Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On Writing. Or on NOT Writing.

What is up with feeling so overwhelmed lately, especially in terms of writing? I have all these voices in my head again screaming "You'll never be able to do it, to get anything published."

Augh. Shut up! Shut up! It's about doing it for me, anyway.

I think part of it is that writing the first draft of my book was fun and relatively easy, but I really have no idea how to edit. By editing I mean editing for content and story flow, rather than just fixing punctuation and altering word choices. Is that it? Is that what has me freaked out? I don't want to go back and touch the first book because I like it, even though I KNOW from feedback it has room for improvement. I just feel paralyzed and I hate it.

So I should move on for a bit and start on the next book, let this one sit and let the writing group take a crack at it so I know where to start, but even THAT is feeling scary. I don't know why - maybe because the next book requires a lot of real research, being set in the Regency period in England, and because I threw so much of my real life into the first book that it felt easy to come up with characters, etc.

Or maybe it's just because I'm NOT doing anything that everything feels scary. The paralyzing effect of fear and the fear of paralysis, two parasites that feed off each other and off of me.

So, new goals for the week:

1. Write something every day. It's O.K. if it's blogging, or just a writing prompt, or sketching out story ideas. Just do it.
2. Find a book/website on editing and read it.
3. Jot down 3-5 ideas of ways I think I can strengthen the book. I don't have to DO them yet; just write them down. I submit the first chapter to my writing group in May, so it's O.K. to wait until then to attack it. I want to hear what others have to say.
4. Remind myself daily and hourly that I'm writing because I want to. Would it be nice to get something published? Sure. Would it be nice to contribute to the family income, like my husband fantasizes about? Sure. But for now, I need to practice, practice, practice. Write, write, write. And act as if it doesn't matter if anyone else ever reads or likes what I've written - because that's what fueled me to finish the first draft of the first book; I reminded myself over and over it didn't matter if no one else liked it and it never went anywhere - it only mattered that I did it.

And I need to be willing not only to learn how to edit, but to actually DO it. I read an article today entitled "The 7 Deadly Sins of Self-Editing," from WritersDigest.com. While I'm certainly guilty of envy and probably also of greed when it comes to writing, the sin I feel is most dogging me right now (in writing and in life, hee hee) is SLOTH:

"The lazy scribe is one who’s failed to develop and utilize all her natural talents. To draft a story—and then stop there—is to ignore the very nature of literature, which constructs meaning through the deft layering of craft elements. If you find yourself bucking that notion, you may be guilty of sloth.
Penance: Just like with physical exercise, whipping your talent into shape takes time and dedication. You don’t jog once a year and end up with a perfect body. So it goes with your manuscript. To build the endurance skills you’ll need for marathon writing and revision, you must continuously train: Do writing prompts. Do writing exercises. Keep your writing muscles toned through daily practice, and when you review your previous work, your mistakes and weak sections will become more apparent, you’ll be more capable of dealing with them, and you’ll be far less likely to walk away."
So just like I need to get better at exercising and eating well, so do I also need to get better at practicing the daily skills of the craft. 
Because I'm lazy. I'm lazy, peeps. 
Consistency is not my strong suit - I like to throw it all out there and be done, not have to go back and make revisions. It's how I write this blog most of the time. It's how I often approach life, I'm realizing. Which might explain a lot, actually. 
But to have natural talent (and I'm not trying to be arrogant, but I've been told by enough people for a long enough time that I am a good writer that I have come to accept I am, or can be) and be too lazy to hone it? Is that really me? 
Well, it has been for far too long. And it is. I guess this is one way of trying to learn life skills via a focused approach on something I really enjoy: writing. 
Consistency and willingness is what it will take. Consistency and willingness is what it will take. Oh, and actually DOING the work instead of just talking about it. 
At least I can check off #1 on that goals list today. This started out as a hastily written Facebook status and has ended up as a hastily written blog post (which, according to the same WritersDigest.com article referenced above, makes me guilty of greed: "But building a career requires that you lay a strong foundation of only your best work—and nobody’s first draft is the best it can be."). 
This blog post is not my best work. But it's more than I've written in at least two weeks. 
Unless I can count the captions on my Facebook pictures of our trip to Nuremberg. 
O.K., yeah, that was Sloth talking again. 

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