Welcome to Micro Monday, where you get a quote and a writing prompt every Monday to help you build a portfolio of work. This week: desperation.

Quote of the Week: “There’s nothing like desperation to sharpen your sense of focus.” Thomas Newman

Writing Prompt of the Week: Write for ten minutes about a near miss, something that almost happened (an accident, winning class president, being smacked in the face) but didn’t.

If you’re new to micro and writing with me, check out this post here. If you’d like to read some micro narratives, this anthology, Short: An International Anthology of Five Centuries of Short-Short Stories, Prose Poems, Brief Essays, and Other Short Prose Forms, is a great place to start.

Desperation or Inspiration?

For several years our family homeschooled. Those years were lean, not only financially, but in terms of our available time, our available brain power. We had three young kids, two businesses, a mountain of debt, and a 1,200-square-foot rental in which our work, our homeschooling, our meals, and everything else took place. My husband and I would pass each other in the narrow hallway, each on different shifts and different sleeping schedules. I thought for a long time that it would never end or that I might go crazy. I wrote my first four books under those conditions, often in the middle of the night on a cheap desk or rickety camp table, sometimes with a fussy child on my lap.

“Don’t confuse desperation with inspiration,” I told people who asked me how I did it. It was kind of a joke, but not really. They would be startled at my response, because desperation seems like a terrible way to write, much less to live. And they’re right.

Take the plunge

But what desperation did, at least for me, was help me get out of my own way. I’d wanted to be a writer since the fourth grade. In my heart, I knew this would be part of my life experience. But I talked myself out of it, convinced that I wasn’t good enough. I did this in the mid-1990’s with my first completed manuscript and an agent-author agreement in hand. Was the manuscript ready? Did I really want this to be my first book?

I panicked.

I didn’t sign the agreement. I put the manuscript on the shelf to collect dust. I went back to the life I knew, the one I knew how to navigate, and tried to forget about my long-held dream.

Ten years later, I found my old manuscript. Something churned inside of me, and told my husband, “I think I could write another book.” We desperately needed the money and I needed a creative outlet; I could feel my brain and spirit going to mush. I was desperate to try anything, but I was also desperate to hold onto my dream.

I wrote a new novel, found an agent, and started on my next book. I didn’t wait for inspiration to arrive, but sought it out. I had reservations and fears about that first book (and every book thereafter–we writers are a neurotic bunch), but I forced myself to step out of the way and let it go into the world.

But what desperation did, at least for me, was help me get out of my own way. Click To Tweet

Desperation as Motivation

There are no excuses with desperation, no discussions, no pros nor cons. Desperation doesn’t have the time. Desperation doesn’t wait for things to get lined up or for the right opportunity to appear. Desperation is a deep, burning desire for things to be different, that final cry in the dark. It means things are ready to change–need to change–and you’re now willing to do something you weren’t willing to do before.

Desperation is so full of hopelessness that, ironically, I was actually able to find hope, because what did I have to lose? If you’re feeling desperate, take heart. Maybe it’s time to let go of some old thinking or beliefs you’ve been holding on to. Maybe it’s time to get out of your way or stop worrying about what other people think. And maybe it’ll give you that final push to do the thing you’ve always wanted to do.

If you want to take a chance on your creativity, Austin Kleon’s Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad will give you the motivation you need. And for a little extra burst of encouragement, check out these inspirational quotes for creatives.

If you’ve written some micro you’re proud of, share it in the comments below. Until next time, write well!

This post originally appeared in Darien’s column, The Writer’s Corner, in North Hawaii News, and has been gently modified for writer-ish.com.

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