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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Resisting Your Writing? It’s GEMO Time!


information-overload“There’s over 14,000 related images on ShutterStock! I don’t know where to begin.”

One of my coaching clients is creating a new blog and feeling overwhelmed by design choices, title choices, topic choices.

I commiserated. I confessed that when I select images for the personalized postcards I create for her and my other clients each week, I get stuck looking for the Goldilocks graphic — the one that’s JUST right.

Even when I find a good image, I  worry that an even better image might appear if I keep scrolling. It’s amazing how much time I can spend looking for Goldilocks. If I’m feeling hesitant, anxious or resistant to my writing, that time can double if I’m not paying attention.

Every writer faces a tsunami of information and options that can create significant blocks. I see this kind of block when students and clients can’t stop researching because the one thing they know for certain is that there’s always more to research.

Some writers get lost in their character’s backstory; some obsess with fine tuning their outline or story boards. Some writers can’t let go of editing the first paragraph long enough to move on to the next page.

You need to know where you’re most likely to get bogged down because those are the places where you have to remember GEMO.

GEMO: Good Enough, Move On

In 1861, R. C. Trench wrote, “The best is oftentimes the enemy of the good; and many a good book has remained unwritten…because there floated before the mind’s eye the ideal of a better or a best.” In 1861, people had the luxury of contemplating ideas in elegant language like this.

Today, we consume sound bites and acronyms because there’s too much on our plate to linger. GEMO is the contemporary interpretation of Trench’s wisdom.

Sometimes you need the best. But most of the time the best just gets in the way.

writing1If you’re opening someone’s body up with a scalpel, you have a moral and legal obligation to be the best surgeon you can be and do the best operation you’re capable of. If you’re driving a race car at over 100 MPH on a crowded track, you owe it to yourself and your fellow drivers focus your attention completely to be the best driver you can. If a friend or family member is facing a life-altering trauma, you need to be fully present and compassionate to be the best witness you can be.

Likewise, if you’re polishing and perfecting a manuscript or query to send to an agent, editor, contest or grant judges, the writing must be the best work you can do.

But when you’re not operating on someone, racing the Indy 500, helping a loved one through a crisis or putting the finishing touches on a manuscript, you don’t need to be your best. Good enough is good enough. Good enough is where you get to move on.

Stop Looking for the Best

If it’s a matter of “Do my best or do nothing,” you’ll end up doing nothing most of the time. Because you simply can’t be your best all the time or even most of the time. If you were your best all the time, by definition, that would just be your average.

Apply GEMO when you don’t need the best. When you’re developing an idea, researching, drafting, revising, recruiting readers and getting feedback, investigating agents, editors and publications, good enough will let you keep moving on.

GEMO keeps your momentum going. GEMO makes it possible to keep showing up and taking small steps that bring big results.

Save your best for when you really need it. You’ll be surprised how often you can apply GEMO and how rarely you truly need your best.

This is my GEMO blog for the week. I’m moving on.

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