Sunday, August 19, 2012

Weekly Progress Report, Or How I Overcame Writer's Block

Notice how I haven't done a progress report for awhile? That's because there hasn't been any progress to note.

Oh sure. I've pretended to be working on The Hostage Heart. I re-read all 75k and made a detailed chapter outline. (Hopefully that will help with the I-can't-remember-if-I-already-wrote-this-scene problem I was having.) I pretended to think about what was going to happen next while secretly thinking about the twins' first birthday party instead. I even hopped on iWriteNetwork with the intentions of doing actual word counts when sprinting, but mostly just critiqued for my writer's group or re-read my own stuff.

I have heard other authors say they get to that I-hate-my-manuscript point on every project. I have been there myself a time or two. But I forgot what that point feels like. For about 6 weeks, I have literally wanted to light my manuscript on fire and cackle in glee as I watch it burn.

But no more. I have once again overcome writer's block, and The Hostage Heart is back on track.

Every writer has a different method of what helps them overcome writer's block. Some work on a different project for awhile. Others read a good novel or go to a movie. There are many cures as there are published--and unpublished--books, but for me, there is only one thing that cures my writer's block.

Writing. Who knew?

No matter how many movies I watch, books I read, purses I buy, my writer's block will not go away until I actually sit my butt in that chair, glue my finger's to the keyboard, and write. I have found that every single time I feel writer's block approaching, if I just force myself to crank out my 2k a day the problem resolves itself quickly. But this time I just stopped writing for awhile. I outlined, critiqued, worked on my super-secret Christmas project for hubby. But I didn't write.

I credit my friends at iWriteNetwork for helping me overcome this latest block. I was complaining about not knowing what to write, and one of them dared me to start the chapter with the sentence, "And then a cat landed on her head." Writing prompts, incidentally, are a great cure for writer's block. They involve actual writing. So I took the sentence and ran with it.

The cat fell on his head, not hers. And it happened a page into the chapter. And it will probably get cut out later.

But it helped get the story going again. It got me back in the flow, and 1000 words later I knew what I needed to do to save this WIP. I had killed a character. And suddenly, all because he died, I am racing to the finish line of this manuscript.

I no longer feel like lighting this book on fire. Instead, I want to skip church (I won't) and spend those 3 hours cranking out words instead of wrestling babies (because I never actually hear church these days. I'm too busy chasing cute kids). 6 weeks of agony came down to 30 minutes of just forcing myself to power through and write. Oh, and someone's death. And a feral cat with a penchant for hissing.

I hit some big benchmarks this week. I passed up 300 pages and 80,000 words in The Hostage Heart. And it feels amazing. And so, here is my report for the week.

days spent writing: 3
word count: 4591
time spent writing: 130 minutes (2 hours, 10 minutes)
WPM: 35

My WPM has decreased a little, but I am confident that it will pick back up soon enough. I'm going back to 10k a week now. I estimate I probably have another 40k or so before The Hostage Heart's first draft is complete, and so I'm hoping to have it finished in another 4-6 weeks. My critique group and I set quarterly goals and I said I wanted to have the first draft done by the end of this quarter, which is the end of September. So I think it's totally a doable goal. Next time I feel writer's block approaching, I will keep writing and not let it bog me down.

What have you found helps overcome writer's block?

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fear of Failure

When I was a little girl, my mom used to tell me, "You can be anything you want to be." I would say, "When I grow up I want to be a [insert unlikely career here]," and my mom said, "If you work hard, you can make it happen."

By about second grade I had narrowed in on what I was going to be when I grew up. It was a couple of things actually, but I had decided I would be, 1) a wife, 2) a mother, 3) a teacher, and 4) a writer. Most kids change their minds a million times between second grade and college graduation, but not me. Aside from a brief stint in which I decided I hated teaching, I never wavered. I am one of those people who makes up her mind and then sticks to it. I never even changed my major in college.

I became a wife at 18, a teacher at 19, and a mother at 21. But what about writer? I've had a goal of becoming published by 25 since I was about 13. Now that I'm closing in on 23, this is seeming like an impossible goal. In my mind, I now say things like, "Maybe I'll have an agent by 25," or, "Maybe I'll have a contract by 25." Published by 25 is quickly seeming impossible. On my more pessimistic days, I think, "Maybe I'll have a manuscript finished and ready to query by 25." Those are usually the days when I have not even been able to fold laundry because of the twins. The days when it's 4 pm, the bed isn't made, the sink is piled high with dishes, the twins are cranky, and I'm wondering if I'm going to manage to get out of my pajamas before hubby gets home from work and/or school.

Sometimes, on really bad days like today, I wonder if I'm even a writer. If I even have the right to be a writer. Because what right do I have to spend my precious free time writing when I have so many other things I should and could be doing?

I have a confession: I haven't seriously worked on The Hostage Heart in almost a month. Yes, I know I have claimed to be "editing." But I finally realized the other day: I'm not editing. I'm avoiding. Avoiding finishing. Avoiding trying. Avoiding failure.

Because I am scared I will fail. It feels weird to admit it. I've always been a fairly confident person, and until my husband and I struggled with infertility I had never encountered a problem I couldn't fix just by sheer will power and hard work.

Writing is kind of like infertility in some ways, now that I think about it. I am putting my heart out there on the line, and it's all up to someone else whether or not my dreams come true. Oh sure, I know I can self-publish. Indie is a great way to go for lots of writers. But not for me. I need someone else to validate my worth as a writer. I need that publisher's stamp of approval.

And that's scary. Because what if I'm wasting all this time writing when I should be making awesome gourmet meals and keeping my house spotlessly clean? I could be canning or hand making baby clothes or something. What if I fail? What if I'm really not any good at this whole writing thing? What if I just plain suck?

I'm being dramatic. I know I'm being dramatic. I do that a lot; I have earned the title of Drama Queen through hard work and dedication. But still. What if...?

It's true; faith and fear cannot coexist. And my fear of failure has paralyzed my writing and made it impossible for me to press forward. I need to sit back, take a deep breath, and have a little faith in myself. I need to give myself some credit.

My personal motto is, "I can do hard things." And I can. I have done hard things, time and time again. This is another hard thing I can do--overcome my fear of failing and actually write something worth publishing. I can do it. I will do it.

August is going to be a more productive writing month than July. It has to be.

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