Tag Archives: Novels

Defeating the Brain

So, writing and your brain. Your brain is, arguably, the biggest asset to assist telling and crafting your stories. It also, not surprisingly, is your biggest enemy. One that I’ve been battling–and losing to–for the past six, seven months. There are three main areas, I think, where my brain has created mindsets and thoughts detrimental to my writing game, to the point where I easily went weeks without writing at all.

I’m writing this post to remind myself how to fight back.

Mindset One: Writing is Work

I mean, yes. I know there is a stigma that writing is easy or maybe even a waste of time, but both of those are absolute lies. Writing takes a lot of work. Sure, it could be defined as simple: put words together until they form coherent sentences that tell a story. But there is a lot of finessing involved. There are a lot of drafts, returning to and reworking what was previously written. And, personally, I think the fact that you have to constantly battle your own head–and that battle usually doesn’t stop even after you’re published and doing well–makes it one of the hardest jobs of all. So, yeah, writing is work. Writing takes work. But what I’ve been struggling with is treating writing like work.

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Hold a moment, lemme explain.

I recently started editing ARTEMIS again. Last week, I opened up my latest draft, scrolled down to the chapter I last left off on with every intention of working on it again. But then I realized that chapter needed a lot of work. It was filled with repetition of ideas and information that needed to be resorted, cut and most likely reworded. There wasn’t enough detail to truly put the reader in-scene and I needed to figure out what the point of that chapter was, really. Knowing all of that needed to happen after reading just the opening line of the scene, I actually closed the draft and decided to work on it the next day. I just wasn’t in the mood to try and figure that shit out. In that moment, I was viewing writing as work.

Let’s look at that scenario from a different angle, for a moment.

Those issues still exist in that chapter. But instead of looking at it as, “Shit, I need to ground readers in-scene and add in all of this description,” how about: “Alright, let’s see how interesting I can describe this room layout. What do I see? What do readers need to see? How is it important? What does it tell? Let’s put all that into words as beautifully as I know how.” Okay, let’s try again. “Wow, this chapter just told me X three different ways in three different paragraphs over five pages. This chapter is everywhere, without any focus. I’m going to have to rewrite the entire thing.” Instead: “How about I make an outline of what this chapter needs to convey and then figure out how Artemis would logically tell it. Let’s make some beats and rework the info that way. Oh, and don’t forget to incorporate his humor. It’s one of your favorite aspects of his character.”

The work hasn’t vanished. The work still definitely needs to be done. But when I think of it as work, I’m definitely not as eager to complete it, sometimes to the point that I choose not to do it at all (a luxury I have considering my writing doesn’t pay the bills yet). Yet when I think of it as an opportunity, as a challenge, to improve my writing to another degree, to push myself that much further, to give this story everything it deserves and more; I’m not only more eager to work on it (most of the time), but I also enjoy it.

Last night, I finally returned to that chapter. At first, I reread that opening line and I just wanted to pull up another tab and start browsing through social media. I didn’t want to put in that work. But I just forced myself to keep reading, thinking in the back of my head, How can you make this better? And how can you have fun while doing it? I ended up not only “finishing” editing that entire chapter, but I also wrote for almost two hours–a lot longer than the planned 30 minutes I wanted to edit.

It’s a simple change in mindset, a simple change in how I view the work I’m doing. But it’s a trick that actually helps overcome this pesky brain of mine.

Mindset Two: Editing Doesn’t Count

This is stupid.

So I’ve had a writing drought recently. And though the past two weeks, I’ve slowly been getting back into the swing of things by editing ARTEMIS, my brain will sometimes whisper that I’m still fully stuck in my rut, because I’m not writing anything new. Editing something I’ve already written doesn’t count.

Again: stupid.

Of course editing counts. Hell, I often find myself working harder when I’m on draft two or three of something than when I was just spitting out nonsense the first time. I don’t have any tricks to crush this idea (it’s been rather persistent, of late), except to remind myself that it’s ridiculous. I’m putting words to paper. I’m strengthening the foundation I laid months ago. I’m rewriting, adding new scenes, cutting, re-envisioning…yeah, it bloody counts as writing.

Mindset Three: Fear and Doubt

This one is as infuriating as it is constant and confusing. I’ve always had fears when it comes to my writing: wondering if it’s good enough, if my stories are worthy to tell, if they are unique, if they’d ever sell. I fear getting publishing and reading reviews claiming my writing is shit, my characters are boring or my plot is trash. I fear offending/misrepresenting people/ideas unintentionally with what I write or what my characters do/believe. I fear never getting published.

And then there are the doubts.

I doubt the quality of my work. I doubt my ability to tell stories. I doubt that any of my ideas are original. I doubt my ability, my craft, my execution, my effort, my drive, my heart, my characters, my plots, my worlds, my voice…myself.

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Pair fear and doubt together and that equates to a lot of time doing anything but writing. Ironically, it’s easy for me to bury my biggest fear underneath all aforementioned: giving up and never writing again.

Honestly, I think I need to focus on that fear a bit more. Because it is real and it is fierce, even if I hide it underneath all of these other fears and doubts that plague me more often they should. Yet how can I ignore that fear and risk it coming true just because I doubt myself sometimes? Just because I am afraid I won’t live up to my own standards of storytelling, my own expectations of myself; afraid of a negative review (which will always happen, no matter how fantastic a story I write), afraid of rejection or hell, afraid I won’t ever be published at all?

Here’s the thing about writing and being a writer. I’ll always have stories to tell. If I run out, I’ll always find things to draw inspiration from. If I mess up one book, I will always have another chance to do better. If I perfect a book, I’ll still have a chance–and an expectation–to improve. Failure and hiccups are inevitable. Yet how many characters have I read, let alone written, who have been faced with impossible odds and make a dozen mistakes–sometimes even failed drastically–only to come out victorious in the end? No matter how many times their brains told them it was impossible, they pushed forward.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Push forward and write stories, no matter how many times or how many ways my brain tries to convince me to do to otherwise.

Cheers.


Harsh Personal Truths

Months have passed since I began questioning my identity–and my claim–as a writer. Since November, I’ve struggled to write anything, which has hit me harder than it ever has before. Back when I really started writing more consistently (and tentatively say seriously), I’d still always go months without writing anything, before picking a project back up or starting something new.  And it never really bothered me. I never questioned whether I was a writer or not. I got busy. Life got in the way. I was in school, which got harder and busier with every passing year. Not writing for months just made sense.

Then, last year, I wrote four books.

I’ve never been so productive writing in my life. And it felt amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more whole, when writing was my norm, something that I structured everything else around; the main aspect in my life that took precedence. I think that’s why these past few months struggling to write, hating what I’ve written when I do, or–the worse of it–choosing not to write at all out of fear, have been so difficult to me; so difficult, in fact, that I’ve begun to feel false when I claim to be a writer.

How can I be a writer if I’m not writing?

Sure, I’ve written books. Half a dozen of them. Sure, I have ideas for more and plans to write them. Sure, I’m part of a short story blog and have been writing those, but short stories have never been my medium. Novels are. So can I still call myself a writer if I allow months to go by and not work on what I’m most passionate about? If I give into fear? If I choose to do other things instead of write?

I’m not sure.

I know everyone will have their own opinion on this. And if you’ve been in a writing rut like me, I don’t want you to think my judgments I’m placing on myself should also be placed onto you. Each of us has our own definition and parameters as to what qualifies us to be labeled writers. And I’m discovering, lately, that for me personally, when I’m not writing, I feel like a fraud based on my own definition. A writer writes. Period. Maybe not every day–I will never deny the power that life has and its uncanny ability to get in the way. But they try. Oh, do they try. Certainly much more than I have these past few months.

I’ve also discovered I hate feeling like a fraud–especially when it’s associated with the aspect of my identity that I feel is most truly me.

Luckily, I also know how to fix that: by writing.

Currently, I’m about to undergo the first round of edits over ARTEMIS SMITH AND THE VIRTUOUS MARRIAGE QUEST. And I certainly count editing as writing. I’m excited about these edits. But ever since I started planning out these edits–almost a month ago–that fear, that sense of falsehood, that disconnect between my identity and my actions, has still lingered. Even now, as I finish this post, with every intention to go and work on revamping my first chapter after I finish this, m heart is filled with fear. Fear of what? I’m not truly sure. But I do know that I loathe that feeling. And I miss the elation of writing. I miss the dedication I had. I miss creating worlds that I fall in love with and characters that become true friends. I miss stumbling upon narratives that I never planned in my outline, yet excite me more than anything I could have ever plotted. I miss storytelling. I miss the details, the environments. I miss challenging myself. I miss how dark my stories become, threaded with gore and littered with tombstones–just as much as I miss how they are always glistening with stubborn hope and positivity, despite the darkness.

So, please excuse me as I go search for that elation once more. Because I’m a writer, dammit. And writers write, despite.

Cheers.