Writing

It’s All Practice

Eagle and nest
Editing, refining, rewriting, starting over from scratch, research — none of these things are as fun to me as the initial idea and the start of creating something new. Unfortunately, they’re necessary to develop skill and complete a story, especially a longer work.

Whatever your creative endeavor, I’m sure you are familiar with this truth.

It helps if I simply consider these tasks to be practice, like doing scales on the piano, which I find tedious and boring but imperative to improving finger dexterity and strength. Some things aren’t fun but are part of the process of getting better And if I look at it that way, if I see something unpleasant as leading to goals I want to reach and who I want to become, these exercises are actually exciting and enjoyable, or at least tolerable.

The hardest part about editing though, is that in rereading what I wrote and trying to make it into a longer, interesting story, I begin to think that everything I’ve written is crap. Complete and utter crap. Hopeless, beyond improving with editing, crap.

I start to think that I’m wasting my time. Why would anyone care about or want to read the story I’m writing?

Not to mention that my pattern is that I never finish anything. Not even one full, complete draft! Who am I kidding that I’m writing a book anyway?

I can come up with a hundred other things I could be doing with my time. Anything but wasting it writing something that will never be read by anyone but me. Just think of how much more free time I could have. How much less frustrated, inadequate and like a failure I would feel.

Oh wait. Giving up kind of equates with failure. Unless it’s just a decision that there’s something else I’d rather be doing. That I’ve changed my mind and what I’m writing is no longer important to me.

No. It’s still important. Maybe even imperative. Kind of like breathing is important even if you are in a smelly place.

Oh, but I want approval. Right now! Not next month or next year. I want immediate gratification. I want to be popular. I want people to admire my work — my talent — me.

Or is it that I just want to feel less alone?

cormorant

Where is my wise-self? She should be here arguing with my monster-self, who is really mean to me. She should point out something I’m not seeing at his moment. Something hopeful. Encouraging. Strengthening. Something that re-energizes me — like chocolate melting in my mouth followed by a swig of dark coffee.

While I wait for wise-self to show up, all I can do is plug on. Keep pushing.

In August, I signed up for a “29 Days of Writing Challenge” put on by Gabriela Pereira. The daily writing prompts and tips were some of the best I’ve ever read. I recommend visiting her website (DIYMFA.com) and poking around for yourself.

One of the things Gabriela said in a podcast was that “There is no wall.” She was talking about how we can get stuck and feel like there’s a massive brick wall standing in the way of finishing a writing project. When in fact, those walls are imaginary things our brains have created. There is nothing really stopping us, preventing us, standing in our way, or making it impossible to finish what we started. Nothing except our own thoughts and beliefs that the wall is there.

The wall is not there.

Wait a minute. I think my wise-self just showed up at the door. I better go let her in.

tree frog

Photos taken at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. And here are a few more photos and a question for people good at identifying plants:

Swans meadow knapweed

(Flower identifiers: Is the above flower meadow knapweed?)

lilypads cormorants

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6 Comments

  1. Maery, it may seem inappropriate but I had to smile when reading your inner dialogue discussing the worthiness of your writing effort. You can write and you can write well. 🙂 The thing is that we want to be good at something, we want to be admired, we don’t want just to go through our lives unnoticed. And then there are two groups of us. One which consists of self-confident people believing in their value whether they are talented or not and the other group of people feeling clumsy and insecure whether they are talented or not. You know, today I was listening to a singer singing in his song that he prefers to be laughed at by other people to his crying over himself. I loved that idea! If writing is what you want and need to do, just do it though you may not be the best writer in the world. Who is, actually? And if you’re not sure whether you want or need it if there is no admiration attached, couldn’t you ask a good friend to read your unfinished story and provide you with feedback? That might help you to decided which way to go on…

    1. Thank you Petra for your words of encouragement! This may also be inappropriate but I’m glad to know I’m not the only person with these kinds of doubts. I do have a meeting next week with a writer who’s opinion I highly value. She always helps me find some clarity, which is what I need because this is not turning out to be the book I thought I was writing. There too, I’m in good company because I hear that books often have a mind of their own. 🙂

  2. If it is any consolation to you Maery Rose, I’m still having a losing argument with my monster self as to the use of me wanting to do anything with either my words or my photos…
    I am in a daily wrestling match with myself as to the futility of it all.
    Gabriela Pereira is right…There is NO wall…it’s all in our head.
    Wishing you patience with yourself and enough perseverance to continue on your way. 🙂

  3. I certainly related to your dialogue and the off ramps inside your head stopping you from your creative spirit. This may not help you, but I have noticed after two years of blogging that my best work has taken a hit. The thing I began precisely to help my writing ended up causing me to do things quick and short–designed for the short attention spans, the quick approval. When in fact my best work was done in long quiet spans of time, where I worked and worked to make something the best it could be. (It took me almost two years to create the documentary that was my best work.) So what to do? Blogging is fun and I guess can be seen as another style of writing. Still important and vital for keeping the wonderful contacts we need to spur each other on. I’m in the same space you are my friend! Right now, I’m stuck and seem to be taking a Blogcation. (In all fairness to myself, we have been traveling.) But I do know that I must follow my truest voice regardless of the approval of others. On another–and lighter!– subject, I’m sure you have heard of Anne Lamotte’s iconic “shitty first drafts.” We ALL have them! And we don’t move forward without them-:)) (Sorry, I can’t remember which book of hers that was in…)

    1. Thanks Susie for sharing your experiences. It helps to hear from others who have been down this road. I love blogging for the reasons you state but it has cost me a little bit of the voice I used to have, which wasn’t suitable for a blog. It’s hard to switch back and forth, which is why I’m only blogging once a week and when I do, trying to worry less about my blog-appeal and get back to being more myself.

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