Tag Archives: Writer’s Block

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.

Image result for writing is hard

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.

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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.


Interweaving Narratives

Two Fridays ago, I posted my second story on our Muses blog. I…was actually really proud of it. The first story, I was excited how it turned out, but the entire day before I posted it, I was so nervous. I kept telling myself how shit it was, how no one was going to like it and I would be letting my fellow Muses down by writing something so unreadable. Yet with this story–with The Beginning to the End of the World–I was counting down the days to post it. I was so excited to share this story with the world, because I just had so much fun writing it and I was so proud to write something, once again, completely out of my normal realm.

Yet it didn’t start out that way.

When February’s prompt was first introduced, I was really excited about it. I loved all the possibilities and there was so much promise. I was eager to start writing the story and see what ways I could challenge myself. I knew off the bat that I didn’t want to write a contemporary setting, but something fantastic.

Yet I didn’t get much farther than that.

Days passed and I had adopted a new mantra, a new roadblock that was stopping everything else from moving forward. It haunted me while I slept, when I was showering, at the gym, during meals. Over and over, I would whisper and repeat my conundrum, sometimes dripping with frustration, other times, choked out as a begging plea.

Why can’t we dig here?

I had a setting. I knew my protagonist was male and snarky as hell, with questionable morals and teeter-tottering levels of sympathy and hatred from the readers (or, at least, that was the goal). I heard him, one night, while showering. So clearly in my head, he told me about the Inn he caused to burn down and the bastard he had begotten, yet wanted no association with. Later, I even woke up in the middle of the night, desperately snatched my notebook out of my bag and wrote out the first paragraph in the dark, my protagonist spoke so distinctly to me. Yet I could never shake the main issue. I could never answer my question.

Why can’t we dig here? 

A week and a half before my story was due to be posted, I made an impromptu visit home to pick up a few things. My Mom was working late and my brother was at a basketball game, so my Dad was the only one home. We don’t get a lot of 1-on-1 time and I had surprised him, so he wasn’t expecting it. We made some leftovers for dinner, went downstairs and turned on some Family Feud while we discussed college basketball and the weather. I’m still not sure how, but somehow, I weaved my struggle surrounding my short story into the conversation and explained everything to him.

And, without a moment’s hesitation, he looked at me and said, “You know what would be really cool?” before proceeding to speak for the next five minutes about hidden trees of opposing wills and the accidental uncovering of the Tree of Darkness, setting off the quest to find the Tree of Light. As he kept talking, it was like my protagonist was alerting every possible siren inside my head, shouting, “That is why we can’t dig here!”

I went home and wrote the entire story the next day.

I’m sure I could wrap up this blog post now and it would feel properly closed; a struggling writer finds inspiration by bouncing ideas off another soul and, by doing so, writes a story she actually loves and makes her deadline. Sounds like a complete arc to me.

Except this is so much more than that.

I’m very lucky to have a great relationship with both my parents; with my entire family, actually. My Dad is one of my greatest role models and utmost inspirations. Yet we haven’t always been the closest. Nothing to do with bad blood or anything of that sort–far from it. It’s just I tend to talk with my Mom more than my Dad when I visit home. In the past month, however, my Dad and I have been hanging out and talking more and more. And after he gave me the missing link to my story, I surprised him and mailed him a copy of it, after it was edited. Due to his non-existent online presence, he doesn’t read any of my blogs or see any of my work; not because he isn’t interested, he simply doesn’t have access to it. A few days later, he texted me and told me that he’d read my story and he thought it was awesome; really enjoyed the ending and the only drawback was that he couldn’t help reading it in my voice–which, if you read the story, you’ll know that my narrator’s tone is definitely not akin to mine. He then proceeded to let his entire crew read it, who also messaged me throughout the next week with fantastic feedback and support.

And we haven’t even reached the end of this arc, yet.

This past weekend, I went home to watch hoops with Dad. On our way to the grocery store to pick up some dinner, without prompting, he turned to me and asked, “So what’s this month’s prompt? Need help coming up with an idea?”

I’ve always believed in the power of words, in the awesome power that writing has. Yet to experience it firsthand…especially from my work, in such a personal way? Sometimes, I forget how real life narratives can be affected by the stories we write, read and tell. And in this case, where my writing became a springboard to help strengthen my Dad and I’s relationship?

Talk about fantastic.

Cheers


Breaking the Chains

I am pumped.

Couldn’t tell with the use of that period, could you? Considering that I overuse the exclamation point in every day life (thankfully, I don’t in my actual writing), the use of the period here is actually quite poignant of how pumped I am right now. Why am I so stoked? Because I am breaking the chains that I’ve enslaved myself with and I am excited. I am eager.

I am back.

You see, ever since November, when I started a new book called BLOOD PRICE, what started out as a strong attempt to write book number six turned into a drought lasting almost three months; a drought inspired by fear, doubt, confusion and laziness. Fear in what was (is) happening in the world and fear of how that impacts not only myself, but those I love and those who undeservedly are being targeted and affected the most. Doubt in myself, in the stories I’m telling, in my ability to tell stories. Confusion in where BLOOD PRICE was going and where it was meant to go–and fear that I was telling the wrong version of the story or, even sometimes, a fear that I was writing too true of a version, and the response to either option. The natural laziness that happens during the holidays and the winter season paired with the laziness used as an excuse to not confront those doubts, fears and confusion. These emotions have dragged on and, though I’ve written two short stories and jotted down a handful of notes pertaining to book ideas, I’ve written nothing. I haven’t worked towards anything.

It got to the point where I was considering tabling BLOOD PRICE altogether, to work on something else. The excitement for the story had obviously passed and I was running into more roadblocks than I was solutions. I have other stories I want to tell. I could work on one of those, get back into the groove of things, and return to BLOOD PRICE when I got my mojo back.

That’s not a bad plan. That’s not a bad thing, at all. Tabling, though I’ve always unjustly paired it with a bad taste in my mouth, can be very beneficial and very needed. Yet when I thought about the stories I wanted to tell, the ones that I am currently excited and jazzed to write about, the same emotions still lingered and no words were getting written on the page. Suddenly, hopelessness was creeping in; hopelessness that I would never break out of these chains I’ve placed upon myself.

And then I had an idea.

I didn’t want to table BLOOD PRICE. Not really. Yet the idea of trying to pick back up on page 70, where I’d left off, and come up with where to go next is exactly the thing that has kept me from even opening up the Word document and attempting it in the first place.

So why couldn’t I start over?

And here’s where the excitement comes in.

I know what you’re thinking: starting over? How could that prospect possibly ignite so much excitement? You’re moving backwards. Usually, I’d be right there with you, but as soon as the idea took hold and I felt the excitement building, I knew I figured out a solution, a way back into my craft. I’d make an outline. A proper outline that I skipped making before NaNoWriMo. I’d figure out what was going on, where the story was heading, what happens at the end. And then, once I had my headway, I’d pull up my current draft of BLOOD PRICE. I’m not deleting what I’ve already written. Instead, I’m going back in, editing to fit the new outline and then, once I get to page 70, I’ll be so tired of fixing that and changing this that I’ll be dying to write down something new.

And so the story will continue.

Perhaps this seems like a silly method or an impossible solution for overcoming my demons and escaping my fears. Yet I just spent the last 20 minutes finishing the outline and, in doing so, I fell in love with the story again. I fell in love with the characters that answered, this time, when I spoke to them and asked them what happened next. I got excited about how much I’m playing with the environment, how different this is structurally from anything else I’ve written and how powerful Natanni is–my first female protagonist (how it took me six books to get to a female protag, I have no bloody clue). Though it is going to be a lot of work and deleting to fix what I’ve already written to include the necessary scenes and aspects now required to make this story what it needs to be, it’s work I’m willing to do; work I’m excited to do. When you’re coming from a place where you felt suffocated because you couldn’t remember how to breathe and suddenly, you not only inhale, but exhale as well?

Yeah, I think pumped is actually an understatement.

Cheers.


The Point of Trying

Writing has been hard, lately. Admitting that and looking introspectively at the reasons why has been even harder. There is no doubt that I’m a writer. I still don’t doubt that writing is something innate within me, like a predator’s instinct or a person’s ability to breathe without thinking about it. But in the past month, the doubts have overtaken me once more, and, regrettably, painfully, proven stronger.

Sure, you love writing, but is that enough? Are your stories even worth telling? Who would care to read them? How could your words matter? You’ll probably offend everyone, anyway, with what you write, even without meaning to, even when all you want to do is write enjoyable, complex stories for readers to enjoy, no alternate agenda attached. You’d have to get published, of course, for anyone to even pick apart your work. But how could that even happen? You still have so much work ahead of you. You aren’t as far along as you thought. Querying is a dream now, instead of something to write on next week’s To-Do list. Sure, you love your stories, but is that enough? Are you enough? 

All writers–all artists, I’d argue–deal with this cruel Devil, this self-sabotaging doubt, just as we all are blessed to interact with the inspiring Muses. Unfortunately, the Devil probably shows up more often and is much more counteractive. And usually, I can push past it. Usually, I can ignore it and write anyway. I’m just too stubborn to do anything else and my characters, bless them, usually won’t shut up, so I can’t avoid writing even if I wanted to.

Usually.

But this past month has been…rough, to put things gently. Depression has weaseled itself back into my life, nowhere near the power it once held over me, but still with a surprising strength. Stress is a constant companion. Fear has been prevalent. My emotions have been everywhere and tears have been free flowing. I’m just now getting back into other things I’m passionate about, instead of sleeping too much and struggling to get out of bed: reading, writing on both blogs, freelance editing and working on my internship. I’m slowly battling, every day.

But I haven’t been writing.

Worse, I haven’t even been trying.

I tell myself I need to write. It’s NaNoWriMo, after all. And that was such a transformative experience, last year, opening my eyes to how powerful creating a writing habit could be and how possible writing every day actually was, if I gave myself permission to do so. Hell, I’ve written three books in less than a year thanks to NaNoWriMo. And I honestly have the time to do so. I may be busy, but I’m actually very lucky to not be lacking in time, which is usually one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. And that freedom of time has an expiration date as my search for a second job comes closer and closer to reality. Yet I don’t even try. I don’t even open that Word document. I find other things to preoccupy my time, come up with excuses, anything to not think about the fact that I’m avoiding writing head-on. Yet I am. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing, because I’ve been afraid.

But afraid of what?

Of failing? I’ve failed thousands of times in my life but I’m still here and I’m not bloody done yet. Afraid of not being good enough? A falsity I have believed about myself in numerous aspects for too long, but something I’ve never believed, truly, when it comes to my writing, no matter how many times doubt and cruel mindtricks try to convince me otherwise. I’m damn well not about to start now, not when I’m making slow strides to believe I’m good enough in every aspect. Afraid of never getting published? Is that truly the end goal? Sure, I’d love to be well-loved and well-known author, but is it really failure if I don’t get published? Not even remotely. I write because I must, not for a paycheck. And even when–if–paychecks become involved, that isn’t the main motivation. It never was. It shouldn’t be now or ever. Afraid of writing something poorly or ill-received? You can’t edit a blank page and just because someone hates your work doesn’t mean that someone else might not only love it, but need it.

What am I truly afraid of?

Nothing. Everything. The answer changes, depending on the day and the mood and the circumstance. But the scariest idea, at this moment, is that I’ve been avoiding what I love most because of so many fears and other emotions and other aspects of my life have bled into my belief in my own writing,  tainting it and corrupting it until I scared myself away from even attempting to write at all.

I’m not certain about many things, but I am certain about the obvious: no matter what fears I have or what dreams I have, none of them matter if I don’t try. Without trying, my fears have won out, even if some of them are avoided from being experienced by not working towards what I want. Without trying, my dreams are impossible to achieve. I am the greatest advocate of my own work. I am the greatest chance my dreams have at becoming reality. I am the sole breath that creates life in my stories. I am their only hope.

The only thing that is stopping me, at this moment, is myself.

So eff-it. Eff the mind games, eff the doubt, eff the depression, eff the loneliness, eff the fears, eff the stress, eff the struggles, eff the darkness in the world, eff everything. I have stories to tell. And I’m tired of letting all of these elements, all of these emotions, dictate whether or not I should tell them. I’m tired of giving into my own demons and succumbing to my own fears. I’m taking care of myself. I’m pushing forward and I’m becoming stronger, despite what life throws at me. But the best way to take care of myself is to stop denying, stop hiding, stop avoiding and stop fearing what makes me whole and what makes me, me: the stories I have to tell and my ability to write them.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a NaNoWriMo project that’s sitting at 12,000 words that deserves my attention and my belief. And you probably have a dream that deserves your attention right now, too.

Cheers.


Drought: A Writer’s Fears

I have been wanting a good,  solid thunderstorm for a long time now and we still haven’t had one. It makes me sad, especially as one is called for at least once a week, yet it never happens. Yet it doesn’t make me as sad as the fact that I’ve been going through a writing drought, as well, for a number of reasons. I hadn’t really realized what those reasons were, but I think I’ve started to figure it out.

I wrote at work and started to rely on that time to be my only writing time. I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to write during my shifts, so why not capitalize on that? Yet when I have other things come up for work, obviously, that takes priority and recently, work has been more demanding, so writing has occurred less. Not to mention the fact that I’m starting to get to know my staff more, so I talk with them more throughout my shifts than earlier on, when I was too timid to say hello to my own staff. (I know, definite facepalm moment there).

I also finally caved and bought The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt for PS4 and even though I haven’t been playing it constantly, that is definitely a factor (because I definitely want to be playing it constantly). And I’m trying to take my dog on daily 30-40 minute walks. And I’m in the middle of editing two other novels for two friends. And searching for a full-time job. Plus other things like showering, eating, getting ready for work, commuting to work and sleeping are mixed in (and with the sleeping bit, that usually involves sleeping in too late). Not to mention other projects and things I have going on that bite into time throughout the day.

Bring everything together and a week has passed and I haven’t worked on my latest novel at all. Yet thinking about writing this post and I knew all of those elements combined weren’t the main reason why I hadn’t been writing much lately.

I’m scared.

Many of you know, I have a trilogy already written. And this novel is completely different from that trilogy. I’m roughly adapting it from a full-length screenplay I wrote my senior year of undergrad–though much has changed and evolved since the screenplay, which, once everything is said and done, I’ll have to go back and revise that, based on what has changed in the novel. And the changes are improvements, from character personalities to more logical connections to twists that make me smile and will make guts clench. Plus, though I’m not sure if it has enough meat to expand to a trilogy, it definitely has the promise to have a sequel, and my brain is slowly discovering what that entails. And that excites me.

I talk about all this just to reiterate that is novel isn’t my first novel. It isn’t my debut (though I’m still unpublished, so it could potentially be). I’ve completed three full draft novels. I’ve improved with each one and believe that as I continue to write (and I don’t see myself lacking material or ideas for a very long time, as my list of ideas to be written is much longer that what I’ve already written). Yet writing that first trilogy, I carried a mindset of naiveté that I obviously didn’t realize I had until looking back and being more informed. That naiveté surrounded the publishing industry. I had no idea how many words a fantasy novel should reach or not go past, so when I finished my first draft of my first novel at roughly 120k (and it has only grown since), I didn’t realize that could be an immediate turn-off for agents towards an amateur writer. I was just stoked I wrote a novel that was over 200 single-spaced pages and actually finished it. I wasn’t familiar with the terminology (I always called my books novels, not manuscripts) or the ins and outs of the business. And I’m no expert now. But I’m more informed. I’m more aware.

And I think that’s hurting me.

Instead of getting lost in the story, the word count expectations are sitting in the back of my mind. The closer I get to the end (and I’m closer to the end than I realized), the more I’m thinking, You need a higher word count. What does that mean about the strength of your story, the strength of your plot? Of course I don’t think, Hey, you might be becoming better at being more precise. Of course I lean towards the negative instead of the positive. Something I need to work on. Or I’m thinking about how I’m going to query instead of trying to tune into my characters and what they are dealing with. Instead of getting stoked about writing and enjoying it, I’m getting nervous that it isn’t publishable because of X or Y or Z.

This was a shitty realization, mostly because I’m bummed that I let myself becoming mentally affected by this. It also made me take a step back and ask myself: Why am I writing in the first place? Am I writing solely to get published? Am I writing so I can make a living as a writer without another source of income? Am I writing to impress all the agents I stalk on Twitter? Sure, some of these elements are incorporated into my dream of being published. Because yes, at the end of the day, I do want to be published. I would love to be successful enough as a writer that I wouldn’t have to work another job, so I could focus more on writing and do the fun things related to it, like traveling to conferences and meeting fans or playing video games and claiming that is research for my next novel. But is that the main reason that I write?

No, it bloody hell is not.

The main reason I write is because that’s the core of my being. These stories are in my head and I write them to stay sane. I write them because I love doing it. I write them because they are stories that deserve to be told. Do I want them to be read? Of course. Would I love to be published so that could happen? Definitely. But letting the fears that it won’t ever be publish hinder me from writing it down in the first place isn’t okay, no matter how valid some of those fears might be. Why? Because that’s what editing is for. But my favorite mantra is, “You can’t edit a blank page.” And I shouldn’t worry about those potential problems when the first draft isn’t even fully written yet, because even if those problems do exist, I can fix them later. But I need to write. And I’m tired of my self-conscious trying to stop me.

So, I’m going to end this here and see if I can get a solid thousand words in during the last hour of my work shift. Take that, drought.

Cheers.


One of the Prices of Writing

I’m taking two writing-based classes this semester: Fiction Writing II And Screenwriting II. Both of them obviously deal with writing your own creative work and letting your classmates read it. For Fiction Writing, I’ve turned in one short story out of two. It wasn’t my best work, but it wasn’t my worst, either, and in my critique, the comments and discussion reflected that, I thought. And afterwards, as I naturally do after critiques, I began questioning myself as a writer: am I truly cut out for this? Am I good enough? Good enough not even meaning am I “talented” enough to write, but am I dedicated enough? And, more importantly, can I separate myself as creator from my work and not only look at it objectively so I can edit it, but can I learn to accept criticism and not take it as someone trying to stab and destroy my child (for some of my works, it doesn’t feel so personal, but for the trilogy I have been working on for over three years, that I definitely have a great attachment towards it)?

I have these questions often, especially as no matter what work I am turning in — whether I have been working on a concept and developing it for months or wrote a quick story in a manner of a couple hours and a few simple revisions — I always get so nervous about people critiquing it and judging it, because I want people to enjoy my work. I want them to enjoy reading my stories and want to continue reading. In my dreams of being an author, that fear of people not liking my work is going to be realized heavily once I’m published. After getting published, if you get to a big enough scale, you are basically offering your work on a silver platter to the world and asking them to give their opinion about it. Which, through social media, blogs, Tumblr and various other forms and outlets, they definitely will, both positive and negative. And since I take critiques so personal, I have often asked myself if I can truly handle the profession I want to pursue, because that’s going to be intense.

This fear of judgement and failing to please my audience has actually given me writer’s block the past week and half in my Screenwriting class. I’m working on a 60 page screenplay that, as of two weeks ago, I was on page 11 of, and had been critiqued twice over. It’s an idea that I plan to flesh out into a full-length film — 120 or so pages — and I have thought out enough that that is totally possible, even though only 60 is due for the class. And it is an idea that, although I had only toyed with the bare threads of it prior, I would actually love to finish and one day adapt into a novel. So while I’m not as connected as I am with my Destiny of the Dragons trilogy, I am still invested. And we go through critiques a lot more often than we do in my Fiction Writing class. There, it is roughly once or twice a semester. In Screenwriting, I am critiqued each time I post an update, which could be once a week.

So, last week, my goal was to write the next scene or the next 10 pages, roughly. I wrote three or four pages and then just stopped, mid-scene. I couldn’t get over the fact that my classmates were going to read it the next day and I had absolutely convinced myself that they weren’t going to like it. So I stopped writing it and didn’t turn in anything the next day for class. By that Thursday, I still hadn’t written more and definitely wasn’t going to post the few pages I had. I hadn’t even glanced at it. Fast-forward to this week. I had finishing that scene on my To-Do list, but I was still hesitant to work on it. Then, class on Tuesday gets cancelled. I was elated. Another class saved from being critiqued. Now, it’s Wednesday night. I have class tomorrow.

I also have 20 pages of my screenplay completed.

After finishing a novel for my Science Fiction class (yeah, I know, my schedule is pretty bomb this semester), it was only 10pm. I don’t have to go to bed until midnight, so that’s still two hours I needed to fill up, especially as I told myself I was not playing PS3 tonight. I have some Western Civilization homework to complete, but that isn’t due until Sunday, so I couldn’t justify working on that when Screenwriting is tomorrow. However, that nagging doubt was still lingering in the back of my head. But, I also had this itch inside of me. I needed to write. I hadn’t written all week and most of last week. I needed to write.

So I grabbed my headphones, opened up YouTube to listen to my latest addiction (in case you were curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZy8L-CnSGQ) and opened up my screenplay. And I wrote. I reread what I had previously written, tweaked a few things and finished the scene. Thirty minutes later, I had added nine more pages. My goal was completed. And it felt great.

And, craziest part of it all? Those three pages I had written last week? They were pretty good. They weren’t brilliant, by any means, but they weren’t the horrid pieces of shit that I had convinced myself they were. The scene projected the story, introduced a new (but very minor) character, and now my protagonist is on his way to the scene that will transport him into the first real action of the story. I like the character development and the world is still mysterious to everyone but me, including my readers and protagonist, which has a coyness that is definitely my style. Things are coming together, slowly but surely.

So, in Fiction Writing this week, we got our grades back on our first stories. My professor ranted for a good 10 minutes about how poor the quality was of our stories: how grammar was lacking, there seemed to be no interest in what was being written, no respect for what we were writing and turning in. She gave more C- and C+’s than she has ever gave. The knot in my stomach was tight. This was not the message I needed to hear as I was already in a state of questioning my ability to make it as a writer. And then, she starts off, “Nicole’s story, for example…”

Here we go.

First, she says she is picking on my story because she enjoyed reading it. Okay, that’s a plus. And then she goes on to say that it needs character development. It needs to be more than an idea driven story, as I had confessed it had been a week earlier during my critique. It needed to be character driven. But, she also said that it had potential and that with work, if I looked at the right markets, it was a publishable short story. I could make it work. So not only did my professor — a published, successful, award-winning fantasy author (the same general genre I want to write in) — said she enjoyed reading my story, she also said she could see it getting published. And, I got a B+ on it. That was awesome.

Another thing she mentioned that class was that you can tell you’re meant to be a writer by one thing: there are people in the world with the talent to write and there are people who don’t have it. There are people who have the drive to write and the dedication to do so and some that don’t. But what makes a person a writer, and those who can be successful with careers as writers, is that they can’t go through life without writing. They may not only write as a career, they may become best-sellers, but no matter what, they are writing, because they can’t live without doing so.

That’s how I know I’m a writer. I haven’t gotten into the habit of writing everyday and that sometimes has me question whether or not I’m a writer. I haven’t worked on my novels in a couple weeks, at least. But, I’ve written blogs. I’ve written book reviews. I’ve written in two different journals. I’ve written letters. I’ve written short stories, completed short writing exercises and worked on a screenplay. Just because I’m not working on my main project every day doesn’t mean that I’m not a writer. Just because I get attached to my work and am nervous about every critique doesn’t mean I’m not a writer. Just because I get writer’s block sometimes and have to power through that doesn’t mean I’m not meant to be a writer.

I’m a writer because I can’t imagine my life without that component in it, and in it heavily. A lot of my time is spent writing, regardless of what type of writing that is. And I am happiest when I am writing. I feel whole when I write. And it is that feeling that puts pushes the other doubts away. Do I have room to grow? Absolutely. Do I have a lot of work to do? Most definitely. Will I continue to question whether or not this is the right path for me? Occasionally, yes, the doubt will return.

But will I ever stop writing?

I think you know the answer to that.

Cheers,

Nicole