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This writer needs help, badly.

standard February 23, 2009 8 responses

“Can we please swing by Borders before going to pick up the kids?” I begged M at the end of our date tonight. “I’m in no hurry to go back to being mommy.”

Usually when I walk into a bookstore, any bookstore, as soon as the door closes I feel the peace of the place wrap me up and comfort me. Tonight the shiny new books didn’t work their usual magic. Instead they filled me with even more angst.

I walked past the New Fiction table and the Best Seller shelf and trailed my fingers along the shiny embossed covers and didn’t feel an ounce of curiosity. I didn’t pick up any enticing tomes to read the back covers. None of them were enticing. Not the ones in that store, not the ones on my night table, not any of the ones on my extensive wishlist. Instead of calling to me all of those books scream a silent reproach.

All these authors sat down and wrote their book. They had the guts to face the white page. They had the whatever it takes to keep writing past the first 20 pages.

I don’t have one book in process. I have three. Yes three. Not because I have so many stories itching to get out, I mean, clearly I do, but that’s not the issue here. No, it’s because I start writing and I get wind of the fact that what I’m writing is good, really, really good. And I freak out and never open the file again. Instead I open another document and start a new story and do my best to ignore the first story calling to me, begging to be written.

I’ve tried forcing myself to write. I’ve tried figuring out what my problem might be. And yet my books languish in the depths of my Documents folder. And my stress level rises as I feel my dream slip away. And I can’t stop it. And it’s killing me. And I should stop starting all my sentences with and.

I want nothing more than to finish these stories, find an agent, get them published, and finally be able to say “See? I told you I was better than half those writers out there!” or some slightly less obnoxious version of that. I want to give voice to my characters and see what scrapes they get themselves into and back out of again. I really do want to finish a book. I just can’t figure out how to do it.

My rational brain will tell you that novel writing isn’t going to put dinner on the table next week. It’ll tell you that I’m doing the right thing by focusing on freelancing and getting paying work. It’ll even tell you that everything I spend my days doing are worthwhile and good.

And it’ll be right. In the same way that procrastinating on a deadline to clean the house is worthwhile and good.

I’m great at making up excuses, at finding other things I absolutely need to be doing. It’s not like I sit around all day watching TV and surfing YouTube. I’m busy, all day, every day. I work my butt off. My to do list is pages long. But I’m not working on the things that really matter to me. Clearly that’s a problem.

So how do I change that? How do I hold myself accountable? What’s going to make me write my books?

My father-in-law is doing even better today than yesterday. He’s kicking some serious meningitis butt and winning. WHOOT!

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8 responses

  • Ugh, I feel for you. I’m a huge procrastinator & w/o concrete deadlines (ok, even w/ deadlines), it’s hard to motivate myself to get things done.

    Are there writing workshops or support groups that would help you feel like you had a deadline?

    And, yeah for your FIL! (so glad, I’m not the only one that starts sentences w/ ‘and’)

  • Creativity cannot be pushed, rushed, or willed. It happens in that safe space the Universe gives you after your most important tasks are done.

    Perhaps only one of the three books will actually be published. Maybe all 3 will merge at one point and be the new best seller.

    I trust that when we give our mind, body and spirit the time it needs for creative expression, only then can we fully enjoy the end result.

  • Your post brought up a of thoughts for me.

    The first thing I’d say is this: Peace. Your kids will get older. You will have more time. And it will get a little easier to focus and get things done.

    Secondly, I’d suggest lowering the stakes a little bit for yourself. If every time you sit down to write your head is full of “shoulds” and visions of what “ought” to happen in the future (an entire book, publication, etc.) no wonder you find it hard to finish. I’d crumble under that pressure too.

    You also might want to rethink your definition of writing, and of “finishing” something – you are writing all the time when you post on the blog, and you are finishing small stories every day (or nearly) there.

    And for technique and help with problems of this nature, I recommend Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

    Oh, and in case you wonder why I’m credible to offer any advice at all, I wrote an a book, found an agent, and you know what? It didn’t sell! So I know what it’s like to feel like your sitting on top of a whole lot of unfinished!

  • I feel the same…got another book and a game on process but frozen these days. I am always busy with Matt or Claire…never stop! I hear ya sister, I really do.

  • First of all, I love your site design!

    Second, I can totally relate. I have too many projects going on and not enough time/dedication to finish most of them. Have you tried NaNoWriMo? As a writer, that experience taught me a lot about pushing aside the inner critic and writing freely.

  • I found a blog once where this guy just posted chapters of a book he was writing.

    I’m sure it was more than a first draft, but in general, the idea was great — I kept coming back to that blog, desperate for another chapter, and he got instant feedback on his story.

    Just a thought.

  • My advice to you is to set smaller goals. Don’t berate yourself for not finishing one of these three books. Finishing a book is a huge task! Give yourself a page goal or a word goal. Say, by Friday (this Friday – come on tomorrow is Tuesday) I will write 10 pages. Or 10,000 words. Don’t edit, don’t stop to read. Just write. I think it was Anne Lammott who said that most writing starts with shitty first drafts. So get going on that shitty first draft.

  • I’d have to second most of the comments but I’ll add one more… It’s OK to be a “Late Bloomer.”
    We set a lot of expectations on ourselves to accomplish our goals no later than age 35. It’s hard not to compare ourselves to those who do. However, there are a lot of people who really knocked the socks off by finishing later and pulling from life experience.
    (All this easier said than done… I put the same pressures on myself, and this is something I have to frequently remind myself of too.)

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