This month’s guest blogger is a good friend as well as the toughest editor I know–my stories and manuscripts are still recovering from numerous red-ink lashings! However, despite the mental and emotional scars, my writing has tremendously improved because of them. 🙂
So, without further ado, Readers, please welcome author and blogger Phil Partington to Dropped Pebbles and see what he has to share on the subject of…
Avoiding the Ledge—How to Maintain/Recover Your Writing Confidence
If you’re an aspiring author, you’ve experienced it—that panicky feeling where you suddenly say to yourself, “I can’t do this!” I’m not even necessarily referring to writer’s block either, although that can sometimes lead to this kind of panic. I’m talking about that point in your writing or querying where you just…don’t…know…what’s…wrong or how to fix it and this leads you to question if you ever had talent in the first place.
It’s a punch to the gut, a slap in the face and a giant whiff of buffalo farts all at once. When a writer is over-egotistical, it’s a problem—egoism can stunt a writer’s growth in their craft—but when one’s confidence is completely shattered to this degree it can bring question to everything.
If you’re currently facing this dilemma or find yourself facing it at some point, take a breath, put the computer aside, step away from the ledge and find a way to let off the steam. Here are some suggestions/ideas:
- Fill a small basin of water. Insert straw and blow like a gale.
- Go outside to a secluded spot and moon a tree while calling it names.
- Find space where you can run, preferably in a secluded spot, and do a Kermit the frog sprint, yelling and hollering until you’re exhausted.
- Perform an extemporaneous scene where two fictional characters are quarrelling over the proper consistency of poached eggs (play both characters).
- With no one around (most of these are probably best to do by yourself), get on all fours and bark emphatically at the door as if there’s a mailman standing on the other side.
OK, so maybe these just work for me (though they’re worth a shot). You might note that the common factor among them is that they all help release a lot of pent up energy and they all have you doing something stupid. Once you realize that doing stupid things can be fun, you (hopefully) will see the irony…and HOPEFULLY this will help you see that your problem is conquerable.
In other words…WRITING A NOVEL IS STUPID.
Seriously, you have to be a bonehead to take on such an endeavor. The likelihood of being fairly compensated for your efforts is minimal; many will rip the thing apart and even attack YOU as if you’ve kicked their dog many times over; and you’ll hit a wall of exhaustion. But you know what? Most authors will tell you, regardless of the level of success they reap, that it’s all worth it.
You might ask why, but you already know. It’s the story that drives us—that’s why we wrote those characters in the first place, and it’s why we care so…damned…much about getting everything just right.
Believe me, it ain’t for the money.
So if that’s what drives us, it makes sense to go back to that initial excitement that had us writing the story in the first place. To do that, we must first cleanse our palette.
Cleanse Your Palette
I asked you to take a breath before. Now, take another one. Forget about the specific thing that ails you—the story, the query letter…whatever it is. Find something else you’re passionate about—perhaps it’s another story idea you haven’t gotten to yet; maybe you enjoy writing a particular kind of scene. And then…write. Write for your eyes only (unless it turns out to be something you wish to share). Write without consequences…without concern or want to analyze or edit. Just write. Embrace tangents…take risks.
Returning to Face the Problem
Give yourself a few days…a week…however long it takes to get to the point where you can think about your problem (not in depth, mind you) without getting overstressed about it.
Face the problem again, hopefully with fresh eyes.
If at any point you start stressing again, repeat Step One.
This isn’t a fool-proof plan, but it’s how I deal with writer’s stress. It’s worked for me in the past. Sometimes, the problem is too complicated, but don’t give up. Remember what brought you to writing fiction in the first place. Remember your muse.
Of course, sometimes this isn’t enough…sometimes time away is necessary. If you’re at that point, don’t despair. Your muse will come back.
Take a third breath and go experience life—it’s fuel for your muse.
Phil Partington is a writing enthusiast of many years. Having written numerous articles for online and print trade publication on a national level, he has spent the last five or so years turning his attention to fiction writing. The Siren’s Lyric is his first novel and is near completion.