Sunday, January 5, 2014

Don't make writing harder than it already is

I have this reputation in my writing circle of being this super-writer; someone who can conquer the ills of the world and still manage to have that enthusiastic drive to write. But my persona and reality are two different things. I wrote this blog post a few months ago about the motivation to write and it is just as true today as it was when I wrote it. Stephen King may be able to plow through everything and write but that isn't always true for myself.

Taking a slightly different turn on the same subject, though, part of that motivation to write comes from not overthinking it; don't make writing harder than it already is. People who aren't writers have this idea that we can simply sit and tap words out and wa-la! Instant story and instant success. My writing brethren and I know that is far, far, far, far, far, (far) from the harsh truth.

Some people destroy marriages by overthinking things. They start thinking about the little nuances in behavior that could signal their spouse doesn't love them and so forth. This type of thing causes problems within the marriage by alienating the couple from one another. Writers can do the same thing. They overthink a story or they overthink the writing process itself. Doing such a thing can become a direct path to the dreaded Writer's Block and can even derail a writing career.

This has been me the last few months. I've forgone new writing in favor of getting some revisions and editing down for my upcoming short stories collections, Life and Life Odd. That step is finished now so it was time to buckle down and finish the last story for Life Odd. I've really had to force myself to work on it. It's not that the story has lost its appeal, I know my mind won't rest until it is finished, but I keep overthinking the story and overthinking the impact it would have on readers.

I didn't write yesterday because I was already too tired from the day's events and just wanted to lay in bed and watch television before I went to sleep. So much for my reputation, huh? But I realized last night that I'm overthinking this.

First, I have this idea that when I start Athens University this fall, I won't have time to write. I don't know if that is entirely true or if I'm just overwhelmed by the notion of starting an unfamiliar school. So in the 8-month break I have until school starts again, I have this rushed idea that I need to write and complete as many things as I absolutely can before I start school. It's this idea of being rushed that's overwhelming me.

I told a good friend about not being able to write while I'm in Athens and she gave me a smirk and said that I wouldn't be able to stay away from writing that long. She's probably right but it doesn't stop that panicked, rushed feeling.

Second, I'm worried too much about what my readers will think. The story challenges some common ideals and spiritual beliefs about heaven, forgiveness, and what happens to the souls of those who commit horrible acts of violence in life.

Third, I'm worried about the non-complexity of the plot. Shouldn't the story, given the theme, be more complex?

So when this realization hit me, I was reading Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton. In the beginning of the book, Grafton writes about how lots of information should be laid out in a short time in a short story. A short story is meant to be something simple in construction even if the overall theme is complex. My first aha! was that I was trying to make a big deal out of a story designed to be relatively simplistic. I don't have to have such huge elements within a short story. Breathe in, breathe out, go with your gut.

Next, I realized that I was falling back into the people-pleasing trap that has plagued me for years. No matter what you write, someone, somewhere will have a problem with it. This couldn't be summed up better than taking a glance at my reviews on any given website. Some people love my work, some are like, "Meh, it's okay. Nothing special," and yet others I seem to deeply anger. This doesn't just pertain to me. Look at ANY celebrity, whether they are an actor, writer, news anchor, etc... no matter how great they are or how much good they do for the world, someone, somewhere, hates them. And I don't use the word "hate" lightly, but it's appropriate in this case. As a writer, you have to focus on your story, on your characters, on your heart. Worrying about what the reader will think is a sure path to destruction. Breathe in, breathe out, go with your gut.

And last, I need to get out of this trap of rushed time. Who knows what kind of time I will have when I start Athens? Who knows anything about what the future holds for them? Why worry so much about something you know so little about? I admit it is extremely difficult for me not to have some sort of anxiety about this so I've really had to focus on not letting it get to me. It is something I'll continue to struggle with over the next few months.

We all know that writing thousands of words isn't as easy as your loved ones imagine it is, but you don't have to make it harder either.

Peace, love, and don't overthink,


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