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?

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How to Eradicate the Fear of Failure Once and For All

Have you ever planned a wedding or party or event and had something go array? It was a huge deal at the time. You still think about it and shudder.

But you know who noticed it?

Probably no one.

Even if you mentioned it to an individual that attended the debacle do you know what they’d most likely say? Nothing. They would just give you a confused look like they have no idea what you are talking about.

But fear is a pervasive jerk that is bound to show up again and again. It can ruin a future opportunity and also your dreams.

Often, because we don’t succeed or get hurt, we refuse to put ourselves out there again. You wrote a story and no one liked it. What if that happened again? True you might be devastated, but do you know who’s keeping score of every time you fail?

You are.

Ever heard of Thomas Edison? He failed hundreds of times trying to make a light bulb.

Photo Credit: SkydiveAndes via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: SkydiveAndes via Compfight cc

The difference with Edison is that he viewed the task he wanted to complete as a puzzle. He tried to solve it and if it didn’t work he’d try another piece, another method, another direction.

Life is not easy or perfect, so why would we ever believe a novel or starting a business would be a breeze? You’ll launch a business that will have bad days. You’ll start a blog that will not get any traffic. You’ll start a book that will be terrible in the end.

This can lead to a sad place. Where we draw a line in the sand between us and our dreams.

We give our dreams an ultimatum.

I’ll keep blogging if I get one new follower today.

I’ll keep practicing if I get a call this week for another audition.

I’ll try the guitar one more time, but then that’s it.

The key to eradicate the fear of failure is persistence and perspective.

What happens if persevere? If we throw away our fears of failing and go and see what’s on the other side of the hill?

J.K. Rowling kept at it.

Thomas Edison did too.

How about you?

3 Things the Prepublished Novelist Should Keep in Mind

As the drafts of my current novel get perilously close to the double digit mark, there is ample time to reflect on what went wrong at the beginning. If I’m honest things were really foggy at first. I didn’t know how to craft a story, I just liked words. Now, I feel as if a good percentage of the fog has cleared. I can tell when a scene stands on its own and when it is time for it to die.

Below I’d like you to consider three things while you work on your unpublished novel so you are not overwhelmed and give up.

Be fair with your comparisons – If you are just starting out, know where you are. You are not the next Rowling, Hardy, or Dickens. At least not at this moment. Do not pick one of the greats in your genre and think, “Well, I’m never going to be this good, time to try woodworking”.

Do people who want to lose 30 pounds do so in a week? How about someone who has never run a marathon? Could they just wake up the next day, put on their running shoes, and sprint to victory? Be realistic writer. You are still trying to figure it all out. Be okay with that. Your first draft probably won’t be magic. But the fifth one might, so keep at it.

Early Rome
Yes, this was not built in a day.

You are in the learning phase – Sadly, one does not write a book and immediately get published. But this can also be a very good thing. Books published without going through the crucible of a severe and honest edit have given the perfectly viable industry of self-publishing a terrible name.

Before you try to publish, learn about the publishing industry. Learn about agents. Read magazines on writing. Find people to give honest feedback that will help you understand what went wrong. Do not go to someone who is ruthless. After all, is it okay to tell a baby how awful they are at walking and never to try it again when they are taking their first steps? I do hope you said no.

Writing is hard – Writing is a slow plod, not a sprint. Even those with dynamite first books spent years learning the craft in school or otherwise. So when you spend three hours on a paragraph and are tempted to scrap the whole thing, take a deep breath. Go for a walk, refill your creative well, and find a new way through the thicket of your book.

Writer, if your find yourself in deep despair or overwhelmed at the blank page or your latest draft, relax. Remove the belief that something has to be great, immediately. Free yourself from unrealistic expectations, learn all you can, and then get to work.

If you’ve published a novel what would you say to a first time writer for advice or encouragement?

Write 500 words TODAY!

Cheers,

Bob

My Shamefully Small Reading List of 2012

Confession. Unlike last year, my yearly reading list is, admittedly, somewhat embarrassing. I hate not to report what I have read because there were several great books in there (which I have made bold in my list) but not as many as I would have liked.

I Hope this year contains more books, and more submissions.

  1. Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – JK Rowling

    The Emerald Atlas
    The Emerald Atlas
  2. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
  3. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – JK Rowling
  4. I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
  5. Humilitas – John Dickson
  6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – JK Rowling
  7. An Extraordinary Education – Trenton Lee Stewart
  8. The Princess and the Goblin – George MacDonald
  9. Wonderstruck – Brian Selznick
  10. Half-Moon Investigations – Eoin Colifer
  11. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (again I know. This was enough of Harry for a while!)
  12. A Voyage Long and Strange – Tony Horwitz
  13. The Magician’s Nephew – CS Lewis
  14. The New Testament – NIV Translation
  15. The Emerald Atlas – John Stephens
  16. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

Keep Reading/Writing.

Cheers, and a happy belated New Year to you all.

Bob

J.K. Rowling’s New Novel: The Casual Vacancy

J. K. Rowling merely sold 600 million Harry Potter books. So, you might ask yourself why is she writing another one? Because her audience grew up. The Casual Vacancy is J. K. first novel for adults.

Here’s a description from amazon.com:

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…. Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising

the release date is September 27th and I cannot wait!

Cheers,

Bob