My Month of No Writing

My self-imposed hiatus from writing is over. I needed to take a break because I’d just published another novel and wanted to get caught up on things I’d neglected while working on that book. I stepped away from the keyboard, did some housework, and started reading again. So did I cheat by writing?

Well, I succeeded in not writing any new fiction, but I did revise two short pieces. One I needed to submit to my critique group and the other I’m considering submitting to an online journal. But it was easy not to start on a new novel project—too easy.

lazy

I have a serious case of the writing blahs. It’s not because I don’t have an idea for another novel. In fact, I have four ideas, in various stages of pre-writing. But I have no enthusiasm for working on any of them because I’m questioning everything to do with writing.

Actually, that’s not true. I don’t question why I write. I always have and will continue to make up stories, some to write down and others to keep in my head, because that entertains and challenges me. So I guess what I’m really questioning is publication—what to publish, how to publish, whether to publish at all.

I’m a little angry at myself about all this indecision. I thought I’d settled this long ago. I’ve been published for two years now, and I’ve stated that my true aim for publishing was only to share my writing. Now I’ve done that and even had the thrill of total strangers telling me how much they loved my stories. So am I whiney and shallow to be dissatisfied?

That’s only one of the many questions draining my energy. Every time I think I’ve weighed the pros and cons of something I’m questioning, the whole thing slips and slides and flips on me. I talk myself into something and then talk myself out of it. Clearly I don’t have any solid answers yet. But I think I’m going to have to find some before I regain the motivation to start writing another novel because, right now, my Muse is just lying there, inert with the blahs.

Can you relate?

A letter from my Muse

Listen up, Linda!

I’ve taken all I can take these last three weeks. Your emotional roller coaster is making me sick. Chill the heck out. You’re a writer. Writers write. And writers, if they’re smart, let trusted writers read their work and give them feedback. And if those writers are any help at all, they give you honest critique. Got it?

So they told you the book isn’t done. So they suggested more than a few little tweaks. Get over it. Stop this rush to worst case scenario. You are not a fake. You are not the worst writer in the world. You are not too stupid or too old to learn (though you just might be too stubborn). And you are not going to delete your blog, your Facebook page, and your Twitter account.

And, above all else, you are not going to throw this book out and start another one.

Get a grip. Quit your whining. Stop your bellyaching.  Walk out on the pity party and lock the door behind you.

GET TO WORK.

You have a good story, but we’re about to make it fantastic. Got it? Okay. Let’s go.

Signed, Your wise and patient Muse

Geez, the stuff a Muse has to put up with.

This writer is looking forward

Looking back at my life during the past year, I can see losses and gains, but I can’t yet judge the long-term effects. Every year at this time, psychics make predictions for the coming year. I have no such gift. I can only make resolutions, affirming to myself and all, my intent for the future.

Looking back at my life during the past year, I can see losses and gains, but I can’t yet judge the long-term effects. Every year at this time, psychics make predictions for the coming year. I have no such gift. I can only make resolutions, affirming to myself and all, my intent for the future.

New beginnings are hopeful. This year I’m excited about opportunities to advance in my writing and publishing career. One change I hope to make that will affect not only my writing, but my life in general is obtaining—and maintaining—a balance.

In 2011, I neglected not only the usual housework, but gardening as well. I don’t think my roses will survive another year of the same kind of neglect. In general, I spent too much time in my cave. Since my 2012 plans include publishing one book and writing another, it’s imperative that I improve my time management.

This doesn’t mean I’m creating spreadsheets, but it does mean I’ll be working to conquer my habit of letting doubt (fear) derail my writing. In 2011, I probably wasted a good 30% of my writing time hand-tied by indecision. I vow not to let that happen in this next year. I will boldly write what no woman has written before.

In her recent blog post When You Allow Others to Decide Your Dreams, Michelle Davidson Argyle said:

“Nobody’s goals and rules are ever going to match up to my own on the unique path I’m on. Even if I met all those goals I see floating around online on so many blogs and Facebook statuses and Twitter feeds, I still wouldn’t be happy because I would not have met the deepest desires of my own heart …”

And this:

“I think we authors often forget what we really want. I think we often delude ourselves into thinking we want what everyone else wants, and it’s creating this insane sense of urgency in our heads. We pump out our work faster and harder and less carefully than we would otherwise. We feel pressured, more than anything else, to meet certain criteria, follow the lists and rules and advice others post, and it hurts us deeply when we can’t meet that criteria at breakneck speed. For me, at least, this urgency transformed itself into an energy-sucking, emotionally-draining need.

Until I realized that for me it was an illusion and unnecessary.”

Michelle expressed my dilemma. My lack of self-confidence leads me to compare everything I do to what other writers do, seeking a stamp of approval. At best, that works only temporarily. Sooner or later, doing what others did leads to frustration, doubt, fear because their plan, their path, their dream doesn’t “fit” me.

Let me toast to the New Year. New beginnings. New opportunities. Another chance to get it right.

In 2012, I vow to follow MY dreams. What about you?

The spirit of giving to writers

can give to writers. A couple of days ago, someone sent me an email in which she wrote some lovely things about my writing. This person is a published author whose writing I admire, and her comments on specific elements of my writing that she liked gave me a much-needed lift.

Since this is the season for giving, I’d like to give my thoughts on something you can give to writers. A couple of days ago, someone sent me an email in which she wrote some lovely things about my writing. This person is a published author whose writing I admire, and her comments on specific elements of my writing that she liked gave me a much-needed lift.

I’ve heard there are writers who have abundant confidence in their work, but I don’t know any personally. At least at times, I think we all doubt our ability and need a boost. We need kind words about our writing. Think of them as vitamins for writers.

If you have a way to contact a writer whose work you’ve read, let them know you still think about a character, or a scene, or a line. Or tell them you’re looking forward to their next work. Give them a gift of a kind word for their writing. It might just be the boost they need to inspire some great writing.

Ooo … ooo … I know this one!

Let’s play a little game, shall we?

Linda: I’ll take felicitous discoveries for a thousand.

Alex: I do have writing talent. Linda?

Linda: What is … What did I discover while editing?

Alex: Correct!

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you know I suffer from a lack of confidence in my writing ability. It’s largely self-inflicted. My inner critic prides herself in perfectionism. To make matters worse, she’s an expert at rationalizing away any praise that comes my way.

I think most of us lack confidence to some degree. We play that comparison game and believe we’ll never measure up. We get one tiny bit of negative feedback and blow it out of proportion until we see every word we’ve written as garbage. (Or is that just me?)

Today, as I edited my novel, I found myself smiling—grinning, to be honest. Not at any particular “darling” as in, My god, has there ever been a more brilliant metaphor?! No, I was happy because I could honestly say, “This is good writing.”

That may sound like I’m full of myself, but I’m not. What I discovered today is I suffer doubt most when I don’t read my work. When I set aside a work, whatever faults I know it has magnify in my mind until I convince myself I’m hopeless as a writer. I’m discouraged from even starting something new because, well—I can’t write!

When I finally open that file and start to read I see it’s not perfect. I find weak verbs, flabby sentences, bad syntax, but I also find decent writing as a whole. It’s never as bad as I imagined it to be. Yet I’ve allowed my doubt to waste time, fuel jealousy, and even downright depress me.

Why do we writers do this to ourselves?


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