers Weekly )

"FORBIDDEN: The Books of Mortals rocks with the same level of intensity and brilliance as Dekker's Circle Series. Riveting, resounding, and a magnificent blend of Dekker's and Lee's styles. I devoured FORBIDDEN." (James L. Rubart, bestselling author )

The characters are so well developed, the pacing breathtaking, and the storyline so utterly satisfying that I am in tears that its sequel, Mortal, is not yet available. I just have one thing to say after reading Forbidden—it’s good to be ALIVE!" -- Ronie Kendig, author of Digitalisand Wolfsbane


Gina Holmes said...

What a great post, Tosca. I know just what you mean. Really looking forward to reading this one! Congratulations on your successes. You're an incredible writer.

Lesa Smith said...

I had the pleasure of spending some time with Tosca at the Ragged Edge Writer's Symposium hosted by Ted Dekker. She was as honest and real there as she is in this great article. Thanks for posting this and to Tosca for reminding us to pray and push through our fear!

Diana Prusik said...

An expert giving me permission to be messy? To stop worrying about what others think in order to get my story out? This article couldn't be more timely for me! Thank you, Tosca, for the advice I needed to push aside my fear, which sometimes reaches paralyzing levels. No more inspecting hair follicles on knees for me! I'll study the creases on my knuckles instead . . . but while I do, I'll make sure they're poised over my keyboard, ready to hack out my sophomore novel. Knowing I am not alone helps so much!

Ane Mulligan said...

Great post, Tosca. And I can't wait to read Iscariot!! I'm not sure I'll be able to read this book with Ted, though. You know I'm the Queen of the Big Honkin' Chickens Club.

April W Gardner said...

Tosca, a massive thank you goes to you today for identifying the reason I could NOT write the last two scenes of my WIP. Even on a deadline.
What if I screwed it up? What if I chased away my three fans? LOL.
I prayed for two months (the deadline pressure came at the end)and one day, I finally had direction. The next thing I did? Plant my butt in a chair and WRITE. I'm not sure what my readers will think, but I love those scenes, and I'm pretty sure God does too. :-)
Pray. Write. Preach it, sister!
Great post.

Gina Conroy said...

Great encouragement, Tosca and a reminder to us that published authors are not immune to all the things that plague us unpubbed (or soon to be pubbed) writers.

Dina Sleiman said...

I needed this. I'd been wondering why I'm finding it so much harder to write my 3rd and 4th novels than it was to write my 1st and 2nd. I felt like the honeymoon with writing was over. This makes perfect sense.

Also, I've wanted to tell you that Havah ministered to me in a huge way, and it's on my favorites list. It was precisely those edgy scenes that really allowed God to speak to me through your book, so thank you for pushing past that fear.

Linnette R Mullin said...

Thanks for the reminder, Tosca! (((tRE hugs)))

Nicole said...

Love you, T. Honest, brave, scared like the rest of us.

Stacie said...

I needed to hear this today. Removing the earbuds now to pray. then write.

Julie Garmon said...

Loved reading this. Now I know why my bathroom closet and kitchen drawers have been so interesting lately.