Overcoming Obstacles

This week I watched a talk by Laurel K. Hamilton at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference about things that make her want to stop writing and how to overcome those things.

Watch the video here.

The things that I took away from her talk were:

1. Find what only you can write: Don’t force yourself to write in a genre or style that isn’t compatible with your voice. Know where your voice lies. She says it better than my paraphrasing but the point is, I feel, that you have your own unique story and you need to figure out how to tell it in the way that is YOU, not the way you think you need to write to make sales or the way other people think you should write.

2. If it’s a priority, DO IT: don’t make excuses for yourself like “Oh I can’t write, I have to do the dishes” (I mean, the dishes are important but if writing is MORE important don’t put writing before the dishes) of “I have to stop writing and go to bed so I can be fresh for work in the morning.” I do this all the time and I need to stop because even though earning money to pay the bills is important writing is, aside from keeping my husband and my cats alive, my top priority. I need to treat it like it is, one of the most important things in my life.

3. Treat writing like it’s a job: Even thought I’m tired I go to work, even though I don’t want to work I go to work every day. It needs to be the same with writing. Even if what I think I’m writing is crap I still need to write because I wouldn’t just show up to work and say, “hey, these emails are crap, I’m going to watch YouTube for an hour or so.”

4. Failure is only complete when you give up: Self explanatory.

So some of the things that make me stop writing are:

1. My day job: when I come home I’m tired and tell myself I can’t possibly think one more coherent thought, I need to lie down and watch Netflix. This is not how you write.

2. Not understanding my goals: some people call me an organized and well put together person, I disagree because I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. Maybe I use organization to make order out of the chaos but unless I take some serious time to plan out where I want a book to go or what I want to accomplish by writing something and unless I’m absolutely certain about the direction I’m taking either nothing gets done or I am dissatisfied with the finished product.

Slowing down and really thinking about what I’m doing is very important and even though it takes time, I need to dedicate that time to the work.

3. Fear: I’m afraid I will never finish a draft. I’m afraid all my ideas will stay ideas and never become finished books. I’m afraid that when I finish a book I won’t think it’s good enough. I’m afraid that my husband won’t like it. I’m afraid my mom won’t like it. I’m afraid everybody will hate me. I’m afraid that no one will read my books and when I die all my stories and poems will disappear as if they were never written.

The thing you have to keep telling yourself is hard to do but you have to do it: writing is fun. You love writing. Don’t stop writing.

Writer’s Block: Jump Around

When you’re stuck on the beginning of your story, or stuck somewhere in the middle and you have no idea what to do or where to go, write the end. Start from the back and work your way forward.

If you have even a vague, rough idea of how you want your book to end or even if you have just a gut feeling, write it down. If you have no feelings at all, no clue whatsoever, make something up and go from there. Start at the end and work your way back. You may come up with something that will surprise you.

When you’re afraid of/reluctant to writing THE END because you think it’s not good enough or if you’re worried that your end won’t be your REAL end and you’re wasting your time, don’t think about it. Force yourself not to think about it. Or tell yourself you don’t care if you write crap.

Think about where you want your characters to end up, who you want to kill off, who you want to give the happy ending to. Then switch it up, or don’t. Do all the thought experiments. But most importantly, don’t censor yourself.

JUMP AROUND IN YOUR MANUSCRIPT.

Permission to Write

Right now I’m scared that all the words are crap and even though I’m meeting my word count goals (mostly) I’m scared they’re not going to count for anything and I won’t have anything I can use for a novel after this.

GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO WRITE CRAP.

TELL YOURSELF IT DOESN’T MATTER IF IT’S BAD NOW.

YOU CAN FIX IT LATER.

IT’S OKAY TO WRITE CRAP.

STEP 1: WRITE CRAP.

STEP 2: MAKE IT BETTER.

GO WRITE. GO WRITE CRAP.

Editing As You Write

I have a habit of opening up my draft and re-reading and editing what I’ve already written before I start writing new content. It’s not a BAD habit, sometimes I need to remind myself where I left off or remind myself of the tone I was going for but then something happens where I get bogged down and by the time I get to the end of the text I lose momentum/motivation and don’t want to write anything new.

(Writing, reading, and editing poetry is very different for me.)

And then I get upset at myself because how can I ever not want to write?

I think personally when I go back and re-read something I feel like I have to make it perfect in my head before I can move on to the next part. Because if the first part isn’t 100% right how can I write the next part? Or the next?

I write in chunks and spurts, I don’t have a routine where I write every day. But the time where I wrote the most in one chunk was when I forced myself to not edit what I wrote in my previous sessions.

It’s really hard not to, but I find the results (writing more words) more rewarding than the instant gratification of “fixing” something.

Try it some time. Don’t edit. Just open up your word doc and keep going.

My Inner Editor

My inner editor looks like me only a little older, she is future me yelling at present me for all the mistakes I will make when I start writing.

On the plus side, my inner editor knows her stuff. She knows how to catch mistakes and detach herself well enough to catch most plot holes and inconsistencies.

On the minus side, I do this to myself every day; I am constantly berating and bullying myself–my past self–for the mistakes I made. Sometimes they’re yesterday’s mistakes but mostly they’re mistakes I made YEARS ago that probably no one remembers or even cares about anymore. No one but me.

So my inner editor is a reflection of one of my worst habits, which is self-bullying.

I love writing. I love it so much I don’t care if I’m “good” or “bad” at it. I think if you love something and it gives you joy you should do it regardless of what standards the “industry,” society, or whoever else you value holds you to. So why do I constantly tell myself this isn’t good or that isn’t good or something similar? Why do I do that so much that approaching my keyboard and the blank page becomes daunting and I get no enjoyment from the thing that used to keep me going during really tough bouts of depression?

It’s irrational and it’s mean. And I’ve often found that I have been meaner to myself than anyone else has been. So why do I do that?

I think partly because I’m not mindful enough, I’d rather think about all the things I have to do and get mildly anxious about not having enough time to do all the things than actually doing all the things. Because I’m scared that when the thing is done it won’t be good.

But if the thing isn’t good I can fix it because it’s MY thing and I have that power. So why do I still behave so irrationally?

Years of doing it and I don’t know how to stop? A little nervousness and discomfort is healthy?

You can’t have happy without suffering but this is definitely unnecessary suffering.

One of the things I like about National Novel Writing Month is that the pace keeps you so busy you don’t have time to indulge in those negative thoughts. Especially if you have things to do outside of writing, like raising another human being or paying the bills.

While your inner editor is a good thing to have on hand it definitely has its place and editing/revising is different from creating content. Yes you can edit as you create and sometimes that’s the best thing to do but other times it can slow you down and discourage you. You have to find a happy medium and it’s really hard to do that sometimes because feelings and desires.

I try my best to ignore my inner editor or tell her, “Hey, that’s cool, I’ll get to it later.” And when she screams at me to do it now I slam a door in her face. I don’t know if that’s the healthiest way to cope with my self-bullying because those thoughts always come back but it’s something that works for now.

The things I try to keep telling myself when I feel like I can’t do it anymore are:

YOU WANT TO WRITE.

YOU LIKE YOUR STORY, YOU WANT TO TELL IT.

YOU ARE HAVING FUN.

IT’S GOING TO GET BETTER.

Now go write!

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Photo by Kat Nelson on Unsplash

Characters Talking

I never had imaginary friends growing up.

I had stuffed animals who I imagined were alive but they were grounded in reality and fluffiness. I never made anyone up on my own, the voice in my head was my own and very alone.

Until I decided to do nanowrimo in 2016 and I said I don’t care what I write, I’m going to write 50,000 words of prose and I don’t care what that prose is.

So, as a poet not knowing anything about writing fiction, I began to write and out of my writing came my first imaginary friends.

And the reason why I call them imaginary friends and not just characters is because as I wrote their story they started deviating from my plot and making their own decisions.

I would write a scene and hate it. I would write another scene and hate it too. And then I asked my character point blank: “What the actual fuck is wrong with you? Why aren’t you doing what I want?”

And that character talked back to me. He said, and I quote: “Becasue it’s stupid. I don’t want to do that.”

And that is how Away from my Heart of the Forest Cycle was born. He told me “no.” I asked him what he wanted to do instead. And he told me. So I wrote that. And I liked it a lot better than what I had tried to come up with.

SO the moral of this story is LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS.

If you’re stuck somewhere and slumping around writing, check to see if your characters are working with the scene or not.

Don’t force your characters to do something that they wouldn’t normally do unless you have a really good reason. Because you want your plot to go that way is not a good enough reason.

If your characters want to do something that seems completely crazy to you, let them do it. You can always cut it out later or change it if you don’t like it.

You gave your characters life by writing their stories. Let them live.

You are not losing your mind if your characters talk back to you 🙂