Friday, June 5, 2009

Not writing? Don't feel guilty!

How are we all doing today? I've been a bit bossy this week, trying to get you guys back in line. The reason I did this is because I've been there, full of avoidance and doubt, and will probably be there again. Discipline is one of the key elements in getting your book finished - or started, for that matter, so I nagged you about why you weren't writing, commented on your unwarranted fears, and generally offered my personal suggestions on how to get beyond that. Today I just want to finish up with that old demon, guilt.

In the ideal world, you should be writing, and you shouldn't be suffering from any sort of fear about it, either, because this is what you want, the thing you believe you were born to do, isn't it? But, sometimes, much as you wish you could change things, you just don't want to write, and then the guilt takes over, and you feel even worse. Double whammy. You're not a real writer, you conclude, although you've spent most of your life telling yourself you are.

I've felt this way a couple of times in my life, and I didn't write for years! That would have been okay if I'd enjoyed the down-time, but I didn't, because I constantly felt bad about my two unpublished books, the other unfinished novel, and over my abandonment of what is, truly, a very special aspiration.

It's useless to be reminded that you need to get in front of that computer and just do it, work through blocks, overcome slowdowns, when you're feeling this awful. Sometimes, whatever uplifting things you read, whatever self-help program you watch, it just makes you more cynical.

After all, you're not as good as those other writers churning out thousands of words a week, and you're not as dedicated as those happy writers who say they can't wait to get to their revisions each day, are you? Obviously you've been leading yourself on, because a real writer wouldn't just turn away from their creations, would they? You keep hearing about passion, but suddenly you don't have any.

And so you read other people's blogs, vaguely hoping they'll help. They all seem gleefully dedicated to congratulating one another on their huge productivity. She's finished her 95,000 words, you read. She's already queried 15 agents, and he's just reponded to requests for two Partials AND a Full! One of your favorites - you've commented there many times - has just announced she's about finished with revising her second novel. You've been following her since she finished her first...

Oh, please, enough with the self pity.

Here's where I confuse you by appearing to disregard my Monday post. If your writing is going badly, for whatever reason - sickness, family or money problems, hormonal imbalances - it's okay to put it aside. Get away from it completely, for as long as it takes, but do it with intention, with understanding of why you must. State to yourself and the world, "I must take a break from the writing." And then go ahead and do something entirely different and DO NOT FEEL GUILTY. Think of this as your time to refuel.

You will be back. The ideas will flow again, the plot will resolve itself, and your characters will finally behave, because you've been here before and you know things always turn around. So stop beating yourself up.

Buy a bunch of top notch books and drown yourself in them. Try not to read them as a writer, but just enjoy them. They don't all have to be new books, because sometimes that can be a downer, seeing the shiny new cover, the crisp, fresh pages, especially if the jacket blurb mentions "...this block-buster first novel..." Used books are good for getting away from what's hot now (and which may not be hot by the time you're ready to publish, by the way), and cheap, and will still keep the economy flowing on a tiny scale. (I often buy books at my library, where they regularly sell off their unwanted ones to make space for the new.)

So take the summer off, if you like. Read every chance you get. Relax with the thought that you'll be rearing to go by the fall. All that reading is going to get you itching to get back to it. While you're relaxing, between reads, your next book is also percolating away in your brain recesses just waiting to emerge - along with a third and a fourth, if you'd take time to consider them. If new ideas do nudge you, after you've jumped up and shouted "Eureka!", make some simple notes and put those notes firmly aside. You're on vacation, so vacate.

It hurts me to see the blogs where you mention struggling to get past 14,000 words, or having doubts about your plot, or your voice. Time to step back and let your little writing genie ponder its mysterious life without you for a while. It will, you know, because it will always be there, despite how you're feeling now.

There are no changes in my query stats this week. Still 18 Pending, 2 Partials, and 11 Rejections. I'm going to add a new category next week, because it's probably warranted: No Response. Some of those guys have had more than enough time to get back to me, so I must be realistic and accept that they never will.

Check out this website, Poets and Writers, if you don't already know about it. I've found a lot of interesting things here, and it just requires registration to be a part of it all. I doubt you'll think of a single writer's question that hasn't been covered. Impressive.

Have a lovely weekend, and either work your little writing socks off, or - forget Dorothy Parker - lift yourself firmly off the seat and have fun.

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Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky