Resistance And The Writer’s Battle Of Self-Doubt

I’d never encountered writer’s block, or Resistance as Steven Pressfield calls it, like this before. I’ve always put Neil Gaiman’s philosophy to practice – that people won’t be able to tell if you wrote when inspired or not, you just need to get the words out.

But I have to admit I am here. Resistance is winning big time. I delete more words than I put down and no matter how I push against this Wall I can’t seem to move it. My creativity is suffocating.

Have you ever been there – where you just could not stomach the march forward that your book required? Have you ever thought your message had zero impact and no one would notice whether you wrote or not?

The comforting part about these questions is that every writer has been there. From Euripides to Chaucer to JK Rowling to you, every single person that aspired to write has encountered this feeling before.

If the above statement is true, how did they get past the Wall of Resistance?

Brick wall
Courtesy David Playford Freeimages.com

Last week was the dark battle.

Philosophical questions about my worth surfaced.

These questions were enemies I thought I defeated long ago. Turns out they are always there and I was unequipped to face them this time.

Then a thought occurred to me as I sat down to put words on the page again, something I am sure I read but have forgotten the attribution.

Writing is about writing not about who I am or what I’ve done or not done. It’s about putting another word down. All of it is momentum. And momentum can be slow and grueling. It can take an hour to string four sentences together.

I tricked myself into believing that writing would be inspiring every time I put myself in my chair and when I wasn’t enjoying myself and the progress was deleting the bad and not adding the good, I came away discouraged. When that happens too many times doubts can surface, ugly doubts.

There is a saying in our house. When my young children are crying in the middle of the night or won’t go to bed I repeat it to myself or say aloud to my wife  – parents win every time. No matter how long the crying or the number of questions or mess in the room parents win by persisting, by rising above.

If you are here, at the edge of giving up like me, remember that writing is work.

It’s taking punches as much as giving them.

Sometimes you have to wait for your opponent to tire before striking back.

This blog post is my first attempt at a left hook.

What’s yours?

Advertisements

3 Questions with novelist Aric Davis

Jot Writers Conference

Aric DavisARIC DAVIS is the author of seven books: From Ashes Rise: A Novel of Michigan, Nickel Plated, A Good and Useful Hurt, The Black Death: A Dead Man Novella, Rough Men, Breaking Point, The Fort and Tunnel Vision. He is married with one daughter and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he worked for sixteen years as a body piercer; he now writes full time. A punk rock aficionado, Davis does anything he can to increase awareness of a good band. He likes weather cold enough to need a sweatshirt but not a coat, and friends who wear their hearts on their sleeves. In addition to reading and writing, he also enjoys roller coasters, hockey, and a good cigar. All of Aric’s books are available on Amazon.com.

Aric will be interviewed as part of the next Jot Writers’ Conference (9.9.16). I (Andy)…

View original post 538 more words

Why Do You Pursue The Creative Life?

If I told you I was going to pursue a job that offered virtually no money, could occasionally feel like mental torture, and have the ability to ruin me emotionally for days on end, but I’d be happy, what would you think?

Writing is more than that but it feels like a grey-sky filled plod from time to time. Then after struggling in the dark you see a ray a sunshine, for a minute, and its enough to keep going.

Recently I’ve has two big wins in the writing realm. I’ll share more on them in later posts but I cannot help the fact that writing looks more like the pie chart below (borrowed from Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work)

So, why do I keep writing?

Artist WayThat is an excellent question. For me, I guess I enjoy it. Yes, even the torture.

I’m not a Navy Seal or professional athlete but I think I get them now more than I did before writing got difficult. It’s not about the trials its about what comes after. And for me that pay off is worth the effort in the end.

How about you? Why do you write or pursue your dream?

Goal Setting For the Time-Starved Writer

Early on in my marriage, my wife would laugh at me when I listed my goals for the evening.

Read 40 pages of a book, watch a movie, go for a run, do all of our laundry, wash the dishes, and maybe rearrange a bedroom or two. Then have some friends over for dinner once we are done.

Seriously. I could get a out of hand.

Courtesy Unsplash

 

Nearly eleven years later I am better at adjusting my expectations, but still have difficulty setting daily goals. I now have four kids and an ever-growing mound of responsibilities.

What I struggled with, and what I am guess you do from time to time, is wanting immediate results. And when they don’t happen on my schedule, having a good attitude and trying again tomorrow.

If you are a writer, or a creative of any sort, this desire for immediate results can mean frustration and angst and a mercurial mood that can ruin or severly strain your relationships.

I’ve found one of the best ways to avoid feeling like a failure and actually accomplishing my daily goals is to make them realistic and remind myself that I am working for the long haul, neither of which is easy.

So my encouragement to you is to do what you can today. Don’t worry if you cannot finish all of your goals. Stay in the game, even if the movement is subtle.

Above all remember you are writing not for today, but for a year from now, when you will finish your book.

 

Let Your Actions Back Up Your Talk

Occasionally, I find myself in this embarrassing situation. I tell someone my plan for renovating my house, my latest book, or another random dream. Cool, they say, do you need help with that?

I stare at them realizing I haven’t touched that book in weeks, researched costs for the renovation, or fleshed out that dream. I’m talking about what I want to do and forgetting the most integral part of any dream – Action.

hear me out

My goal for this post, and I hope many before it, is to lead you to action, something I find I lose every now and then. I read books, blogs, and websites, but forget the most integral part of all of the learning and research. The follow through.

This is what Part-Time Novel is all about – becoming a writer in the margins of life. But in order to become anything you must actually work on that thing.

You can’t just talk about wanting a better marriage. You must spend quality time with your spouse. If I said I love you to my wife but never spent time cultivating our relationship, they’re just words.

Whenever I become unsatisfied with something, it is usually because of my lack of follow through. I have not taken the time to sit down and work on it.

This past weekend I thought long and hard about what I wanted in the next six months. Books, proposals, new website launches, etc., and I developed an action plan, not just a list of to dos, and have been working on them every day.

How about you? Do you ever find yourself talking and not acting?

What do you need to act on today?

Time is the currency we all have. Use it well.

Writer, How Do You Hit Your Word Count Goal?

My ideal writing output has changed over time. I’ve tied the satisfaction with my work to words per week, hours allotted, and pages per month. Most of this effort is me trying to trick myself into writing as efficiently as I can during a challenging point in my life.

My key to finish any work is simple – do whatever it takes to keep going. The easiest way for me to keep writing is to take my focus away from the project itself and instead focus on the steps I need to take to complete it.

Stone steps 1

I enjoy taking something complex and tearing it down into smaller bites that help me understand it or conquer it. This is true whether I am building a desk, mowing the lawn, or driving to someplace I’ve never been, my mind is constantly looking for steps I need to take, like a map unfolding before me. Writing is no different.

I firmly believe if you sit down and tell yourself you are going to write an eighty-thousand-word novel, you will fail. If you start out and say “I am going to write the first scene or thousands words” and go from there, you have a better chance at succeeding. For me, writing has always been a joy. But doing the same thing day in and day out, even if I am creating new and exciting content, can grow old. And I, like you, need to figure out the best way to keep moving forward.

But for the writer, production is what we seek. The ability to create more stories. This week I am going to try something new.

I am going to write down seven different word count goals. 500 – five times, and 1000 – two times, on the dry erase board near my desk. Before I go to bed, I must erase one of these numbers. If I am tired, it is 500. If my wife has a project or is going out for the evening or it’s my writing evening, it’s a 1000.

By doing this, focusing on a small portion of words, I will have a better chance of hitting my word count goal on each one of the projects I want to accomplish.

2 blogs (300 word-ish each)

2500 on my YA novel

1500 on my e-book about writing with a family, job, and other life obligations.

To keep momentum, I will come to the blank page with a solid idea of what I want to write about by leaving a note where I left off. This should prevent me from losing the story thread between days.

This is just one method – focusing on bite sized pieces of larger projects. Once I am done with these pieces, it’ll be time to develop a process for editing. But one step at a time.

How do you keep going?

How do you ensure you keep moving forward with your books?

 

 

When You Feel Like Giving Up

Have you ever started a project with gusto and then while in the middle of it realize that you may have made a terrible mistake?

It could be a book, an organizational task, a move, or a garage sale. But you and I have both had that sinking feeling of “Oh no. What have I done!”

24699607783_e429516614_o
Photo Credit: TheNoxid via Compfight cc

My blogs, books, and several of my moves over the last ten years have felt this way. I stand there, wondering what the next step is, and consider eating seven slices of pizza as the answer to feeling overwhelmed. It’ll never get done anyway.

I wrote a while back about the U shaped journey of the creative referenced in Todd Henry’s book Louder Than Words. The visionary starts their journey with joy. They can see the other side and it should be a quick hike down into the valley and up the other side. Once the sun is out of view, however, the forest grows tall and dark, and the traveler hears a wolf howl. So they stumble forward with suborn single-mindedness and soon enough, find ourselves out the other side.

Life is not this easy. But the truth is that anything worth doing is bound to get really difficult. I am not sure who said writing books and having four kids was easy but they were lying. Sure I love my novels and non-fiction stories and love my kids even more than that but I’d like to commiserate with you and say we’ve all been there, feeling like everything we do is terrible.

That ___ is a mistake.

That ___ will amount to nothing.

It wasn’t always this hard or energy sapping but it feels like it will forever be so going forward.

Friend, great writers weren’t magically endowed with the writing gift when they were born. Sure some might have a leg up, but I know many writers that are incredibly talented that struggle with doubt in the middle of every project.

I have heard it said that when you get to the place of being really uncomfortable or feeling like you are lost then you have crossed the border between imitation and originality in art.

If you feel like giving up, I implore you to move forward. There are so many books and blogs that have encouraged and inspired me on my journey. I know that it may seem impossible to continue onward but I hope you do. Remember the joy that came at the beginning and write from there.

It will take time but keep writing. That is the one and only way to know if your work will be worth it in the end.

Do you feel like giving up?

How can I encourage you today?

 

Why Today Can Be The Best Day You Ever Had

Nearly every day I put my son to bed and then his two older sisters. My wife handles our three month old. And almost every evening my daughter Clara asks me the same question.

“Daddy, what are we going to do in the morning?”

I’ve had many answers to this question. Occasionally, they morph into a fictional story but lately I’ve been answering it this way – “Well, tomorrow can be anything you want to make it”, which usually produces a frown and furrowed eyebrows which mean she’s either confused or unsatisfied with my answer. So I try the excitement angle.

“Tomorrow is open honey,” I say. “You can do anything you want! It can be the best day of your life!” Her eyes sparkle and she smiles.

Sunrise

Somewhere along the way we grown ups can lose our enthusiasm and sense of adventure. Part of the reason can be the responsibilities we have but I think it is because we have beaten paths in our lives that are familiar, comfortable, and easy.

It’s much easier to sit at home and browse my iphone than it is to get up and go browse the books at the local library. We prevent our kids from jumping in puddles or building a tent in the living room with the couch cushions because they create messes and as adults we’ve learned that messes make our lives difficult, regardless of the joy they can bring.

There are days I can be a curmudgeon. I can easily revert to cranky and ornery. These are the beaten paths I’ve plodded in my few years.

But as I told my daughter, each day can be new. Each day can be the best day we’ve ever had. But, in order for them to be so, we must ignore these familiar ways we traverse every day. We must search for activities that bring about joy and restoration to our soul.

I hope you are active today. That you take a hike. You play with molding clay or dust off your guitar or maybe even do something as simple as take a different road on your commute.

Whatever you do, do something different and do something that brings joy.

An event for poetry lovers coming this February

Jot Writers Conference

We’re thrilled to announce a new Jot Writers Conference event! On Wednesday, February 17th, 2016, in partnership with Schuler Books and Music, we’ll be hosting Poetry and Conversation, a free event on the power and beauty of poetry. Here’s the official write-up:

*****

Poetry and Conversation is a free event for lovers of the written word. Three poets from West Michigan—Matthew Landrum, Kelsey May, Z.G. Tomaszewski—will share their insights on writing and publishing, and will read from their published works.  Attendees will be encouraged to share original poetry at an open mic following the presentations.

Matthew LandrumMatthew Landrum is poetry editor of Structo Magazine. His work has recently appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, RHINO, and The Baltimore Review. His chapbook The Lonesome Savior — translations from the Faroese of Agnar Artúvertin — was published with Cold Hub Press in 2015. He lives in Detroit.

Kelsey mayKelsey May

View original post 266 more words

The Best Thing Any Writer Can Do Is Be Generous

For the past few days I’ve been home with my kids. It’s been delightful. I took a few days off to be with my newborn daughter. I’ve been paid by my employer to play with my kids, read to them, wrestle, go on hikes, fight dinosaurs, dress princesses and even pull my kids around in the brief dusting of snow we have.

Praire Snow

This break from work also provided me a chance to have lunch with Chad Allen, Editorial Director at Baker Books  and blogger. He has a great site, Check it out here. During our conversation I realized I have a lot to learn about the world of blogging but also something I didn’t expect. He told me to focus not on my content, or certain tools, but on serving.

Many of the writers I follow online either write fiction or have their own online business. The ones I am drawn to the most are those who live generously. They don’t flaunt it but some have built schools in Vietnam or Kenya with their audiences. One is currently promoting buying candles for women who were victims of human trafficking.

This resonates with me deeply. Creating a platform for me to stand on and boast about my books has always felt a little funny. I am proud of my work and I want to sell books someday, but I have no intention of building an empire of ME.

I have big plans in 2016. Plans to launch a new website and a podcast. I also have plans for releasing one to two e-books. You’ll also have an opportunity to join me to support a great cause. More on that in future posts.

Please subscribe to my blog via email (top right corner of site). It’s the best way to get content as not all of it makes it to my various channels of social media. I’ll never share or sell it.

-Bob