Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Motivation for July - Writer's Terror!

Is writer’s block just that? Let me word it another way: Is there really such a thing as writer’s block? I have never liked that term. I know I can write when I put my mind to it. There are so many characters and stories in my mind, waiting to get out, that it’s not for lack of material.

Then there were the times that I was drained physically or emotionally that, try as I might, it didn’t seem I had enough emotion to write into my character’s lives. At one point, I even felt the Lord’s gentle voice telling me to “rest”—at least from writing fiction—and I began to write devotionals for a time. That was a good learning experience for me.

After I became unemployed again in early February, I thought how great it would be to have plenty of time to work on my writing. However, that was part of my problem. I no longer had to reserve my writing time for twenty minutes or so at Starbucks before work, or during lunch and hope to find additional time on the weekend. I had a whole day before me, so why not start with coffee and email, then write a blog post. When I was done with all that I needed to get going and run errands, clean or cook. Before I knew it, another day was gone and I would go to sleep with thoughts in my head of how wonderful it would be to write tomorrow.
"The Scream" by Edvard Munch {PD in the US}

Some days I accomplished a little, but what was stopping me from digging in and racking up those word counts? I read books that encouraged writers to keep writing, saying encouraging me to write over 2,000 words a day, that it wasn’t that difficult. I took the advice of keeping a writing appointment each day, but still wasn’t making the kind of progress I wanted.

Each day I would look at that rectangle of white on the screen and the words rolled around in my mind, but they didn’t make it quickly onto the page. I’d ask myself where I should start or what should come next, but I would begin with trepidation. Only after I had taken some time and worked myself into the “zone” was I able to relax.

What was causing this block to my productivity? Fear caused my lack of confidence and snail like pace. My internal editor was on high alert and critical of everything.  The fear of failure lurked within, holding me back.

Then I decided to read Jim Denney’s, Writing in Overdrive, where he hypothesizes that some of the world’s greatest writers did their best work in compressed amounts of time, giving themselves to the pure joy of writing. Hmm . . . I’d also read over and over that if you write a first draft, you give yourself something to work with—it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time around.

Talking with other inspirational writers who were very productive, I was invited to participate in a group, which keeps you accountable for daily word count, but most importantly, they prayed for me. It was the first time in my writing life I prayed a different way for my productivity—and for others’.

Making a word count goal for the month, giving it to the Lord and sharing it with others made a difference. I started to take off and really enjoy writing again. No longer was it a mechanical process to be feared, but a story freely taking shape. Mind you, my draft will need plenty of editing and rewriting, but I have another novel manuscript first draft nearly finished.

What made the most difference in curing my writer’s terror? Accountability, prayer and allowing myself to enjoy writing again each played a big part. I still have my slower days, but pushing and challenging myself to a larger word count than usual helped turn writer’s terror into creative productivity.

May you go and achieve even more!

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  1. The term, "writing terror" is well coined. As writers, we know what we want to write, we have lots to write about, but fear, lack of self-confidence, discouragement, distractions can all keep us from pouring out the words that are bottled up inside us. Great post.

    1. Thanks, Karen. Yes, I decided to refer to it as "writer's terror",
      because it seems to be a paralyzing fear than a motivating fear.

  2. Thanks, Kathy, for a great post. I could identify with so much of what you shared.

    1. Thank you, Janet. I'm happy to have encouraged you today!

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  4. Great post Kathy. I just move on to another project for a while, otherwise I go bonkers trying to get it right!

    1. Thanks, Linda! That's good advice. Sometimes it's easier
      if we get our minds off what we've been stuck on, and
      make progress on something else for sure!