Sunday, July 15, 2012

What do you do?

I'm a fast writer. Or, at least, I used to be.

 I don't say that to brag, because fast doesn't equal good or better or anything other than the fact that the speed with which I write my manuscripts is pretty quick. I also edit and revise fast. And I read fast, too. Cue random tangent down memory lane: In fact, when I was in middle school, my summer break was filled with books. I would go to the library and check out a stack of books so high I could barely lift them. Then I'd go through them so fast, I was often back the same week to return them and find new ones. I'd read at least one, sometimes two or three books a day. I also was on swim and dive team and had friends and other stuff, so I wasn't just locked in my room reading 24/7. I was just... fast.

So. Why am I telling you this?

Because these last few weeks... I have hit a wall. And I am the dead opposite of fast. My new WIP started off normal. I busted out about 40 pages in a few days, maybe five or six. It was back in February or March, so I don't remember. Then I got this OTHER idea and I ran with that one instead. I wrote that book, edited and revised and edited and revised, all the while toying with my previous idea here and there.

Well, now the second book is done and out of my hands. So I'm back to working on the first one. Right now I'm on page 53. That's 13 pages in about, oh, a month. PEOPLE. What is wrong with me??

Granted, I've been taking kind of a philosophical journey of sorts. (See Renee for more details on what that means.) But still. I should be doing better than 13 pages in this amount of time.

What do you do when you're stuck? Or when the words just won't flow?

I think a lot of it is stemming from insecurity. I'm really worried that I'm just not good enough--that maybe I never will be. And it's putting a major block on my ability to create. But I sit down and force myself to keep going. I want this to be a career, so I treat it like it is one already. I put in the time, no matter how easy or hard it is. But recently, it's been downright painful. To only eek out a few paragraphs in an hour? It makes me want to throw my computer against a wall. Or my head. Or something. But instead I take a deep breath and go to bed and tell myself, "Tomorrow it'll come back. Tomorrow will be a better day."

I'm still telling myself that, hoping it'll be true one of these days. Once inspiration hits, I can knock a first draft out in a couple of weeks, or a month. I know I CAN do it. If inspiration like that hits again, like it usually (eventually) does. But if not? I will just keep on writing my page a day and eventually, I'll have another manuscript completed.

Do you ever have a hard time letting the words come out? Do you ever question your ability as an author?


Jennie Bailey said...

Sara, I'm laughing right now because I just put up my Monday post and I've slowed down too! We're on the same page right now. How trippy is that? And FRUSTRATING as heck. It'll come. You'll get back in sync. I think it's like insomnia - the more you look at the clock and think about how little sleep you're going to get, the more wide awake you become. It's the same with writing. The more we start to pressure ourselves because we aren't hitting our normal numbers or stride, the more stressed out we get and the harder it is to get back into rhythm. Then the doubts vanish and we realize this is what we were meant to be doing!

Trisha Leaver said...

I haven't met a writer yet, including myself, that isn't plagued with self-doubt. And although I think that emotion ebbs and flows, it never truly ever goes away. I also have slowed down. I blame it on summer...nice weather, wanting to be outside, and kids home from school. My advice . . . write something every day. One word, one sentence, one page. You writing mojo will return; you just have to wait it out and know that you are not alone. We all hit that wall at some point or another.

Bethany Hudson said...

Sara - It is my belief that everything in life ebbs and flows. Remember that you've had a lot going on emotionally for you lately, and right now, your "muse" may be telling you that it's time to mainly react rather than mainly create. I think it's great that you're still taking the time to work each day, but maybe you need to go in with lower expectations. Take time to work on an in-depth character bio, perhaps, or just do a brain dump on some plot idea rather than trying to muscle forward through the manuscript. I often find that these things can untangle whatever knot I've gotten myself into that is stunting my creativity.

In Catholicism, we often talk about a concept called "the dark night of the soul." Many saints, including Bl. Mother Teresa experienced this. Basically, you keep doing good and being good because you know it's RIGHT, but it doesn't make you FEEL good or happy or any of it. Most of these saints once experienced incredibly rich prayer lives only to end up going through years in a dry, empty land of nothing but WORK. Perhaps this time is your "dark night of the muse." Not to make light of either situation, but it seems an apt comparison. Sometimes your greatest work is done, not when it's easy but when it is incredibly hard.

So, hang in there! And know we've all been there.

Love you!

Janiel Miller said...

What wonderful comments! And I think they all apply.

Maybe this does too. A quote I found from, of all people, Bruce Lee (you're probably too young to know, but he was one of the first big Kung Fu masters on television. He pioneered all of that, and was actually brilliant at it.):

"The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be."

He obviously didn't mean be lazy, because he was anything but that. I think he means don't stress. Don't be all intense. Relax. One sentence a day is okay. If you give yourself permission to do that it will probably come back quickly.

Also, maybe there's something about the story your psyche wants to figure out and it's taking a while.

Good luck! I'll send good writing vibes your way.

DL Hammons said...

I wouldn't be too concerned. Your mojo will return, when its ready, but it will return. I'll bet that deep down, underneath the insecurity and self-doubt, you know it too! :)

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Some books are harder than others, and sometimes you're in a cycle of life where you just don't work the same way as you used to. I've known friends who wrote just as fast as you, and then it stopped. They started seeing stuff they didn't before, and they slowed down. Not that you can't write fast and write a good book, because you can - I just hope you don't get too upset with yourself for writing slower. You're still writing and that's what matters. The quote Daniel said above about less effort is brilliant. I've found that to be very, very true, although some books just seem to require more than others.

LTM said...

Yes, and YES! Oh, I guess this is inevitable in this business, but try not to let it get you down. The book I just posted about took me six months to finish the first draft, and the whole way through I was conflicted about it. You can do it! Just keep plugging away, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Some books just take longer! :o) <3