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  • June 1st, 2009 | 8:41 PM
Getting out of our own way

Many years I was told that I could probably have a good career in writing, under one condition. I had to get out of my own way.

20 some odd years later I'm still trying to figure out how to do that.

What do I do to block myself? I'm a big procrastinator for starters. I listen too much to other people instead of to myself. I let the fear of not being good enough outweigh the joy of writing. I worry about selling sometime instead of finishing something. I compare myself way too often to other writers or their work. Mostly I think it is a case of not believing in myself even when my friends and family continually tell me I should.

I'm older now. Wiser too I hope. I'm trying to kick all those negative thoughts to the curb.

How about you? What are your personal writing fears? What do you feel are your roadblocks to reaching your writing goals?

And more importantly, what are we going to do about it?
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 18 comments — Leave comment )
June 2nd, 2009 03:43 am (UTC)
This. Exactly. I have the same problems...even though I'm not published yet.

I continue to improve, but I still fight the fears and have periods where they bring me down.

What do you do to fight them?
June 2nd, 2009 05:09 am (UTC)
I used to eat and drink to fight them. And still I lost.

Now I am trying to build my own success team of people on my side...my own brain trust.

It's hard. It's a constant battle for people like me who have a lifetime of negative reinforcement in their heads that they have to overcome.

I keep reminding myself that the pain of not writing is stronger than all those other battles going on in my head.

I talk to friends a lot.

And then I take all that emotion that's been stirred up and I try to put it into my story.
June 2nd, 2009 04:21 am (UTC)
Oh, dear.

I worry that, as much as I've learned and am learning, it won't be enough. I worry that someday I'll wake up and feel like the writing itself wasn't enough of a reward. I worry that I don't take my writing seriously enough, don't give it the commitment it deserves.

And I think the only solution is to keep writing, keep learning, and keep re-committing! :)
June 2nd, 2009 05:12 am (UTC)
Yeah, I sometimes worry that I don't take it seriously enough. I do in my head, but not in my actions. Sigh.

More writing, more learning, more re-committing. Sounds like a good plan.
June 2nd, 2009 10:58 am (UTC)
My biggest problem stems from letting the writing out of my control. As long as I have it in my hands/on my harddrive, it is the bestest thing EVAR. Once I let go of it, it's not going to be.

Also, I'm very much of a "Judge my writing/judge me" kinda of person. And considering some of the things I write, I'm not sure that I'm able to allow people to touch the part of me.
June 3rd, 2009 07:13 am (UTC)
It's really hard to get to that safe place where we let others see that part of our writing. Have you read Pat Schneider's book, Writing Alone and With Others? She has a line in there that gets me every time - she says you can write as powerfully as you want as long as you feel safe. I know for me I had to get to a safe spot in my life before I could write Hugging the Rock.
June 2nd, 2009 11:52 am (UTC)
This is simpler than you think. I'm as insecure and self-hating as anybody, but the book is not me. I owe something to the book. I am the only one who can write it, revise it, push it to a publisher, and make decisions about its welfare. It needs me. The fact that I think it's lousy at the moment I send it out doesn't even phase me anymore - I know I'm just tired of it, and letting the old insecure stuff rear its head. I hated Switching Well when I sent it out, too, and it's been making money for me for over ten years now. If there is one thing in this world that doesn't matter, it's my feelings. If there's one thing in this world that does matter, that I can do some good with, it's the book.

I also have a shelf in my head to put the worries on. My mom has one, and she calls it Jesus. I'm an agnostic and I call it "can't change that right now." Deal with what's in front of you, and use your organizational skills to put the most productive things in front of you. Leave everything else on the shelf till you need to deal with it. It'll still be there. The book will die without attention.

June 3rd, 2009 07:20 am (UTC)
I love the idea of the shelf in your head, Peni. You know how long I have struggled with letting go of all that stupid baggage I carry around with me. Ugh. It makes me sick to think about it.

I like the idea of owing something to the book. Perhaps that will help me cut away some of the worries. I know that no one else can tell Flyboy's story. No one else knows what drives Plant Kid. I need to remember that.

June 2nd, 2009 12:36 pm (UTC)
What an excellent discussion.
Writers seem to be by nature sensitive to inner conflict and emotional pinnings. That's how we create our characters, after all, by delving into our own emotional make-up to make it real. After working very hard to earn degrees in writing to prove to the world and myself that I know what to do as a writer, and was validated when four of my projects were sold in a four book contract, I thought Now I Can Do This. But I've not been able to sell since. My first book was recently released (nine years after it sold)to very strong reviews. My second book promises to be similarly received. And I catch myself thinking, what if I can't ever sell again? What if the first time was a fluke? What if I really don't know what I'm doing? Maybe I should do something else, something I'm really good at?Whoa Nelly! The reality: the markets have changed,even as the economy struggles,editors are subjective, and I have to remind myself -- constantly -- that's not why I write, not why I worked so hard to study and master my Art. So perhaps it is Human Nature that we get in our own way, and we struggle to get out of the way. Maybe it's not a bad thing, either, because it's that determination that ultimately defines success. And success is open to interpretation. Do, or do not--there is no try (so says Yoda, who knows all).
June 3rd, 2009 07:18 am (UTC)
Re: What an excellent discussion.
I hate those thoughts of what if I never sell again. They can stop me faster than a speeding bus.

You could be right that we need some of that determination to get to the end of our projects. Maybe it is a weeding out of those who are really serious enough to continue.
June 2nd, 2009 01:11 pm (UTC)
OMG, you've been reading my mail. What especially resonates with me is your mention of negative reinforcement. It's been a lifelong battle with me, too. It's very difficult to get out of one's own way when the voices in your head keep saying, "you're not good enough." And the internet makes it harder than ever not to compare yourself to others. So I don't know.
June 3rd, 2009 07:15 am (UTC)
I'm sorry you struggle too, Jama, but we can surely support one another. Between us we can silence those voices in our heads.

I agree that the Internet makes it tough. At least once a month I think about cutting myself off from everyone because I am afraid of seeing how good they are doing and then realizing how much I fall short myself. Sigh.
June 2nd, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)
You articulated just about every one of my fears :) It took a vast amount of encouragement and constant nudging just to get me to try to write. The moment I sit down in front of the computer, the self-doubt starts in. A friend taught me to just sit down and go into a calm, meditative state before attempting any writing. Just breathe. Let all the crap settle to the bottom. Then gently, ever so gently, begin to type. It really does help.

Of course, it all comes back as soon as I stand up, but at least during those moments, I manage to get a few words on paper.
June 3rd, 2009 07:16 am (UTC)
That's terrific that you are able to go into the meditative state before writing! Can you share with me actually what you do, step by step? I have a lot of trouble calming my mind and if I could do it even for just the writing time, it would be an improvement.
June 3rd, 2009 05:45 pm (UTC)
Okay, this is what helps me :)

- Sit comfortably wherever you do your writing. If you have peaceful music, you can play that. I usually just sit in silence. As few distractions as possible.

- Close your eyes and picture a small crystal clear stream that's been roiled as though someone just walked through it. Those are all the hectic, disrupting thoughts.

- Picture those hectic thoughts gradually settling to the bottom like heavy sediment, sinking down and down until they're finally lying quiet on the bottom.

- Lean over in your thoughts and gently take a sip of the clear, calm water. Open your eyes and let the beautiful words flow out of your fingertips :)

(Deleted comment)
August 21st, 2009 02:30 pm (UTC)
I know I am WAY late in the game (seeing as this entry is from June), but I also am a big procrastinator.

My personal writing fears is that my ideas aren't good enough. For many, many, many years I told people I was going to be a writer and I believed it. A few years ago, I realized I thought everything I wrote was downright awful (to the point where I wrote the first sentence and erased it and told myself I was stupid for coming up with it). I realized that I didn't *write* so how could I possibly get a career in it? I began to search for other options and I have now realized I want to be in publishing; a way to be with books without actually writing a book! :-) At the same time, I came up with an idea, wrote a flimsy outline, went to many libraries to do research (even though its Fantasy) and have a not-even-close-to-being-done story. Now my personal writing fear has changed from "I suck" to "What if I never finish this? It will be like every story I've ever written--unfinished!"

My roadblocks to reaching my writing goals is that the fact I dramatize everything. I am a drama queen. When I think a sentence is stupid, I freak out and delete it. I don't look at my writing for days because I think its "stupid." I've thought about deleting my WIP many times (I even did delete every single piece of my writing once) because "no one would want to read it, and its stupid." I tend to listen to my over-crazy brain instead of my heart. I also tend to rely on people's opinions WAY too much. If someone tells me my writing is sloppy, I immediately erase everything and declare I'm not writing ever again. I've told myself I'm going to stop "writing" because I can never complete anything many, many times. So I suppose... My writing roadblock is myself. (Which...is sort of an issue.)

August 22nd, 2009 06:35 am (UTC)
I hear you loud and clear. I know I am my own worst enemy too. Have you read Anne Lamott's book BIRD BY BIRD? It's a really good one for dealing with these sorts of things. Also, shoot, I can't remember the exact title but it's a book by Ralph Keyes, FEAR OF WRITNG I think it's called. And then a MUST READ is ART AND FEAR by two guys whose names I can't remember at all.

All you have to do is one new sentence a night. If you do that, eventually you will form the habit that will get you wanting to do more than just one sentence.

You can do it!
( 18 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties."
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