21 September 2009

Look Ma, I Aten't Ded!

A thought has struck me - as thoughts are wont to do.

Motivated by said thought, I re-examined my writing stats spreadsheet; and the thought was affirmed.

It's a curious one, somewhat paradoxical. Un-intuitive. And it might not work for everyone.

But wow! It works for me, and I'm glad: it's made things much less stressful, now the pressure's off.

So what's the thought, I hear you wonder.

It's something that I was, for a long time, afraid of. You see, although I called myself a writer - I wasn't really sure. I didn't know that I could do it, not in my heart of hearts. And I wasn't sure it was what I wanted; and I couldn't be certain about why I did it.

And so, for a long, long time, I laboured under the fallacy that if I admitted that it didn't actually matter when I got published, the motivation to write would vanish - zip! - like that.

But here's the thought:

It doesn't actually matter when I get published. No one else in the world cares if I get published or not. And not being published isn't going to kill me, or make me a Bad Person, or worse, a Failure.

And here's the stunning part: I've admitted this, at long last, and I'm not actually dead. And neither is my writing. And neither is my motivation to write.


Even more than this, I have statistics to support the conclusion that when the pressure's off - the pressure to polish, to get the novel ready to submit, to work to a deadline, to force myself to write when I don't feel like it because that's what writers do - my productivity actually goes up (an expected 30% this month over the previous two Septembers).

Who knew? :P

I've been having a tremendous amount of fun with writing lately, not forcing myself to commit to any one project, but letting the Muse wander spontaneously. I've got more ideas brewing than ever, I've worked through some major plot problems in a few stories, and I've written no less than three flash fictions in a week - when I'd written a total of one in my life before. I have - for me - a record number of things out on submission, and I'm not feeling stressed about my writing. It's fun.

I'm not feeling blocked - or when I am, there's no pressure on me to break the block and solve the problem now; I just hop over and work on something else, and every time thus far a solution has arrived of its own volition within a week. I'm not stressing, I'm not panicking, and I'm not beating myself up because I haven't met my word count goals for the day.

And, contrary to my expectations, all of this hasn't made me less determined to write: in fact, just the opposite. I'm more determined than ever that I will one day publish novels, in the plural. But I'm also more willing to wait for that time to come.

So I can't work from home next year. Big deal? I will, believe it or not, live. Things will work out; they always do. And in the meantime, so long as I keep doing something, I'll win out in the end: sometimes quantity trumps quality after all.

It's long been known that fear is a barrier both to creativity and success.

So join me in being radical: what do you fear? Why does it matter? How can you change your approach - your attitude, your practices, whatever - so relieve some of that pressure that we as writers inevitably put on ourselves?

Go on. Change something. Be daring.

You just never know what the results will be :)


Charmaine Clancy said...


I think you are spot on Inky, I started a novel about three years ago, got one good chapter out and stopped because of the pressure of thinking I had to produce a whole novel in a certain amount of time and professionals would look at it and think I was pathetic. Luckily for me the fear didn't last - I get bored with things like that quickly.
As for what I fear - sometimes nothing, sometimes everything. My sweet spot map is pretty full on that page. But lately zombies give me the heebie-jeebies. I will take your advice and work through this.

Danyelle said...

What do I fear? Success. Because with success comes higher expectations. My best may just not be good enough. >.< I just write anyway. And try to listen to my Beloved Spouse Creature. And if all else fails, I take it out on my characters.

Merc said...

Wonderful post, Inky, and you're right.

For a while I was stressing out about having a novel done and diving into revisions so I could submit it--and mixed with self-doubt and the usual perfectionism--and it stopped me cold.

I'm pretty sure that along with burning myself out (and even after I told myself I should focus on shorts and not worry about novel submissions for awhile until I'm ready), lingering worry about "getting the novel ready to go" and thinking about publication pretty much stymied my novel writing output for seven months.

But in July, when I settled in to write a novel just for fun, with no pressure to make it good or put it on the list of 'things to revise for submissions', it FLOWED. I finished it a few days ago, just shy of 100k in less than three months. :D And despite its flaws, I'm very proud and happy with it, and I think it's one of my better drafts.

So yes, I think when we give ourselves permission to write for fun and even "fail", it can be a lot more productive and liberating.


Liana Brooks said...

Twinness strikes again! I'm right there with you. Publication is a bonus, I write to enjoy the writing.

Inkblot said...

Charm - Yes, the pressure we put on ourselves is often both ridiculous and unwarranted. But good on you for getting bored with it :D hehe. Good luck working through the zombie fear, hehe.

Dany - yeah, that's a hard one. Perhaps the hardest. What if I fail? What if I /succeed/? What if I then fail at succeeding?! :o But you'll do fine, Dany. Deep down somewhere you know that, or you wouldn't be trying; and just think: no one expects you to improve, per se, in your writing once you're published; so what got you there will keep you there.

Merc - Doubt and perfectionism is an evil combination, and the resulting burnout SUCKS. I'm so glad you found a way around it - yay for Wolf! :) Permission to fail is SO important. Good on you for finding it :D

L - Huzzah for new and improved points of view :D

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