Today’s post started as a reply to a comment on my old blog, to a post I wrote ages ago about trying to start doing The Artist’s Way again, especially Morning Pages, to get unstuck.
Plaintain’s comment is such a gift to me, because – guess what! – I’m feeling kinda stuck!
My WIP is a hot mess, with far too many tangled threads of conflict. I’ve only written the partial and now I’m working on the synopsis. It reads great until the end, then if comes undone. I have too much going on! Getting it resolved is going to be damn near impossible.
Those nasty little critical voices in my head are back, full volume. Telling me I can’t write. Telling me I don’t have what it takes. Telling me I’m crazy to try, I have no talent, I’m wasting my time, my dream of writing full time will never happen so I should just use my time doing something more useful.
That’s where plaintain‘s comment is so timely. She wrote
I guess my inner critic is so strong: as I begin to write, I can feel something goading me to stop as if telling me I’m not clever at this, and it is only for naturally talented people.
One of the most damaging things for people wanting to do any creative activity is the myth we are fed about “natural talent”. It’s bullshit, to put it mildly.
I gave up writing for years because I had the belief (told to me by my father) that if I was talented, it would come easy, and the fact that it didn’t proved I had no talent and shouldn’t bother trying.
What a lie!
Some people find their niche sooner than others, the place where their unique style fits. Some people have more self-belief and confidence so the ideas flow easier because they aren’t censoring and blocking themselves. Some rare people do have a gift.
I find the 10,000 hour theory immensely reassuring. You know, the idea, that it takes EVERYONE, even the naturally talented, 10,000 hours of practice to truly achieve mastery? That’s a truth I can live with. There is no secret knowledge known only to a few, there is no special talent we either have or we haven’t, it’s a matter of keeping going, putting in the hours. Getting past the self-censorship helps too. It’s just a little easier for the “naturally talented” because they have the belief in themselves to push them on.
Each of us can offer something to the world no other person can- our unique voice and experience. When we can allow ourselves to believe that, putting in the work becomes easier. We’re less likely to be discouraged by resistance and those inner voices, and the outer voices too if we’re in an environment or with people where our creativity is not supported.
The Artist’s Way works for many people because both these things are the whole point of the Morning Pages. We write, and we don’t censor. It takes time, but we bypass the inner critic and get to the truth we hold inside us.
TAW is one way, though not at all the only way. I’m not doing Morning Pages now, haven’t for ages, though I do get up at 5am most days and work on my story. Maybe I could try again, free writing without expectation, discover what the answers for this story are. They are already there, inside me, I just have to find them.
I need to take the pressure off and concentrate on the process of creating, not the outcome I want. I’m pushing myself to get this submission package together because I want another sub out there, not because the story is ready to send.
I’m pushing to sub something just because it’s been too long since my
last sub, eight months. Not the best way to approach things! I have to slow down and sub my best.
What I need to do is honour my writing process, finish the story first, then sub. I can’t rush that, all I can do is show up at the page and write the story. At least finish first draft before I try to put together a submission packet, so I know
what I have.
*sigh* I did want to do three subs this year. Something via slush,
something for New Voices in September (2011 just announced), and something for So You Think You Can Write in November. Looks like it will only be two out of three unless I really get my finger out.
The paradox is, I think by pushing so hard, I’ve slowed myself down. I’ve spent so long worrying over the story and whether it works! If I’d used that time writing instead, I could have the bloody thing halfway written at least.
I recently read a great little book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s all about the sneaky ways our own resistance undermines us. I think I just discovered another way!
The lesson for me here is- If I feel stuck, maybe I’m trying to push too hard. Maybe there’s a better way to do it.
I feel light, uplifted, and energised after deciding to stop pushing the synopsis and just keep writing. It could be I’m kidding myself and I’m just putting off subbing, of course. Or it could be that this is the best way forward for me right now.
This story is definitely getting subbed this year! But maybe it’s my SYTYCW entry, not the slushpile sub.