Got a Bad Case of the Uglies!

Got a bad case of the Uglies! by Nancy Knight


Yeah, that last word technically isn’t a word. Uglies. Merriam-Webster doesn’t know what it means, but I’ll bet you do. It’s that feeling that writers get when everything in the world (including the kitchen sink) conspires to keep you from writing.


The kitchen sink: it’s stopped up. The plumber can’t come until tomorrow. You have your daily commitment of pages to write. (You do have a target number of words or pages as a goal every day, right? In a non-scientific survey a few years ago, I asked a group of writers (at a writers’ kind of meeting) whether they write every day or not. Every published writer (novelists) in the room raised their hands. Some unpublished writers did as well.  I asked those that were waving hands in the air if they had a specific number of pages to write every day. Nearly everyone did. If you don’t, think about it. Muses are flibbertigibbet kinds of folk. They show up on a whim—unless you train them. More about this some other time.) You hear gurgles and see bubbles, but the water in the sink refuses to go where sink water goes after you use it. You flush the toilet and get the same sort of gurgling sound, the water starts to rise. OMG.! Get a plumber in here fast. You spend the next hour trying to locate one that doesn’t have a booked schedule. Ah, but is he (or she) reliable? Okay. You’ve averted a genuine home emergency. You (1) flop into the recliner (2) with a soft drink (or insert adult beverage of your choice) and (3) turn on Oprah. (4) You refuse to move until your spousal unit (roommate, friend comes along with dinner from _________  (Insert favorite fast-food restaurant name here.)


One of your precious little darlings puts a pinto bean in his ear and you can’t get it out. A trip to the emergency room seems called for. Off you go. Three hours later, you trudge back into the house, locate aforesaid recliner and advance quickly to steps two, three and four as outlined above.


So what do you do? If you can edit on your I-Pad or E-Book . . . grab it and go. Skip the burger and eat baby carrots. They’re better for you anyway. If you don’t have that technical capability, print out your work. Keep a file of pages handy. When you’re called on to sit in the doctor’s office or hang out while your car is being repaired, pull out that file and start to edit. Distraction will occur, but after a while, you learn to block those out.


A friend of mine, years ago, had three small children. Her husband deserted her and the kids. She was non-fiction writer. She had to write and sell to feed her kids and provide shelter for them. But the kids kept dashing into her office with some imagined wrong perpetrated by one of the other kids. Finally one day at the bakery, she noticed the nice white chef’s hats. (They were fabric back then.) She asked about them, and the baker gave her one. When she got home, she told her children, “When Mommy is wearing the hat, you can’t bother her unless there’s blood or smoke.” The kids could understand the meaning of the hat. Years later, I saw her at a conference. Her children were either in college or married. I said something about how happy she must be not to have to wear that chef’s hat when she wrote. She laughed and shook her head. “Still have to wear it,” she said. “I can’t seem to be creative without it. It’s my muse’s signal that I’m ready to write, I guess.”


Life intrudes. It always will. Dedicated writers will find a way around those intrusions. Write every day . . . something. It’s harder to form habits than it is to break them. Don’t be easy on yourself. Don’t let yourself slack off even for one day. I know, it takes a lot of self-discipline. If you don’t have it—develop it.


Oh, the gurgling sink beckons. Gotta hunt down a plumber. Catch you again soon.




Nancy Knight






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4 responses to “Got a Bad Case of the Uglies!

  1. Such good advice. I find myself much more productive when I force myself to write everyday. Now, it’s the follow through I have to work on! Enough surfing, back to work, I’ve got a short story to finish.


  2. Nancy, you are sooooo right. If we don’t write everyday our workload piles up on us like dust.


  3. I agree, no good excuses, just write


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