Photo by Michael_Swan
So I decided not to enter the Romance Fast Track with Tash and Morgan, because the story isn’t quite right. I should feel relieved, the pressures off, but I don’t.
Because I’m just putting more pressure on myself- now I’m telling myself I ought to switch stories and go back to the Medical idea for the Medical Fast Track, and I’m resisting.
My Resistance is taking a sneaky form. I write, but I’m spending a lot more time on what I call parawriting, writing about writing, than I am actually storifying, creating story word count. I love my characters. I love thinking and writing about them and their motivations and their emotions. But when it comes to actually writing the story? My gut clenches, my shoulders tense, I want to throw up. I can’t stay focused.
I used to be better at this than I am now. Of course, when I was at my last job I wasn’t so tired and I had more time. That’s only part of it though. Even at Christmas when I did the first draft of Morgan and Tash, I was a lot more focused than I am now. It’s definitely fear of rejection. That’s probably the real reason I’m not going for the fast track too, why I’ve procrastinated on this story.
Fear of rejection has me in it’s nasty little clutches and I have Resistance with a capital R. It’s worse now than it was when I was merrily writing and subbing stories all over the place. I knew what I was subbing was crap. I had nothing invested in it, so the R didn’t hurt as much. Now I’m taking my time. I’m going deeper. I’ve learned more craft. Those rejections have a lot more bite now.
So I procrastinate and resist writing, while kidding myself I AM writing because of all the parawriting. I do my morning pages. I blog. I write character notes and do my little charts and all the rest. But I’m not actually doing what it’s all about. Creating Story.
I’m back in Resistance.
Normally, when I get like this, I try to battle it. I read The War of Art. I know what I should do. Treat Resistance like the enemy. Kick butt and take no prisoners. This is War. Except it doesn’t work, or if it does, not for long. That battle is bloody tiring. It just makes me want to give up even more.
Yesterday, I read this post by Cathy Yardley- A steaming pile of should.
But when I hear someone say “well, I need a drill instructor, because otherwise I’m lazy” all I’m hearing is:
“I don’t like myself, I don’t believe in myself, please beat me until I do it right.”
The other thing with that — it only works as long as you have the energy and resources to devote to the battle. It’s not a natural system. So if you need a drill instructor to sit down and write, then as soon as the drill instructor goes away, so does the writing.
And as someone who has had terminally low self-esteem for years, I can vouch: an internalization of “you maggot, get out of bed! Sit down at the computer! Write, you lazy asshole!” really does nothing for your writing.
Because the writing will never be good enough to satisfy it; the speed will never be fast enough, the productivity will never be sizable enough. And at some point, you’re going to go from soldier to prisoner — and you’re going to start fantasizing on some level about beating that drill instructor to a bloody stain on the pavement.
What if we didn’t have to be miserable?
What if we loved our talent, and respected it enough to nourish it by taking care of ourselves?
What if we stopped assuming we’re lazy gits and started assuming we’re naturally wonderful people who rock at writing?
What if we figured out what our resistance is trying to protect us from, and then negotiated a compromise that let us move forward without the fear?
That resonated. Because there’s resistance and then there’s Resistance.
One is a useful warning sign that there’s actually something wrong in the story. The Muse is telling the Editor Mind Go Back, You Are Going the Wrong Way, and she goes on strike and refuses to play any more. The answer is to find out what’s erong and change it. Usually for me this is Editor Mind turning the characters into puppets and trying to make them do stuff they don’t want to do.
Then there’s the Resistance that needs to be overcome. It’s overcome far better by working with it to understand what the message is than trying to bully ourselves on and through.The Muse has gone completely on strike because she’s had enough of the Editor Mind bossing her around. Fear of another rejection. Writing something that’s just plain wrong for us, trying to fit a line or write what we think the editors are looking for when our voice isn’t a good fit. Writing characters who don’t interest us or who we don’t understand.
Or maybe it’s nothing to do with the writing. Maybe you are just plain exhausted and need to give yourself a break. None of us live in a perfect world where there are no financial pressures, and our time is 100% our own. food and housework magically gets sorted without us raising a finger. Spouse, family, friends and anything else never intrude into our magical bubble of peace and serenity.
If your life is like that, lucky you, please share the secret in the comments!
For most of us, it’s not quite like that. I get up at 5.30am. I’m out of the house from 6.30am to 8.30pm at a high-stress job where I’m lucky to get five minutes to eat lunch. I have aging parents and a mother in law all needing support. My husband has multiple chronic health problems and can’t work. I’m tired. I’m a bit depressed. My stomach hurts.
So, I’m not writing as fast as I wish I was.
The last thing I need is to be kicking myself in the arse for not doing more, more, more. It’s time for a moratorium on self-loathing, and on beating myself up.
Trying to use the kick-in-the-butt approach to bust through these sorts of blocks just plain won’t work. It may produce a short burst of activity, then the resistance returns, bigger and badder than ever. Because it has a message and if you aren’t listening, it’s going to starting SHOUTING!
And when we don’t listen for long enough, it isn’t pretty. We get physically sick. Or we get depressed. Or we give up, decide it;s just too hard. Or if we’re very strong willed we force ourselves to keep writing through gritted teeth and we hate it.
Every. Fracking. Word. We. Write.
The answer isn’t to keep plodding on. The answer is to listen. Talk to the Resistance. It thinks it’s job is to keep us safe. It’s trying to protect us from hurt, like the husband or friend who says “Just stop trying” when we’re upset over another rejection. Maybe we can negotiate. Once we know what the message is that Resistance is trying to give us, we can work with it. Use it as a tool rather than treat it as the enemy.
Maybe we aren’t just lazy slobs who need a drill sergeant to knock us into shape. Okay, maybe now and then that approach is called for. But not all the time. And usually, it we really tune in, we know the difference. And even then, its more likely to be that the Muse is whingey and whiney and wants to play and not work. Bribery might work better than bullying then. “let’s write a thousand words then we can go for a walk/ to the coffee shop/ to the gallery/ for a swim/ take a bubble bath/do some sewing/ go on the internet/have a nap/go to the book shop/ your muse’s bribe of choice.
Listen to what the Muse wants for this story, what’s right for these particular characters, not what we think the editor is looking for or what’s flavour of the month.
Maybe even instead of forcing ourselves to keep writing we can do something fun, but all the while keeping that question simmering in the back of our minds- “What does this story need? What do these characters need?” And trust that the answer will come, and when it does, the writing will be fun and easy again.
Anything but beating ourselves up once again.
Or maybe we are just lazy slobs who need Bootcamp!
Somehow though, I doubt it. We wouldn’t have tried so hard and worked at it so long if we were.
So, how do you deal with resistance? What works for you?