I’ve discussed this before, I think, but I know that I have a real problem finishing projects. Over the past few weeks, I’ve read a number of blog posts from other people talking about why that might be the case.
One of the things that I think might apply to me is that I try to write stories before they’re ready.
What does that mean?
For me, it means that I get an idea that I think is pretty great. I get all excited about it and I want to start writing right away. But some story ideas need to percolate for a while. They need to simmer and stew and get all the flavors flowing before they should be eaten, er, I mean written. And I think that I jump the gun. So instead of flavorful, tasty stew, I get kind of runny meat water with undercooked veggies.
So, one of my writing resolutions for the new year is to try and let the ideas sit for a bit. Especially the new ideas that I get in the shower, or in the car, or while riding in the elevator at work.
One of the other issues that I think I have is that I get bored. Why? It’s my story- can’t I skip the boring parts?
The problem here is that I think I need the boring parts. I’ve convinced myself that I need certain scenes to tell my story and when I try to write them, I get bogged down in the minutia of the scene. I get stuck with all the little details that just don’t get me excited and I stop wanting to write them.
Which should tell me, if I were willing to listen, that those scenes are boring. If I don’t want to write them, who in the hell wants to read them? I convinced myself a long time ago that I was a plotter and that I needed to plot out every story, get all my scenes lined up, and stick to the plan. But I think I forget to give myself room for change. I don’t have a contingency plan, in essence, which is a problem, because I need to learn to not be so fenced in by what I think I need so that I keep myself from doing what I really need.
Which leads me to another problem. I think I have unreasonable expectations for myself. I have unreasonable expectations about how quickly I should be writing, how quickly the pages should be flowing, and how easy it all should be coming to me, especially if I have outlined the thing out.
The problem with that expectation is that writing doesn’t work that way. I’ve had long discussions recently with a good writing buddy of mine about how writing works and we’ve both debunked the myth of the muse. No one is whispering the story into your ear. There isn’t a separate entity speaking to you, telling you what to write. All those little bursts of genius that blast out onto the page as you write come from you, even if you don’t realize it at the time.
Your brain has been pondering this story that you’re telling and it’s been knocking things around for you while you wash dishes, watch the latest episode of Castle, or even sleep. Your brain is trying to work out the problems that are keeping you from getting the words on the page, like a background program running on a computer, and when your brain thinks it has it figured out, it will push the solution to the forefront of your mind.
It’s not an external force, it’s an internal force. I think it’s a bit of a crutch to blame writer’s block on something like “the muse taking a break” or “the ladies in the basement stepping out for a smoke.” I think that’s cheating and it’s not taking agency of your own work and your own writing.
However, once you do take ownership of your brain and accept that the words coming through your fingers to the page are your own, then you have to accept both the failures and the successes. Sometimes they are both hard to deal with.
Back to my expectations, I tend to write very quickly once I sit down and actually do it. I can pound out 1000 works in less than 30 minutes and have done so many, many times. My brain, then, expects that from me and I allow myself to take breaks when I shouldn’t because I tell myself that when I do sit down to write, I’ll hammer out 4-5k in one sitting and be done with it.
How often do you think that’s happened for me recently?
In the past three months, it has happened ONCE. That’s right, ONCE.
I signed up for the Get Your Words Out challenge, pledging 350k for the year. I have yet to hit 100k. For all my talk about being able to pound out the words, clearly I haven’t done it.
Yet again, I don’t have a submission to the Golden Heart. I don’t have a finished submission for the editor who asked for one, and the only writing that I’ve come close to completing is fan fiction.
Clearly, I am my own worst enemy here.
I think I’ve done a lot of talking about what I’m going to do. How I’m going to fix myself. And I’ve tried things for a few days but I have to be honest. I am just as much EPIC FAIL as a writer today as I was a year ago. Possibly even more so.
Which leads me to my next problem. I have too many ideas and too many projects started. When one gets hard and the writing becomes real work, my brain wants to jump tracks and start working on something different. Maybe that’s what I should be doing. Maybe, if the words are flowing, I should just let them and get it all out on the page.
Maybe my fighting to stick to one thing is part of what’s hurting me. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe my writing ADD is keeping me from completing a project by not allowing me to maintain focus.
All I know is that I want to be a professional, published author, and to do that I need to get something done. That something needs to be a project that I can sell to someone, anyone, and it needs to be well written, the correct word count, and in my own voice.
I need to stop biting off more than I can chew and be more realistic about what I will do, not just what I am capable of actually accomplishing.
As we wind down 2011 and get into resolution season, I need to be honest and fair to myself and set some goals that I will actually achieve this year so I can start to re-build my confidence, as well as start to get myself to the point where I can consider myself a professional. That may be harder than I’d like to believe it is.