In or Out
October 27, 2020 by Mason Bell

Fat Hobbit, the female half of my two sibling cats, loves to sit in the doorway and watch life go by. She doesn’t want to sit in the house all day, but neither does she want to put herself out there in the enormous world. A dog breaking free from his leash is a genuine possibility.

“You’re either in or your out!” I often tell the cat who doesn’t seem impressed.

At this point, I have to admit I didn’t invent this statement. That honor belongs to my mother, who tired of us kids talking to our friends through the cracked front door while the frosty air she paid for escaped.

This single, annoying phrase has followed me most of my life. When I played middle-school sports, I was either 100% involved with a team, or I didn’t try out. In high school, I either did all my homework or none. In my college photography class, I had a genuine problem with random people wandering in my pictures. “They’re either in or out,” the professor would say.

As a writer, the phrase has become my mantra and guides me throughout the writing process as I continually decide what’s in and what’s out of the story I want to tell.

Does that character really matter? Out.

What about that clever plotline that reveals who the actual culprit is? Out.

Does the first chapter rock? In, In!

But the craft of writing begs the same question. As I’m in the middle of publishing my first book and making revisions to another, I find the work is challenging. While line edits and book covers are difficult to get right, at least one day a week, my brain turns to mush before the sun even rises. I’ve had to ask myself the same question. Am I in or am I out of this writing thing?

Will I continue to put in the work of revision for the fifth time? In.

Can I manage to keep my mind off the cats to get a few chapters tucked away? In.

Should I eat three of my dear friend’s homemade scones while I write? Out…maybe In…

By making these choices each day, I’ve been able to keep my focus on a finished book that sparks the imagination of kids everywhere.

For this, I’m definitely In!