Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Writing Stoppers

I continue to troll Fangs, Fur & Fey for good ideas for subjects to blog about. This question came from Anton Strout:

What are your greatest barriers to getting writing done? I know that a lot of us are used to working to deadlines and such. Some treat it as a job and power past a lot of problems, but I'm curious to know where you find yourself stymied at times?

What keeps you from writing?

An answer that probably borders on “too much sharing” for me would be low self-esteem. The times that I have the most trouble writing are the times when my career takes a nose dive (or I imagine it has… or might. That last one can keep me up at night. All my IMAGINED failures are always much worse than reality.)

Also -- and perhaps this is counter intuitive – but, similarly when my career is going really well, I’ll sometimes get stymied by a fear that I can’t live up to people’s expectations of me. If someone heaps on a whole lot of praise (especially, but not limited to, critical praise – like winning and award or getting a great review in a powerful trade magazine), I can find myself paralyzed by success. You’d think that would be when it would be easiest to write, but I think one of the reasons second books under contract are often the most difficult book for a writer to write is because suddenly he or she is dealing with the fact that they sold stuff that they just made up in their heads… never expecting Aunt Mary in Poughkeepsie will now weigh in on the hotness of the sex scenes on Amazon.com. That kind of stuff can be unsettling to the point of making it hard to write.

At least for me.

When I find myself getting riled up by success or failure (imagined or real), my best solution is to write something else. Even if the deadline is looming for a book under contract, I find that taking a break to write something silly can be really helpful. What tends to happen to me when I get myself in a tizzy about my career is that my internal editor goes into hyper-drive. She criticizes every sentence. She thinks every plot twist is obvious and stupid. She thinks I suck on general principles.

To combat this oppressive attitude my internal editor cultivates, I’ll open up a new document and write something intentionally stupid or fluffy (like, say, anything involving characters named Fleet Dreamweaver or even slash in my own universe.) If I do that, I find I can turn off the internal editor to the point where I can function again.

Although my internal editor is pretty sharp, and I often have to do some pretty intense mental calisthenics to fool her. Still, to this day, I can’t write forward in my official document, which is written in Courier 12pt and double-spaced from the beginning. I always have to have a secondary document open where I write single-spaced and in some fancy font that’s easy on my eye, like Georgia (one of my personal favorites.) I tell myself what I’m writing there doesn’t count. It’s just practice. If I don’t like it, I can dump it. This usually fools my internal editor completely, and she still hasn’t picked up on the fact that I’ll often end up just cutting and pasting the whole new document into the old.

So, what about you? What stops you from writing and do you have any solutions?


Kelly McCullough said...

The CPU on my laptop melting down along with my WiFI card. That was good for a week...or three if you count the unstable time up front.

Erik Buchanan said...

Moving to our new house is the current time killer for me. Things a re just about under control, now, and I'm actually getting some work done, but it all goes to pieces in a week when we move.

Anonymous said...

My husband talking. It never fails. I'll be righ tin the middle of a good line - and he'll start. And goes on and on and on...:sigh:

Anonymous said...

Talking! I can write above a lot of things, but I have a heckuva time writing when /anyone/ is talking. It's usually like that for vocal music, too, unless I'm loony and hyper.

The other one? Internet. Clicky, clicky... what time is it? Oh heck. There's a good reason why I don't have the writing computer hooked up to the net. :>

ERiCA said...

I never thought about it like that, but I guess mine are the same of yours--fear of failure and fear of success. (I apparently have no fear of mediocrity. *sigh*)

Short term interruptions come in many forms (day job, other people physically distracting me, etc) but the stuff that knocks me off course for any length of time is the internal stuff.


Kelly McCullough said...

Hi Erica,

Thanks for commenting. I don't think I've seen you post here before, and wanted to make sure someone said hello.