It Does not Grow Easier

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Writing is a cruel mistress.

For years I tried to write. During that time I had numerous starts, but the stories refused to let go of their fierce grasp of my mind so that I could plunk them down on paper or pixelate them in a word processor. Then a couple of years back I discovered a new character, with a controlled size plot, and, wonder of wonders, I actually made it beyond an introduction all the way to an end.

It felt great. It gave me a boost of confidence and courage that carried me through most of the next year. And during that time I like to believe that I became a better storyteller and grew my writing skill-set.

However, the growth of knowledge came at the expense of shrinking courage and confidence. It has become easier to see potential problems in the stories that I try to write, more difficult to make the necessary leap of faith that I can tie it all together when it is done. And even if I can get started, I am more likely to put up a wall into which I can run, causing me to work hard (often failing) to convince myself it is worth the effort to break down or climb over the barrier.

So RoughDraft mostly stays buried behind other applications. Maybe, once a night, I will get a burst of belief and open up a story (one of 6 currently) and see if I can make headway. But unless it is an contained story (6 of the 8 stories I submitted in the last year), with little character or plot development, I find it difficult to convince myself to proceed.

It makes me grumpy, because I like the creative process. So it is idiotic that I am manufacture these road blocks and know that the answer is just to write, to believe in what I am writing, to finish stories so that I can see what I have and modify as necessary.

Bleh! Even this took me over an hour to write.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Erin's picture

First sentences

Yours above, said it.

Currently, I have over 50 stories begun and not finished. Many of them, no one but me has ever seen. I work on them now and then and sometimes get quite a bit done. But the ones I've been able to finish in the last year or so have all been ones I just started, not any of the backlog. I got such a high last year doing "Urban Commando" that I started a longer writing project. It fizzled after less than 10,000 words and I'm back to working now and then on old stories with a new one to add to the rotation.

I know I'm not the only writer that suffers with this. Professionalism is being able to write when you don't feel like doing it, slogging ahead, knowing that a thousand words written is a thousand words written; even if you end up discarding all of them, writing is writing and as long as you're writing, you're writing and you're likely to write your way out of it.

But we're amateurs here. We don't have the pressures or motivations of professionalism. Even the few professionals I know of who do step into these waters are professionals in some other form of writing, fiction is a hobby for them. Hobbies are supposed to be fun. When writing isn't fun, and it often isn't, it gets very hard to put the necessary effort in.

We're like amateur runners, practicing sprints and marathons and wondering why we put ourselves through the pain for the occasional joy of a runner's high. Professionals deal with this on another level, we don't have the resources or stresses of professionals; we just have to muddle through like runners trying to coach themselves to Olympic levels of competition. Sure, it can be done.

But it's hard and make no mistake about it.

Hugs,
Erin

= Give everyone the benefit of the doubt because certainty is a fragile thing that can be shattered by one overlooked fact.

= Give everyone the benefit of the doubt because certainty is a fragile thing that can be shattered by one overlooked fact.

It's not the stories.

Arcie, it's not the stories that are the problem, at least for me.

I have stories within me and on scratch pads galore. Things of great beauty; structures as solid as a cathedral, soaring like a pacific rim skyscraper, and light as a zeppelin; plots as clear as the approach lights to JFK, which dance across the page like choreographed gazelles, and entwine like a fugue from the musica universalis sung in four parts by a choir of Seraphim; and characters that are heroes who bound from archetype to metaphor to myth, in quests, within and without, that turn to tragedy, to rebellion, to rebirth, to discovery, (but sometimes not).

Now if I could just find the damn words! It that would happen I'm confident I could write them.

For me

it's the time factor. I have ideas and words, but lack the time and occasionally the energy through the demands of real life. Whether knocking out 1000-1500 most nights keeps things going in my head, I don't know, and the quality is something for others to decide, but I keep trying in case one day it stops (which will be to the relief of some).

Angharad

Angharad

For me, for years...

I refused to write (fiction)... I told folks I couldn't do it. (Not really sure I can now either, but I'm trying.) I've certainly got stories percolating around in my head (some have even been typed up in outline or even beyond that). Last fall, I made an attempt to write something (as a result of the continuous pushing by one of the authors here). I shared it with another, and she agreed that it wasn't too bad. Both encouraged me to post (I promised one, I'd finish any story I did post.) So, I'm here...

Now, I've gotten one novel finished (okay, so it's not so good. but I did finish it as promissed.) several short stories, and have 10 chapters in a much longer story in a shared universe. What slows me down now? A combination of lack of time and having to wait for proofers (they're generally very quick on the turn around - blame all major delays on me!, thought time is the bigger of the two lately. When RL doesn't poke it's nose into things, I typically curn out 2-4,000 words a day... (Yes, that means I could churn out a chapter every other day, but I don't, cause RL gets in the way.)

I suspect the biggest reason for the speed (and lack of quality) is making up for 40 years of not writing. I thank you all for being patient with me, and saying nice things.

What stopped my writing originally? Back in '71, I wrote a little three act play (Mystery). I was in a group in my English class, and we were supposed to find and present a play to the rest of the class. We couldn't find anything with the right number of actors (of the right sex), so I volunteered to write something. In retrospect, I'm sure it wasn't in a league with the bard. But, at the time, I was kinda proud of my efforts. Well, the "team" decided to re-allocate all the lines, so that every person had the same number of lines in every scene. I was convinced this RUINED the play (And, thinking back, I'm sure it couldn't have helped... I'm SURE it needed a LOT of help, but the kind it got confused the audience worse than my deathless writing. Yes,I'm modest.). After that experience, I was convinced I couldn't write anything (it WAS the first thing I'd ever shared), and so I didn't.

For this reason, I doubly treasure all of the kind comments (and helpful suggestions) I've received here. Thank you.

Annette

rebecca.a's picture

suspension of disbelief...

in yourself, that is.

Some of the novelists I know write in the mornings, and edit in the afternoons. Others write whole drafts before they edit. Others... who knows?

I know what you're talking about, I suffer from it myself. Unless you're able to get the words out easily, as Angharad seems able to do, I think part of the trick is to keep in practice (maybe that's how Angharad can do it!). The other part, is not to re-read what you've written, or else you just despair because it's all rubbish.

Zadie Smith wrote an essay for The Believer about her rules for writing recently, and in it she quoted Alan Hollingsworth, who said the best thing you can do for any story is to finish it and lock it in a drawer for five years before you take it out again. I'm sure we'd be deprived of a lot of interesting stuff if we all took that view, but I must confess that almost all the stories I've ever been able to persevere with have taken years, not days or months... so who knows?

All that said, I don't know that anyone here is Saul Bellow or Jane Austen, so perhaps we should all just write the stuff and worry about the consequences later.

Kristina L S's picture

'tis different

... and yet it's not, sort of. So far, well I've only been doing this for a few, I don't have any abandoned stories. Some I'll admit take longer than others, but usually that's a case of letting them sit for a while and then, right you, let's do this. Might be weeks, or months, but so far I get there. There's one at present, semi complete. I know where it needs to go, but sitting and doing it... ah, that's the thing. Distractions and life and stuff, but I'll do it. I guess that's why I don't commit to a serial or similar. That pressure to do it would cause more blocks than freedoms I think though I think I could, but I'm not sure how good it would be. Then maybe that's more internal then real. We are our own worst critic or something like that.

Sometimes it's pure procrastination and there's new stuff to read or things to look up or a new idea to play with, bloody internet...grumble....

Still, we do, mostly, get there and as long as some enjoy it's worthwhile beyond the pure desire to do it. Strange balance that personal need to create and then the wish that others like it. It might not be essential, but it can make a big difference to that little flickering tentative ego whosit. But ultimately it's a sit and do it thing; with copious sweating and drinking...assorted beverages, depending on time of day and palate, the odd bit of food, some personal interaction where appropriate, maybe some work where essential... and oh, damn what is the word I want here? Not to mention what happens in that bit there.... and of course that perfect paragraph appears just when you have no chance to note it down and the memory might be pretty good...but... Sigh, near enough is good enough...except.... and what is her thought...here... ack. It's just words innit, except it's not. Go for it Arcie and everyone else moved to play.

Kristina

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