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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Writing Tips for the Practical-Minded #7: Trust the process

When I teach, I am invariably asked questions about writer's block.  Do I get it?  How does one cure it?  Is it inevitable?

I never know whether I should reach out and hug the terrified questioner, murmuring, "It'll be okay, really..", or whether I should just reach out and shake the person and say, "Get a grip!"

Sometimes I think that worrying about writer's block is a symptom of a bigger problem.  I think that some people think of WRITING as something that is so deeply important and larger-than-life that it must be written in bold, italicized capital letters.  Well, it is important.  It's my chosen art, and maybe it's yours.  But if I write something stupid today, or even if I don't write today at all, nobody will die.  No civilizations will fall.  The sun will not fail to rise or set.

Writing should be fun.  It should be the thing that helps you shake the world's pettiness aside.  It should be something you anticipate fondly while you're taking care of the boring, odious tasks of daily life.  If you're like me, the stories pile up in your head while you're doing those boring and odious tasks.  They're waiting to burst out when you finally...finally...get a chance to sit down and write. 

When I was writing Artifacts, I was convinced that I was wasting my time.  If, on the off-chance, I actually managed to write an entire book, I knew that it was not possible that I would ever have another idea big enough to support a book.  Never, never, ever.  There would be no career, because I had no other book in me.
 
As I was finishing the last chapters of Artifacts, the idea for Relics suddenly came to me, so I wrote that book.  But as I wrote it, I was utterly convinced that I had no potential for a career as a writer, because I would never have a third idea big enough to support an entire book.  Never ever.  Ever.  Yet as I wrote the final chapters of Relics, the idea for Effigies came to me. 

This, ladies and gentlemen, is when I began to trust the process.  All the things I've learned and all the life I've lived are bottled up in my head.  I can trust that when I reach into the well for stories, something will be there.  My late father always said, "No education is ever wasted," and my father was always right.

Feeling blocked as a writer doesn't mean that you have nothing to say.  I think it means that you have let your anxieties tell you that you have nothing to say that is good enough. 

The cure?  Write anyway.

3 comments:

  1. You have a very smart father. I just finished my first novel, and I was certain I'd never have another book inside me. Just today I caught myself thinking, "What if ...."

    ReplyDelete
  2. "What if..."

    Those two words have spawned every story ever told.

    Write yours!

    ReplyDelete

 
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