This person here sounds pretty optimistic, don’t you think? Well, at least the title was prescient.
After blathering on (and on) about how I’d “finally been able to give up these paralyzing ideas about how ‘perfect’ something has to be before I release it upon the world,” I hit a major case of writer’s block. I may have given up perfectionism, but perfectionism hadn’t given up on me.
Of course, this was just another good excuse to beat myself up. Usually I can bully myself enough to force a breakthrough, to sit down and write through the problem, and then everything’s good until the next time I hit an obstacle. This time, I couldn’t even do that.
The funny thing is, if you’d asked me at the time, I would never even have admitted to writer’s block. I have no problem sitting down and writing, I rationalized. It’s just that the story I happened to be working on at the moment sucked balls and I was ready to ditch the whole project because I just couldn’t see a way out.
You see what was happening here, don’t you?
Luckily, I came across several resources that have really helped me out (more on those in a minute). I’m writing again, little bits here and there. Some of it needs fixing. Some of it was rather enjoyable. The biggest breakthrough came this week was when I realized WHY starting with small bits of things (5 minutes on the treadmill, for instance, or 15 minutes of writing before I start work) has never worked for me before. It’s simple – I was lying to myself, and I subconsciously knew it.
I actually had this realization on the treadmill this morning. I promised myself I’d just start with five minutes every day and go from there.
But when five minutes was up, I wasn’t tired, so I added another five. At the end of that five I thought I should keep going because ten minutes is still a pretty wimpy bout of exercise. And I realized – right then and there – that drive to keep going until I’ve exhausted myself is not something I have to listen to. Five minutes REALLY IS FINE.
(Did I mention I’m eight months pregnant? Don’t worry, it’s doctor-approved exercise. As opposed to my regular exercise, which mostly consisted of taking my ex-racehorse out for gallops.)
So, when I sat down to 15 minutes of writing this morning, I stuck to it – 15 minutes, even though I wanted to keep going. This was a good thing, because I was eager to pick the thread back up when I did another 15 minutes later in the day. If I had kept going, I would have exhausted all my good writer karma – I wouldn’t have stopped until I hit another road block, and who wants to come back to that?
If you’re struggling to just finish something, like I am, here are the resources I’ve found that have really helped me out so far. It’s a work in progress – but hey, at least we have progress! Some are blogs and blog posts, some are e-books. I hope they can help you out, too.
Joe Konrath is hosting a series of guest posts on his blog in support of Alzheimer’s research. In a recent post, Nikki Pill talks about fear and letting go of unhelpful thoughts: “Sometimes critical thoughts come from a distance; sometimes, they clamp on like an awful H.R. Giger alien facehugger. It’s not about some miracle cure so you’ll never be afraid again. It’s about changing your relationship with those thoughts.”
Writers Unboxed had a post way back in June by Joseph Burgo, who writes a blog called AfterPsychotherapy.com. While I don’t follow the psychotherapy perspective on everything, this post on Time Management Problems (especially the discussion about bursts of creativity followed by a drought, in a manic/depressive cycle, and a side comment about problems with authority) hit home in a scary way.
After reading through some posts on the site, I downloaded Joseph’s book, WHY Do I Do That? Psychological Defense Mechanisms and the Hidden Ways They Shape Our Lives. It’s a great read (less than $6 for the e-book edition) and, besides the work you can do on yourself, I’ve heard that numerous writers use the exercises within for character development.
WHY Do I Do That? dovetails really nicely with a book I found through Nikki Pill’s guest post, mentioned above, by Hillary Rettig called The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer’s Block. Secrets of the Prolific follows many of the same ideas as Joseph’s book, but is even more plain English and focused on writers. I was afraid it would be one of those business-y (and let’s face it, slightly useless) ‘how to’ types of book (you know, the kind that says just get up an hour earlier in the morning, or save $5 by cutting out your daily latté – that kind of useless) – but, it’s not. It’s like the ‘writer’s practical application manual’ for WHY Do I Do That? Hillary’s e-book version also has an extremely friendly price of less than $4.
Writers Unboxed had another post that I found when trolling the archives. It’s by Anne Greenwood Brown and it’s called “Kicking Out a Fast First Draft.” It’s another one of those useful frameworks for plotting, but the part that stuck with me was this: Write dialogue, along with some “stage directions,” then go back and fill things in later. I have no problem writing dialogue (it’s my favourite part), and it’s also easy to fill those ‘stage directions’ in later, so now when I get stuck, that’s what I focus on. It’s helped me write through a few rough patches so far.
Well, that’s my list. For now. Got any resources that have helped you out lately?