The best part about having a blog is that it allows me to go back in time and laugh at myself. I used to do this with diaries in my youth, snatching up old (never completed) journals and then annotating with derisive commentary throughout. Most often, the marginalia was scathing, along the lines of “how could you ever love x” or “you silly, stupid git.”
While, thankfully, I grew out of that stage, blogging has served to chronicle my own personal writing journey over the last couple of years, first at The Aldersgate Cycle and now here at Writing Across Worlds. What hasn’t changed, however, are the cringe-inducing posts from yesteryear. Sure, only two years have gone by, but my goodness… reading posts from even a year ago really puts a bit of perspective on how things have changed.
Take this bit from a post called “The creativity curve, and time for the cure” from January 12, 2009, regarding my inability to sustain the writing groove:
Sure, I go through phases where I literally drip words. I write tens of thousands of words in a week; I am bombarded at every turn by plot twists, character dialogue snippets, and intriguing word combinations. I can’t escape thinking about what I’m writing if I tried (which, in the case of last night, kept me up way past my bed-time).
But then? It’s like someone quite surreptitiously turns off the lights, cuts the power, and takes away my wine. I sit down to write, and it’s void. A chasm. Emptiness, despair. My own little Swamp of Sorrows. Just for me. How lucky I am. Worse even, I look back at what I’ve written and cringe, feel ill, and have to suppress the desire to kill everything I’ve worked on up to that point with fire. Sulfuric fire. Or a lake of fire. Something along those lines.
I’m literally laughing out loud. At that point, I still believed in some perfect, alchemical mix for writing, some cosmic alignment of the stars.
Thankfully, I’ve learned that when it comes to writing, there’s nothing to it. I mean, there is a lot to it, but it’s not magic. It’s hard fracking work. It’s dragging myself to the computer when I don’t want to. It’s turning off the TV. It’s ignoring Twitter and Facebook. It’s simply treating writing like a profession rather than a hobby.
And that feeling of wanting to kill stuff, to delete it? Oh, that still happens. But thankfully, I’m not that precious about my stuff anymore. I’ve learned, however painfully, that sometimes writing does have to be flushed. Sometimes you’ve got to burn down the whole forest to allow for new growth. And it sucks. I just flushed 30K two weeks ago, I know how much it sucks. But it’s part of the game. Words are like raindrops. Sometimes you catch them with a sieve, sometimes with a glass pitcher; sometimes you need to just let them flow through your fingers and feel each and every one; sometimes you have to let them spill and start again.
The other thing I have just started to learn how to do is muster my confidence. Two years ago, according to this archived post, I was rewriting The Aldersgate from memory, hardly consulting the original draft (a process that took over a year, I should add). I worried constantly that the rewrite wasn’t good enough, and would often throw myself into fits of near madness and, more than anything, complete writing paralysis.
So, in the spirit of the season, I’ve come up with a few short resolutions, particularly good for the slightly published crowd, those of us who aren’t technically “new” but are still forging ahead.
- Avoid writing paralysis: note the signs, note the triggers. Figure out what gets you to stop writing and avoid it, if possible. Remember that writing is work, and if work isn’t being done, it’s typically not anyone’s fault but your own.
- Keep a steady course. In other words: be patient. Don’t burn out. Keep your eyes on that proverbial horizon. Time will pass, the waiting will end, and new routes will be clear. Just take your time, and keep writing.
- Have faith in yourself. If you don’t believe in your book, no one else will. Be proud, not arrogant; be confident, not haughty.
- Surround yourself with good influencers. That guy who writes about how much he hates to write? The acquaintance you met a few years back who’s calling the boom and doom of the publishing industry? Be wary of the channels around you and how they influence you. Sometimes it’s okay to be choosy.
- Never stop learning. No one ever “gets” the publishing industry. It’s changing, it’s moving. Keep on top of things, or else lose your grip.
- Read for joy. Don’t forget why you write in the first place. Allow yourself to be seduced by words every day. It’s where it all started, after all.