Friday, February 4, 2011

What stops me from writing?

I want to write. Better yet, I want to be a writer, in much more than the sense of "someone who writes" (I mean, heck, I already do that. Sometimes). But lately, I've noticed that in both my solo and collaborative projects, I'll think about writing - I'll think about it a lot - and I'll read some articles, and I'll feel really good about reading these articles on writing and thinking about writing and getting warm fuzzies about all the writing I could do and ...and then I just...won't do it. It's like there's some serious cognitive dissonance going on there: I want to do this, but I don't want to do this.

A big part of it could probably be explained away by laziness: writing is hard, and it gives me a headache, and it's time consuming! Another part could be perfectionism: writing is hard, and it gives me a headache, and it's time consuming, and it won't be perfect the first time, and I might end up completely scratching what I've just put time into, so why try at all?

But I think that the biggest problem, the mother of all the problems, is fear. It's a visceral, multi-layered fear that makes my stomach clench up and my fingers automatically gravitate towards my mouth so that I can tear the nails apart. Sometimes it keeps me up at night, and sometimes I go to sleep just to avoid it.

Like most people, I'm afraid of failure. Deathly afraid. What if I write, and by some miracle of strength and determination actually finish a draft, and then revise until I'm bleeding from the eyes, and get outside opinions and good advice that I do my best to heed, and I still can't get published? What if I write a novel, get it published, and then find out after the fact that everyone thinks it sucks? What if - what if - what if - what if -

To which the stronger, better part of me gives a resounding SO WHAT? The laws of physics state that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (I know this isn't a perfect analogy, but stay with me, here. I'm gonna make this work). So say that the writing, and all of the work that goes into the writing, is the first reaction. It's the product of my desire to write, almost a reaction to that. What comes after? Well, obviously something will. The time that I put into that novel is not going to disappear into a void. I can't get it back, but I won't want it back, because I'll have something better: the draft of a novel. And that is something that I really, really want. So there's payoff #1.

Now, say that novel is no good. Say it actually really blows, and there's no way in hell that I'd ever even try to get it queried. The important thing to remember is that the time I spent working on it was still not wasted. It was put to very good use, because during that process, it's almost impossible that I will have completely avoided learning things about myself: the ways that I work best, the things that inspire me the most, how much I love seeing the words that I've put together marking the pages (okay, maybe I already know this one), and, hopefully, what I can do to improve the next novel.

I have a strong feeling that that is going to be so much more than worth all of the pain and time and headaches.

So what are my goals for this blog?

First off, I'm going to use it to keep track of the words that I write per day. It's not the best measure of productivity, but I'm only going to count those that belong to current projects, and I'm going to try and meet my minimum every day. I may give myself one day off per week, but I'm not sure yet.

Secondly, I'm going to use it to narrow down which projects I most want to work on - I have two solo novels, one collaborative novel/trilogy and one short story, and at least three solo short stories started right now. Some of these just need to be finished. Here is where I'm going to talk (to myself) about my projects: what I love and hate about them, ways to improve, probably some outlining, and lots of lists.

And thirdly, I'd like to use this to start building a base for myself. I'd ultimately like to have a writing group, but I'm going to work slowly towards that. Mostly, I'd really like to hear from other aspiring authors, and get some discussions going about the ups and downs of the craft as we experience them.


  1. Ah, procrastination! It can take many forms. Putting energy into a blog and neglecting your novel can be one of them.

    It's a good idea to post your word count on your blog. Put your productivity out there for all to see- it will give you an impetus to keep going.

    And do form or join a writers' group as soon as you can. They are invaluable if you get the right sort of writers. Avoid writers who blandly praise everything you write. Likewise avoid writers who tear down everything you write for sport. Find people who will praise the good stuff and flag the bad stuff, and who have sincere, concrete suggestions on how to fix the problems they are flagging.

  2. Hey, Ursa! Glad you stopped by. I've been failing on the word count thing so far, which sucks, but I'm going to keep trying. I'm really, really excited to find a writing group - my writing partner is moving across the country, so it looks like I'm definitely going to have to start expanding outward. I'm thinking about starting here:

    It's been listed as a really productive community.