When I first started writing novels, I had a lot to say about writing. I was learning so much and anxious to share, so I’d write blog post after blog post of, “Ooooh, look at this new shiny trick!”
I haven’t posted much lately. It’s not because I feel like I’ve learned everything. It’s the opposite, actually. I’m starting to think I’ve learned too much.
That sounds bad. Let me explain.
I feel like Yentl:
(Now I have that song stuck in my head. Let me get it stuck in yours, too. You’re welcome. :) )
You’d think that writing the first book would be hardest. Nuh-uh. Nope. At least not for me. My first novel, Sadie, came fast because I wrote for the fun of it. Without reader expectation. Without a million rules bogging me down. Without wondering if a certain scene/character/phrase would strike people the wrong way. It was just fun. A blast, actually.
Right now I’m working on the first draft of my fourth novel (or sixth depending how you count) and struggling like crazy. It should have been finished a month ago. I had the time. I know how to do it and even plotted it completely. It’s just a matter of putting it on paper.
Why does knowledge sometimes shut us down?
Being educated is a good thing, right?
I don’t know. I mean, of course it’s good to learn and educate yourself, but sometimes…sometimes…
It’s just too much!
Does anyone else feel this way? Like the more you learn about your craft, whatever it may be, the less qualified you feel about doing it?
Enough is Enough
I love reading quotes, writing blogs, and books to help me hone in my skills. I’ve done so nearly every day for six years. But at some point, enough is enough, people. Information overload has shut down some of my writer friends to the point their scared to write an-y-thing. Heck, it’s shutting me down.
- “Is this sentence perfect enough?”
- “Is my plot structure strong enough?”
- “My timing tight enough?”
- “My characters deep enough? Witty enough?”
- “Oh, shoot, that was passive voice. Oh, no! So was that!”
- “Argh! I just found 5,000 adverbs in my book. And look at all these exclamation points!!!!”
Meanwhile, we’re thinking, “How do I write a story that will change the world?” As if that’s somehow our job. As if someone hired us to–hello–change the world???? Are we nuts?
Because we quit. We walk away. Or at the very least, we (or maybe it’s just me) get so tied up with writer’s anxiety, we end up surfing social media for hours, looking for the next bit of writing advice, because maybe that will help.
Do you know what will help? Yeah. Neither do I.
Well, that’s not entirely true. There’s something I’ve had to tell myself before. Lately, I’ve repeated the inward lecture. Daily.
And it goes something like this:
Sure, you’ve done your homework and learned every archetype, plot device, and grammar fixing wizard. So what? It’s time to set it aside and get out of your own way.
You love it, so do it.
Quit worrying about everything wrong with it. You are your own biggest critic! Quit worrying whether the next words you type will change the world. *News flash: they won’t. So have fun. Write. Kick back, put on some rockin’ awesome music, and simply write.
That’s it. No blogs. No writing helps. No scouring Pinterest for the next great bit of advice.
Just you and the keyboard.
That’s how it started anyway.
13 thoughts on “Get Out Of Your Own Way”
I write historical fiction, and for me it’s worry that I can’t move into another time period because I won’t know as much about it as I do about WWII (after writing four WWII novels). I have to remind myself that I hadn’t read so many WWII books when I started out with my first novel. And I can take as long as I want to research, so I should just go for it.
See, and it’s so easy for me to say, YES, GO FOR IT, YOU CAN DO IT! But I know if I were in your shoes I’d feel the exact same way. But still…well…go for it! You’ll have a blast becoming an expert on something new :) (Any spoilers for which time period you’re thinking about writing?)
WWI–only 30 years earlier, so it really shouldn’t be that scary, right? And I am planning to go for it. Have a few research books on my kindle now. . .
Awesome! Good luck. I’m sure it will be amazing!
Amen! I seriously think we are on the same mental track with our writing at the moment. In fact, the whole reason I’m reading blogs at the moment is because I’m getting in my own way. ;)
Seriously though, it’s sad that writing has become a daily struggle. On the good days I tell myself it doesn’t matter if no one will ever read these words. I convince myself that when I’m drafting I’m just shoveling sand and it’s supposed to be a big pile of “potential”–nothing else until I’ve gathered “enough”. However, other days I slip and look back and see that I’ve dropped plot threads, sprinkled the wip with all the “don’ts” of writing and I turn to social media too.
At least we’re not alone. At least we are still trying. If we can get out of our own way, be patient and forgiving of ourselves, we will keep moving forward. Who cares what the pace? Right?
Good luck! Oh, and I loved Yentl! Thanks for giving me a new song to sing around the house. ;)
Thanks for the laugh. Definitely same writing track. The reason I wrote this post was to avoid my WIP. Pathetic. Maybe everyone on social media is just avoiding some WIP of some kind. :) Now whenever you bump into me on twitter/facebook, you’ll know and you can give me a kind nudge (and vice versa). I appreciate what you said about pace. I think that’s part of my problem. I’m trying to finish the first draft fast because I hate first drafts, and I’m anxious to get to editing. But I’m so stressed, I’m actually going snail slow. Who cares how long it takes. I like that. (I love Yentl, too. Go Barbara!!)
You probably just captured every writer’s reflections perfectly. I know you did mine. I thought I knew so much on my first novel and that it was the most awesome piece of writing ever created. Hee hee. But then the more I write, the more I realize I have SOOO much more to learn, and I know that my writing, although it might be good, isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. Humility. It kicks a writer in the pants eventually, but I think that’s a good thing. Are my books better than when I started? Yes…and yours keep getting better too. But as our skills grow, so do our expectations and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing (as long as we keep writing). Thanks for making me smile with your fun and honest posts.
It’s so nice to hear you’ve felt the same! I think you hit it on the head, to. My expectations. It’s like I expect to be done growing as an author, as if after a few novels under my belt, I’m supposed to be “there.” Not sure how that slipped into my subconscious, but it’s something fixable. As a read, I like watching authors grow. I should be as gracious with myself. It’s good to have high expectations, as long as my goal isn’t unattainable. Thanks for your insights. Keep writing. I love your books. :)
Yes. But I think it’s all part of the crazy dance.
I feel that your article pulses with energy. And far from being discouraged, I feel energized by it.
Thanks. I hope it helps. :)
I love the moment when all of the advice and apparent rules of writing melt away and I am in a zone where there is only myself and the story. These are beautiful vistas on journey that can be cluttered with billboards announcing another rule or common mantra.
You put that so beautifully. I love those moments, too. If only I could find a way to capture them more often. :)