Creativity Workshop, Fiction, Goals, Novel, Short story, Writing

Help … I’m trapped in a tunnel!

I’ve been unusually overwhelmed lately. It’s summer, so that means time spent trying to keep some semblance of order in the gardens; more time spent with local family; and considerable time spent preparing for visits to and from distant family. I fear I’m heading toward a time bankruptcy. Worse yet, I’ve discovered I have creative tunnel vision.

To preserve any writing time at all, I’ve cut down on distractions—which means even less Twittering and blog commenting than before I started the Creativity Workshop. But my writing productivity has gone down, down, down. I no longer have enthusiasm for writing any of the short stories I had set as workshop goals. I get set up to start, then sit there blank-minded. No. Not exactly true, I sit there thinking about working on my next novel. I end up not writing anything at all.

To ignore this, I grab one of the books I’m trying to finish reading before the world ends. You can’t write, if you don’t read. Right? I am not suffering from writer’s block. I know I could write like crazy, if I gave myself permission to work on the novel. But that’s not what I’m supposed to be doing. I signed up for a workshop. I challenged myself to work on a schedule. To set goals and accomplish them. The idea was to increase my creativity. Hmmm …

I admit I’m weak on self-discipline. I thought the workshop would help with that problem. Instead, I’m now questioning whether I have what it takes to be a writer at all. Can I be successful writing only what I want to? Is the real problem that I’m just not creative enough to be a writer? Do I balk at writing something I don’t want to because I’m not clever enough to do that? Or did I just sign up for a workshop at the worst time for me?

I feel like my writer’s mind has splintered into shards. As a mother, I learned long ago to be a multi-tasker, but I think I’m the complete opposite as a writer. In theory, devoting one hour a day to the workshop should have left me plenty of time to work on a new novel. In reality, one hour actually typing might be all it takes, but I need a lot more time than that to conceive and gestate before I birth a story. It might sound ridiculous that writing one short story a week makes it impossible for me to work on the novel the rest of my writing time—and yet, it has.

I’ve been able to balance blogging and writing for almost two years, but then blogging is non-fiction writing. Before the workshop started, I was trying to write short stories, while polishing my last novel and even that didn’t work well. But now that I have a new novel begging for attention, my problem has become obvious—I can’t juggle two new creative works at the same time.

I suppose my primary motive for signing up for the workshop was that I would end up with at least solid first drafts of some short stories. But now I’m questioning:  Do I really need to write short stories? Can you get an agent’s interest without previous short story publishing credits? Or should I focus my creativity on novel writing?

Have I made a decision? *sigh* Does a bottle of wine and a long nap count?

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34 thoughts on “Help … I’m trapped in a tunnel!”

  1. Point blank–if you’re not feeling the short stories then you are wasting your time and energy. Write what you enjoy because if you don’t enjoy it, your readers will know. Writing isn’t just words, it’s heart, and if your heart isn’t in it…
    Linda, I feel like you plucked these words right from my brain.
    “I’m now questioning whether I have what it takes to be a writer at all. Can I be successful writing only what I want to? Is the real problem that I’m just not creative enough to be a writer? Do I balk at writing something I don’t want to because I’m not clever enough to do that?”
    I’m have to tell you, it makes me feel 100% better knowing someone as awesome as you is feeling the same way. 🙂 Although, I am sorry you feel like this.
    Creativity cannot be scheduled nor assigned. If you’re not feeling it and it’s not working for you, then move on.

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    1. You know, Dayner, sometimes I think I’m just plain crazy. It’s like you, and others who said the same, threw cold water in my face and yelled, “Wake up!” At this point, at least, I am the boss of me. I can write, or not write, whatever I want. *smack to the forehead*

      Can I just pretend I make up this stuff to make you guys feel “100% better”? 😀

      Seriously though, I’ve been pondering the essence of the muse lately … the source of our creativity … and I’m going to blog about that soon. She’s not who I thought she was.

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      1. Uh — and what’s WRONG with just plain crazy? 😉

        I think the value of the creativity workshop is just getting us to think slightly differently, and it seems that it’s working for you. Six months from now when you’re working on a novel, some thought strand from your poetry venture or short story attempts may come to the surface and pull you in a direction you hadn’t thought possible. And that’s where the value lies, IMHO.

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  2. Hi Linda,
    I can totally relate to what you’re saying… When I was attending my creative writing workshop which lasted for two and a half years, all I ever wrote was short stories for the course… I always had this novel idea in my head but I never got around to actually sitting down and writing it for writing that many short stories with the novel was too much creativity, my mind couldn’t handle. But once the course ended, I stopped writing stories for a while and sat down to write my novel.
    I found out that I can blog while writing but like you said, that’s non-fiction. But I can’t write short stories and a novel all at the same time… The good thing is the stuff I learned in that workshop was huge help when I wrote my novel.
    Don’t be frustrated with yourself, you are a writer and a great one at that and those goals you set out for yourself are ‘your goals’, you can always set out new ones… 🙂

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Lua. I’d never been involved in a workshop before, so I didn’t know how hard it would be for me to balance. Now, I know. My participation is not going to result in my original goals, but I’ll salvage what I can. If nothing else, I’ve discovered some new writers and their blogs.

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  3. I think a writer should write what he/she is inspired to write! That’s the gift. I took a photojournalism class last semester, and learned there that “the picture won’t wait.” Be prepared, and then patient, but don’t pass the moment up. It won’t come again.

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    1. Thank you for adding this, Mary Jean. I agree. I think you should grab hold and go with the inspiration, too. I’ve tried just jotting down notes to come back to later and it has NEVER resulted in anything worth writing. I’m haunted by all the words that might have been.

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  4. Hi, Linda, I’m catching up on reading this week’s creativity workshop posts, and I just have to add: relax. You sound like me sometimes, so I can say with authority that you are being too hard on yourself, with rigid rules of what you “should” be doing, and then running around like a frantic, starving rat in a maze with all that mental analysis. As my therapist used to say to me, “Stop shoulding all over yourself.” Why not just write whatever comes out of the pen and enjoy the ride? How cool is it that we get to write at all, that we have ideas and skill, that imaginary people want to play out their fascinating stories right there on the tips of our pens?

    Oh, and while you’re at it, give yourself a pat on the back for a great blog post. I was riveted to the mental gymnastics and anguish you describe, right to the very last sentence. So even when you feel stuck, you’re writing beautifully, Linda. Maybe without noticing, which is why I mention it. 😉

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