On the bad days, when nothing–not even crappy writing– makes it onto the page, I take consolation in the thought of someday telling the hilarious story of taking ten years to write my first novel, and making countless hung-up writers feel better by comparison. There are no ifs, I tell myself, only when. Every day is an act of suspending my own disbelief.
To those writers who think finishing/publishing a book will vanquish their beasts for once and for all, I’m sorry to tell you that my doubts and self-sabotage still circle and growl. But I’m better at taming them. I can’t always make them go away, but I can usually make them sit and lie down.
Here are some things to help you tame your beasts:
I’m a chronic List Maker, a hopeless Side Tracker, a compulsive Social Sharer, and a dedicated Internet Researcher — what about you?
Habit: Content, Creativity, and the Role of Habit by Jason Konopinski
Familiar advice about cultivating good creative habits, but I need reminding over and over again. As the world’s slowest writer, I was especially comforted by this anecdote:
James Joyce famously labored over every single word, sentence, and punctuation mark. It was a process that took days. In an oft-repeated story, Joyce encountered a friend on the street who asked him if he’d had a productive writing day, to which he happily replied, “Yes, I wrote three sentences today.”
I wrote three sentences yesterday afternoon. It took me only two hours, but then, I’m not writing Ulysses.
Journaling: A New Way to Think About Journaling by Karen Walrond
My friend Karen showed me her “global capture” approach to keeping a journal during break between sessions at a writer’s conference where we were presenters a few years back. It was a game changer–like installing an overflow valve for my brain. I’ve adapted the practice to suit myself (including a switch from an unruled Moleskine to a similar notebook with heavier paper, so marker ink doesn’t bleed through), but the basic concept of putting it all between the covers remains the same. It’s sort of like dumping your handbag out so you can sort the trash from the useful things you carry around all day.
Endurance: Surviving the Myths of a Writer’s Life
This is a wrap-up of a talk I gave last month to creative writing students at the University of Central Arkansas. I was surprised and happy to be asked to give a craft workshop, but a little perplexed about what to teach, since I’ve never actually been in a writing workshop myself. I thought about what would have been most useful to me as a young writer starting out, and decided to leave the teaching of writing to the writing teachers, and pass along some endurance skills instead — approaches that have helped me navigate the personal hazards of creative work.
This far, anyway.
What are some of the beasts that stalk your work lately?