Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! My guest this week is the fabulous Bethany Michaels! Not only is she a talented cover artist, she's also a terrific writer and a good friend. Does her affliction sound familiar??? It should--to almost every writer!
Writing is Hard: Head Games
I've been writing seriously for over 10 years now and I'm telling you, it NEVER gets easier. You might think one would gain confidence once she writes and publishes a bunch of books.
Most of the difficulty for me relates to the head games I play with myself. I often waver between "This is awesome. I am awesome. I rock! Pulitzer Prize, baby!" to "Oh my God, no one is going to read this. This sucks. I suck. I am the worst writer EVER. Someone should shoot my laptop and put it out of its misery. I'm getting a lobotomy...TODAY." This all happens within a ten-minute time span...and is an internal reaction to the exact same piece of work.
This is normal. Almost every writer I've ever talked to has the same reactions to her writing at some point, whether she is a first-time author or a New York Times bestseller. Writers' neurosis never really goes away; you just get better at managing it.
I think that these voices telling you that you suck, or that you are the best writer ever, are all defense mechanisms. Writing is an art and, like any art, you put a piece of yourself on the canvas—your desires, your needs, your world view. You open yourself up to ridicule and rejection and to letting people who know you in real life see what a weirdo you really are. It's scary!
Telling yourself you suck keeps you from having too many expectations of success, so you're never disappointed when you get a rejection letter or don't immediately hit the NYT list with your first book. You knew you sucked anyway, so you were right all along. Score!
Telling yourself you are the next (insert big-name author here) pumps you up to keep putting words on the page, but it can also make you do things to turn other writers, editors, agents and readers off, especially if you truly believe your own hype. Self-promotion is absolutely necessary when you're a publishing author, but I think we've all seen the "look at me, me, me, buy my book, buy my book, buy my book" types online. So annoying and really kind of sad.
I find that head games I play with myself are the reason it's so hard to get started sometimes. It's better to avoid writing completely and binge-watch Alex O'Loughlin in "Hawaii 5-0" than put myself though all the emotional angst writing engenders.
But most of us writers MUST write. It's a way to let the crazy out a little bit at a time so we can function as normal human beings when we have to.
Here are a few tips for wrangling the crazy-talk in your head and getting down to work:
-Bring it on: Try physically writing down all the negative crap your inner hater is whispering to you. Put it all on the page and then...get rid of it. Burn it, wad it up, eat it, flush it...whatever. Poof! It's gone, physically and symbolically. You can also just listen for a moment and then visualize all the lines of negative words streaming out of your head and vaporizing. Or coming out in word bubbles and popping. Weird but effective. Try it! It's too hard to work with all those niggling little whispers bouncing around inside your brain. Do whatever it takes to exorcise those demons. They'll come back, but now you know how to temporarily rid yourself of them. Repeat as needed.
-Just do it: Do a writing sprint. Set a ridiculous word count goal and do everything you can to meet it. If I'm writing fast, I don't have time to listen to those confidence eaters. I'm too focused on typing as fast as my little fingers can go! This is the theory behind NANOWRIMO, where your goal is to draft 50,000 words in one month with no internal editor to hinder you. On Twitter, you can join other writers doing sprints (maybe trying to vanquish the same demons?) at #1k1hr.
-The DELETE key is your friend: A good thing to remember is that your writing is private until YOU choose to make it public. As Stephen King says, "Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open." Give yourself permission to write a shitty first draft. No one will see it but you. And if it really, really does suck eggs, you can employ this fancy little keyboard trick: SELECT ALL---> DELETE.
Personally, this is huge for me. I know I can write a bad scene with really awful dialogue and too many instances of "gaze", "she sighed" and "inner goddess" and no one will see it. EVER. Critique groups work for a lot of writers, but they don't work for me. I found that I was so worried about the feedback I was going to get on Chapter One that I could not go on to Chapter Two. I was writing to please the group rather than writing to get my story on the page where I could work with it and improve it. Now I write and revise until I'm happy with what I've got and THEN I share.
For the record, the phrase "inner goddess" has never made it to the final draft of any of my manuscripts. Or the first draft, for that matter ;)
Ok, procrastination time is over. Go banish the writing demons and get to work!
Thanks for visiting today and sharing your great advice, Beth!
Bethany is the author of over a dozen short stories, novellas and novels. She writes hot sexy love stories for several publishers including Red Sage, Whispers and Siren and is working on some independent titles as well. She earned a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Nomination for her novel, Nashville Heat and is a member of Romance Writers of America, Music City Romance Writers and Indiana Romance Writers of America.
When not at work on her next book or catching up the laundry or dishes, Bethany enjoys watching movies, hiking, reading, travelling and volunteering with her kids’ scout troops. She is trying to enjoy snacking on vegetables and using the treadmill rather than snacking on potato chips and using the television, but isn’t quite there yet.
Bethany loves to hear from readers! Contact her at Bethany@Bethanymichaels.com
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