MFAC is over. Now the writing is supposed to begin. I haven’t worked on my young adult novel since this summer when I wrote the first six chapters. During the Fall, I took a poetry class, and mostly wrote sad adult poems about the Titanic. Therefore, I don’t exactly remember what happened in those six chapters. I have 40 pages of writing due at the end of February, and it took two glasses of wine just to convince myself to read what I’ve already got.
This is my biggest writing problem: the head game.
Should I write now? Am I in the right mood? First though, I should pick up my office, organize the files on my computer, or clean the blinds with q-tips. Etc.
At the Hamline MFAC, Claire Rudolf Murphy taught a Writing Life lecture. She’s a spunky children’s writer full of positive energy. Basically, the opposite of me. Anyway, she talked about how procrastination is fueled by fear.
For example, what if I can’t figure out the story, what if it sucks, what if I can’t get it to all come together? Maybe I’ll work on it tomorrow.
Here’s what Claire says to do to beat the fear—with my own elaborations and additions: (FYI: I’m basically talking to myself here.)
1. Show up—as in get your butt in the writing chair. Who knows what could happen? Maybe you’ll write something wonderful…or terrible, but at least you wrote something, which is better than the non-writing that happens when you choose to shine the grout in your bathroom with a toothbrush.
2. Suit up—it doesn’t have to be pretty. We’re talking about rituals here. Maybe you need to wear a special hat, or magic sweatpants, or your power suit. Maybe you need to go out, or stay in. Claire handed out special rocks during her lecture to use sort of as a talisman. Find what works for you, no matter how weird it is, and use it.
3. Don’t snivel—stop whining. Yes. Writing is hard. Yes. We are all overcommitted, busy, busy Americans. Yes. It’s hard to trust the process and believe it’ll all come together. But you have two choices: write or find another career path. No one said you had to be a writer. You’re a smart person. You could easily go into marketing or horse racing. I believe you can do it, but you have to believe it too. And make it happen.
4. Stop Energy Leaks—stop negative influences. Maybe this involves shutting up your own brain because it’s telling you nasty nasty lies. If you’re the sort of person that tells yourself lies, you might as well tell yourself good lies. “I’m never going to get a book deal” vs. “I’m for sure going to get a book deal.” Which lie gets your butt in the writing chair? Also, stop hanging out with people that drag you down, suck you dry, and make you feel like you’ll never do anything great. Those people are energy leaks. They leave you depleted. It’s OK. You’re not a terrible person. Just say NO.
Claire also said to remember, “It’s the journey that matters. Not the destination.” I’m still young enough to hate this saying. I want the published book on my shelf, the book tour, or the love.
My goal for this semester: embrace the journey.
Question:Do you struggle with the writing head game? How do you fight it? Maybe your tricks will help another writer out (mainly me).