Week 3…a toughie
This third week of writing my short story has been the most challenging one yet. Week one had seen the start of a new project, and the first time I’d written a story in years, and so I was excited to write on most of the days. I was slightly less excited in the second week, but still maintained fairly good rhythm. This last week, however, I’ve just not felt in the mood to write.
I put this down to a number of possible things. The initial excitement has worn off. I have now pretty much outlined the story, plot and characters – so there’s less imagine left now, it’s just about the graft that is writing. Also, I’ve been letting my mind wander again (kinda like I did last week), this time thinking about other possible stories; I’ve stopped myself from getting too carried away though, and avoided honing in and developing an idea that I know could distract me from getting this first one completely.
My struggle to finish things
I’ve struggled to finish things I’ve started in the past. For example, I started 2 degrees at 2 different university; not long into each, I lost interest and pretty much switched off. I dropped out a year after each, but I could have done that a lot sooner even. Similarly, with my Masters, I had a couple of wobbles before I eventually pulled through. I’m not sure if this not-finishing-stuff is down to boredom, laziness, or a lack of self-belief. Probably a combination. With this story, I know there’ll be a great sense of satisfaction that comes with it’s completion. I’m just trying to put one foot in front of the other, and concentrate on the next step. Right now, that next step is getting the 1st draft completed. It feels like I’m about 60-70% done at this stage; for whatever reason, it’s stretching out longer than I expected. I’ve noticed that this week I’m being a little more carefree with the words, sentence structures, etcetera… I’m just trying to get it all down.
Then, I can type it up and edit as I go; the idea is that I’ll effectively have ‘newer draft’ when it’s all been typed up, before I can then conduct a 2nd self-edit. After this, I can hand it over to someone else to edit (provided I don’t carry out further rounds of self-editing). Really, I just want to keep my feet on the ground and keep moving forwards.
Easier said than done.
Self-doubt + other nasty inner dialogue
And all sorts of doubts creep up on me, pretty much on a daily basis. Is there any point in doing this? Am I any good at this? Am I supposed to be a writer? Is this even going to lead anywhere?
Writing these doubts down, like I am right now, actually helps. As does reading about the experiences of other writers. This week, I started listening to Joanna Penn’s huge library of podcast episodes (300+), starting with this episode, titled Stop Worrying, Start Writing. How to Overcome Fear and Self-Doubt with Sarah Painter. I liked the episode, and it served as a good reminder that this stuff is so common. Sarah, of The Worried Writer, also mentions that she has been diagnosis with clinical anxiety, something I can relate too having also had the same diagnosis. Equally, I have been following other writers who have also had challenges with their mental health (depression, anxiety, social anxiety) and so forth. I actually recently shared a post about my own social anxiety, here on my other blog.
For every writer I see online who has 1000s of followers, a portfolio of published works, and otherwise looks like ‘a proper author’… I also try to remind myself of those, just like me, who feel like they have no idea what they are doing, and are just trying to see where their writing takes them. In the podcast episode, a particular tip I found useful was where Sarah talked about being kind to yourself and removing those triggers for your anxious/negative thoughts (when you need to); for example, not going into bookshops and looking at all the ‘big, famous titles’ in there (something which, funnily enough, unsettled me a couple of weeks when I visited Waterstones to buy my mum her Mother’s Day present), or following other reputable with 100,000s of followers, or anything else which can make you feel small, insignificant and overwhelmed. A useful tip that certainly spoke to me.
This week, my therapist also recommended a book to me about the creative process, which she couldn’t find on her bookshelf but thought might be something that could resonate. She said it might also help me feel a little less alone, in terms of identifying those phases that every creative goes through when producing something (thoughts of Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art spring to mind). In therapy, I’ve also been talking through things that I’ve been holding in for a while – even last year when I had intense group therapy (2-3 days a week) and 1-to-1 therapy; I’m addressing some of the issues that started when I was a child/teenager, and the associated habits, thought patterns and core beliefs about myself which have spawned as a result. Talking therapy and writing are helping me slowly unpick these meaty issues and heal from them.
Perhaps a little contrary to the article on Lauren Sapala’s website that I read last week (which certainly makes sense to me), I’ve been trying to do some fiction writing (i.e. my short story) every day, even if just for a few minutes. I have found that it helps to maintain momentum, and helps avoid days passing with no writing. It also is useful for me to be ‘tuned in’ to what I am writing; if I leave it, say 3 days, without writing, it means that I may have partially forgotten what I’ve previously written about – and I feel I’ve lost a bit of that connection with the character, whose shoes I’m attempting to stand in, and connect with, in order to tell the story.
Where I’m currently at
Week 1: 21 pages (A5)
Week 2: 27.5 pages (A5)
Week 3: 21 pages (A5)
[added] ~15k words written
Whilst trying to take it in small steps, I’ve been using the thought and excitement of ‘finishing’ as motivation to plough on. I also have an idea about what I might do with the finished piece – which I’m excited about, as well as nervous, of course. Watch this space…
Should I be reading fiction?!
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, is whether I need to be reading more fiction. I see a lot of indie/aspiring/published/unpublished authors on Goodreads, consuming lots of books, sharing their reviews and other authors’ work, etcetera. I’m sure they enjoy doing this, and it seems like a meaningful way to contribute and make connections, and perhaps gain support for their own published works, too (further down the line). I’m asking myself – do I need to do this?
I’m feeling some resistance – to be completely honest, I’ve read hardly any fiction in recent years. Whilst I do recognise that that reading has so many advantages for authors, I am also wary of how reading other authors’ books has the potential to interfere with my own personal style / ‘writers’ voice’.
But then – am I not missing out by not reading fiction, and engaging in reader communities? Am I depriving myself of the present/future benefits of reading, reviewing and contributing to the community? I’d love to get your thoughts on this! (see below)
PS. Confession: After writing this earlier in the day, I got back after midnight after the pub with a friend. It is 1.41am on Friday at time of publishing – but it’s technically still Thursday’s, so I’ve maintained my posting schedule, right?! 🙄
✏ Written: Thursday, 21st March 2018 @ 2.07pm
What about you? 🤷🏽♂️
How do you deal with your anxieties/inner-chatter? Do you read and review lots of books? Should I be doing the same?! As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts + perspectives 💙