I’ve decided to start a new blog series called “Facing It.” I don’t know how original it is or if I’m even qualified to write it, but I’ve recently felt like I need to do just what the title implies. To face it. To call out whatever it is and face it rather than avoid or downplay it. I’m sure there are also countless other blog posts that talk about writer’s block, how to overcome it or let it run its course, so this post will just highlight what I’ve learned and what I’m doing to press on.
- I am learning to recognize the difference between “procrastination” and “writer’s block.”
While I’m not sure if there’s any scientific proof out there to support this statement, I do know that I’ve crossed the line several times into one realm or another. There are days that I want and need to write but I just can’t focus on the outline or story at all. Is that called writer’s block or is that called procrastination? I think that it’s a combination of the two working together against the writer. But what ARE the differences between the two?
A. Procrastination: Twitter. Facebook. MySpace (yes, that still exists). YouTube. Smart phones. We live in a world of distractions. They’re also tools that connect writers and readers, writers and writers, and writers to potential publishers and booksellers. I feel that procrastination is a sign of doubt. Doubt in one’s ability to write or doubt in the story itself and that’s why the writer gives up. That’s how it is for me, anyway. I’ve found myself doubting my ability to write a novel, much less a series, the further in I go. That’s why I procrastinate. I just need to write the story first. That’s the only way I’ll know if I actually CAN.
B. Writer’s Block: This one is far more frustrating than procrastination because it’s something that’s harder to control. With procrastination you at least have a choice of not watching that YouTube video or not. Of going on Twitter or staying off of it. This one is harder to overcome because if you’re stuck on a decision one of your characters has to make that will affect the rest of the story then you know that you can’t move on until that’s resolved. I am challenging myself to remember that no matter how prepared I am with my research, outline, or knowing how to get from point A to B to C, writing isn’t easy. Writer’s block is just part of the process. Like researching everything….
- I am teaching myself that it’s okay to skip a day. Or two.
Of course, me being me, I chose one of the hardest genres to write: historical fiction. And when you’re writing history you better know what you’re talking about. That’s not intimidating at all! Personally, I’ve found that it’s actually healthier for me to not write for eight hours straight every single day and add some non-fiction reading into the mix. That in itself usually helps get the juices flowing again. A new event. A new date. A new person. A new map. If you can train yourself to think of what you can do to combat writer’s block, do it. Research is what I do. I sound like I should be a stuffy professor in the back stacks of a library. I’m not, but boy does that sound appealing…I digress. Whether you’re researching something new or enjoying a baseball game with the family, don’t feel guilty about not always working on your novel. A work-life balance is necessary with writing just like it is with everything else. Sometimes time away from it is just what you need. I know it’s what I need. I also need to bake cookies tonight…(is that considered procrastination or just “taking a break?”)
- I am accepting that it’s okay to have a side story or two.
This one can be a double-edged sword. You don’t want to have ten side stories you’re working on to avoid your main one. Sometimes you do need a break from the “work” and wind-down with something perhaps a bit more fun. My novel series is the challenge. My current side story is the fun. It’s where I can use “less smart” words and write what I can’t include in the story I intend for publication. The downside to it is sometimes I can write six pages of my side story and just a paragraph of the novel series. To quote Jubal Early from the Firefly series, “does that seem right to you?” Write what just what you need to get the juices flowing once more but then transfer that back to what you actually hope to get published.
- I am learning to heed advice from others and trying to not get caught up in the “fluff.”
Advise can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow especially if you are a stubborn person like I am. Especially if it comes from family. Why is it always easier to take advice from strangers on the World Wide Web (I just aged myself there) than it is from your father, your sister, even your grandmother? But there is such a thing as too much advice which can create more doubt than help. I’m learning to go back to the basics. My website is just one of thousands of blogs out there on writing. That’s a lot of noise and I admit that, while I may not really be qualified on a professional level to tell people what to do and what not to do, I’m finally finding my rhythm after over two years of research (it all circles back to research, doesn’t it?!) Advise is good. Just don’t let yourself get caught up in the fluff, especially if it doesn’t pertain to you.
Was that just advise? Whoops!
The moral of the story is this: find what works for you.
If having the latest writing program to help you organize your thoughts is what you need, use it.
If working on an amazing old, well-maintained typewriter is what inspires you, use it.
If you have a favorite author’s blog you follow for tips and tricks of the trade, use it.
If you doubt yourself and your abilities and your story, face it and seek people out who you can trust to help you along your way.
Without facing whatever it is that’s holding you back from getting it done, giving up may look more appealing than actually becoming published. It’s a long and hard process. To paraphrase my uncle’s own advise, write the story. That’s really all you’re doing with the first draft. Telling yourself the story. To emphasize what other writers before me have said: the first draft is always crap.
Everything else can come later.