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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Make it Work

Tim Gunn's onto something, you know?

If you don't watch Project Runway, what's wrong with you? Oops, I meant to say: if you don't watch Project Runway, Tim Gunn is the aspiring fashion designers' mentor. He delivers them their challenges, tells them the constraints they'll be working within ("You have $10 and 1.25 hours for this challenge of designing an avant garde showpiece."), and comes in during their work time to talk things through with them, giving his honest take on what is working and what isn't working. And, inevitably, at some point during every episode he'll say, "Make it work."

It's a simply phrase, a simple concept, but a difficult thing to put into action. Still, whenever I get frustrated with whatever project where I've bitten off more than I think I can chew, or when I write myself into a corner that I can't see the way out of, or when I am too easily distracted by things in my current writing venue to concentrate--any time any of those things happen, I hear Tim's voice in my head saying, "Make it work."

I used to just let those frustrations get the best of me. I'd set the writing project aside and say I couldn't fix it. I'd go for weeks or months without writing, because I was "stuck." I'd tell myself that my idea was too big, too bold, something that another writer was capable of but not me.

That's not really the best way of handling these things, though. Or so I've found.

You see, just because the idea is something unfamiliar and not one I've tackled before, that doesn't mean I can't do it, and do it well, and make it work within the niche I've carved for myself even if, on the surface, it doesn't seem like a good fit. It just means I've got to get creative and make it work.

Just because I've written myself into a corner doesn't mean I can't figure out a better solution, if I sit down (maybe with a trusted CP or two) and talk it through. And it doesn't even mean that I have to immediately toss 20+ pages of hard work. It just means that I've got to buckle down, put my nose to the grindstone as my Grandpa always used to tell me, and make it work.

Just because there are distractions where I'm currently working doesn't mean I can't change locations and find somewhere new to work. Too many things going on at home? Try Starbucks. Too expensive/loud/crowded/etc. at Starbucks? Try the local library. Too quiet/stuffy/stale at the library? Try the park/mall/a friend's house while they're at work if they'll give you a key. The key is to recognize what the problem is before it becomes too much of a problem, and then make it work.

Why am I writing about this right now? I've been in a funk, and trying to convince myself that the problem is one of those things listed above, or one of countless other excuses for not getting my writing done. In reality, though, I've just got to make it work.

Thank you, Tim Gunn.


  1. Catherine ~ LOL. I don't watch Project Runway, and nothing is wrong with me. At least, I don't think so. ;)

    BUT I am with you. I have so many things I need to get done, I feel a little over-committed and swamped. When I do finally get time to get something done I often stare in a daze because it's the first free minutes I've had in a while and then I get nothing accomplished.

    I just need to make it work, you're right!

  2. You don't watch project runway???? Oh, Ava. *shaking head*

    But seriously, Tim knows what he's talking about, even when it comes to writing and not fashion design. Figure it out, work it out...make it work. I'm there.

  3. Ava,

    There is definitely something wrong with you if you don't watch Project Runway. ;-) JK!


    I LOVE Project Runway and I cry when designers have to leave the show, sometimes even when I don't like their work. I think I empathize too much with the rejection aspect.

    The other thing Tim Gunn says is "You can do it!" We all need cheerleaders at times. Thank goodness for critique partners.

    I look at writing like I do my other job. I can't skip out even when I'm not feeling inspired, and believe me, I often don't feel inspired to go out there and be "on" for my patients. Yet, once I'm in the situation, something clicks and I'm doing my thing easily enough. I've found the same is true with writing. I just have to dive in, no matter how unpleasant the water, and soon enough I'm swimming.

  4. Project Runway is on too late for me, if we even get it here. I learned a long time ago, if a project seems to large, break it into smaller pieces. Then making it happen is much easier. When it comes to writing, critique partners are essential whether it's to hold one's hand, point out what's not working or cheerleading.

  5. Oh, Samantha, you're so right. Tim is such a great cheerleader for them. I love when he'll come in and help a designer pull their heads out of their...well...you know, and then they'll come up with something fabulous. And I'm so glad I've got cheerleaders on my side like you!

  6. Ella, thanks for stopping by! Project Runway is on Lifetime. You should look for it, and record it to watch later if it is too late for you. Seriously, Tim Gunn is worth it, even if the rest isn't your cup of tea. He is such an inspiration. :) Great point about breaking something into smaller pieces. If I look at a WIP and think "I've got 30,000 more words to write," it seems a lot more daunting than if I say to myself "I need to write 2,000 words today."

  7. I was going to say the same thing that Catherine said! Tim is a wonderful, honest mentor and cheerleader. We all need someone like that in our corner!

  8. Thanks for coming by, Deb. :) And I know a few people you've played Tim Gunn for, so I can only imagine the Tim Gunns in your life. Thank goodness for them.

  9. Catherine,
    What a great blog entry! One b/c I'm a HUGE Tim Gunn PW fan....but more b/c it is a great mantra to keep in mind. Too often, there are things that do interfere, some of them you yourself listed, others unique to my own situation. But next time I find myself struggling, I'm going to imagine sassy Tim Gunn reminding me to Make it Work!!! B/c often that is when you'll find your greatest inspiration (as the show can speak to!)
    ~Christina (who is now going to Make It Work!)

  10. Christina, why does it not surprise me that you, of all people, would subscribe to Tim Gunn's mantra of make it work? Thanks for stopping by. And now that you've reminded me, it is time for me to dive back in and make it work, myself!

  11. I love Project Runway and Love Tim Gunn. I even based a secondary character on him in one of my novels. I actually typed "make it work" but had to reword to be more "regency" - LOL. Maybe I should make a sign with those words and his picture and put it on the wall above my computer for when things are not going the way I would like them to.

  12. Jane, that's hilarious that you had a character modeled after him! You'll have to tell me which one, so I can read him. :) I love the idea of hanging a sign in the work space. Especially if you've got a blank spot on the wall that you typically stare off into space...

  13. Yeah, I really wish the word fairy would come visit because I want to write this story and it's not happening.

    Make it Work would be so nice right now. I've been considering I'd have to pull an alnighter to get the juices flowing. It worked in college. :)

  14. Oh, Beth, I've tried some crazy things like that before, too. And you know, sometimes they work out really well. (Not for an all the time thing, just to get going again...) Good luck!