Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Writer's Block, or not

I don't really like the term.  I often say I have Writer's Panic instead -- which is what I call the feeling that you're swamped and drowning and never going to get anywhere with your project.  And in fact, over the past few months, I have written some 20,000 words of a brand new project and made some huge but very freeing changes on my WIP, which has caused that to take off in a new direction.  So it's not that I don't have ideas.  The ideas are there, while I'm driving or sweeping or working.  The problem is putting the ideas down on paper.  The fear when I sat down to write was so strong, that even when I made myself do it, after a little while I would think, "well, maybe I better stop now, while things are still good.  After all [insert here anecdote about famous writer who only wrote two pages a day.]" 

This fear was something new.  I'd never really felt it before, writing.  And the odd thing was it kept coming back.  I could have a really good day writing and the next day, sitting down, the same old procrastination and hesitation.  In other words, success had no effect on the fear, which seemed to be contrary to the conventional wisdom that doing something you fear makes the fear go away.  I thought it was maybe more like stage fright.  I'd heard stories -- we all have -- of well-known actors who suffered from stage fright every night, at least until the curtain came up.  I looked for books on stage fright, but everything I found was aimed at children.  So I looked for more general books on fear.  These were, of course, self-help books.  Oy. Brain chemistry for dummies.  Vignettes about high-powered executives at Fortune 500 companies who were freed to follow their dreams of entrepreneurship.  (There are no creative types in self-help books; I believe the authors think that creative people float around with little wings on their backs, drawing rainbows and hearts in the air.)  However, I did learn some useful stuff from these books, in the end.  I had an insight, reading one in particular -- this was not something that actually appeared in the book, but a thought that came to me while reading it:
You will always feel anxiety when you are doing something important.
You will always feel it in proportion to what you are trying to do.

I don't know why, but this was comforting.  I suppose the self-help books would say I gave myself permission to have anxiety.  I'm working, I'm working hard, I will have anxiety, I'll be OK. 
I also began to set daily goals for writing, which is something I never felt the need to do before.  Not word count goals, but lists of scenes I need to work on.  I look at the goals, say, this is what I'm going to do today, and I focus on that. 

The upshot of this is that stuff gets done.  Do I still have the fear?  Yes.  This post?  Total procrastination. All I can say is that the fight goes on.

No comments: