A to Z Challenge 2013

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Honesty Is The Best Policy...Especially To Ourselves

If it hasn't been obvious to everyone, I've been struggling with my writing lately.  Okay, the honest truth is I haven't been writing at all.  I've allowed too many excuses and the imagined lack of time to keep me from doing what I know I really want to do - be a writer.

It's sad sometimes how easily we deceive ourselves.  How easily we can create an imagined reality to cover up the truths that should be so evident.  Why haven't I been writing?  This has been a question that has been bugging me for some time, though I really didn't admit the truth to myself until today.

We bought a treadmill the other day and I was really excited to get back into shape.  I know so many of you would be screaming bloody murder at me if you saw the relatively decent shape I'm in, but I got tired of my waistline expanding and my wife wanting me to buy jeans in the next size up.  Yes, I only weigh 180, but I don't really want to start buying jeans that are larger than size 36.  Hell, I want to get back to my size 34 or even 32.

So once I had the treadmill set up, I jumped on it yesterday and exercised my butt off for a while.  I'm looking forward to the next opportunity (Wed or Thurs) when I can get on it again.  What does all this have to do with writing?  Well, in my case, both activities are very similar.

You see, I used every excuse under the sun to keep from exercising.  The gym was too far away.  I didn't want to drive for 10 minutes to get there.  Too much homework.  Yada yada yada.  All excuses, no real concrete reasons why I couldn't have just started walking around the block or doing pushups.

As for my writing, I have been using similar excuses (not enough time, no good ideas, etc) as a way to not write.  Today I realized how intentionally blind I've been about my own problem.  The real truth is that I've had the wind knocked out of my sails and I just didn't want to face the problems head on.  My dwindling time spent writing began right after I submitted my short story for critique in the writing class.  At that time, I used the excuse of setting it aside as a way to not deal with the revisions.  I told myself that this is how you do things.  You let it sit for a while, then you get back to it.  When the time came to launch back in though, I balked.  First I justified things by saying it wasn't long enough yet.  Then I just tried ignoring that the story was there, waiting to be finished.  Finally, I used all the excuses in the world to keep myself from dealing with "fixing" my story.

Enough is enough though.  Just like my excitement for getting back on the treadmill, I will pull out my short story and get to work.  While I am still sure it's a pile of crap, I know that's just self doubt talking.  The writing can be improved, the doubt can be conquered.  But lying to myself about why I'm not writing isn't going to cut it.

How many of you out there are allowing yourself to not write because of doubt?  If you've overcome it, what did do to get over the hump?


Christine Fonseca said...

Dude! I have totally been there. More than you know. I stopped writing for a while, was caught up in some pretty serious angst. My poor writerly buds drove themselves nuts trying to help me out of my funk, to no avail. Finally, after too much angsting and NO writing, I was able to pinpoint my actual problems. I started writing in a journal - not a book, not a story, and certainly nothing for anyone else's eyes. Over the coarse of a month I found my way back to writing. Since then, I've been writing a lot.

More importantly, I found my love of writing and this crazy business again. I finally felt at 100% - something I haven't felt in a long time.

Hang in there Eric, and email anytime you need a pep talk. Don't know if it'll help - but my crit buds were my life line. So yeah, I get ya.


Tere Kirkland said...

Doubt has never kept me from writing. Doesn't mean I don't experience it, but I just power through it anyway. Eventually, I'll swing back the other way, rediscover the magic I felt when writing the story in the first place.

Doubt passes. Time to write does, too, but you won't get that time back. When doubt returns, ignore it and get back to work!

I know you can do it! And hey, maybe some time on the treadmill will free your brain for thinking about writing. Good luck!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Yeah, I haven't been writing because I'm having a case of the doubts too. last night I forced myself to work on a synopsis and I'm feeling more confident of my story.

Icy Roses said...

Dude, this is like the fourth post I've read this week about someone admitting they haven't written in a while. To be honest, it makes me feel a lot less guilty because I haven't kept up too much with my writing either. The true test is if you can overcome the writing slumps, and I think that we all can do it.

Travis Erwin said...

It's a battle I fight on a weekly if not daily basis. After ten years of this it gets harder to win the battle but at the same time I am compelled to write.

Michelle H. said...

It truly sucks having that self-doubt. Been there, done it. Wish someone would come out with a "writer's pill" to get the juices flowing again.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm working on a sequel, and since I have no idea how well the first book will do, there's some doubt.
I am working on it though!
Now, don't find an excuse to hang clothes on that treadmill.

jjdebenedictis said...

Oh, yes. When I don't like the story I'm trying to write, it's just so excruciatingly hard to make myself get down to it. Same thing if I don't really have a handle on what is supposed to happen next--and that's a problem because at the start of the story, of course I don't know exactly what's going to happen.

The thing I found most helpful was joining a challenge wherein I had to write a minimum of 100 words a day or other bloggers would publicly ridicule me (in a funny way, of course; we were all writing buddies.) That public accountability was astoundingly effective! I hated getting caught out, and as a result, I always got my 100 words in.

At least 100 words. The great thing about getting started is you often keep going!

Davin Malasarn said...

For me it's all about routine. If I have a routine that I've stuck to for awhile, then it takes a lot to get me off of it. If I don't have a routine, then it's tough to get on one in the first place. That's the part where I have to force myself. It usually takes a couple of weeks of just making myself do it, and then it gets fun for me again, whether it's writing or exercise!

Lisa K. said...

I doubt myself and my writing ALL the time, if I'm honest--and I try to be honest with myself about it--but I keep pushing forward. Part of it is that I force myself to be disciplined and write every day, which I know isn't for everyone, but is the only way I can keep myself on track.

A few years ago I nearly let my self-doubt and perfectionism derail me completely. I had all but given up on the whole writing thing. I wasn't finishing anything I'd started. Then I finally got frustrated with myself and made a deal with myself. I had to finish a short story. I set myself an easy, doable goal: every single day I had to write a single handwritten page of the story that had to move the story forward. I couldn't go back and edit what I'd written previously until I finished my page. The deal was that I had to do this every single day until I had a complete story and I told myself that if I didn't do that, then I would put down my pen and be done with it. I also gave myself permission to write badly. It didn't matter how good or bad the story was. It just had to be complete. I wrote that story and never looked back.

Sorry for rambling, but I just wanted to say in my roundabout way that I agree that being honest with ourselves as writers, is maybe the best thing we can do for ourselves. Thanks for a great post.

Kat Harris said...

A friend of mine told me she gets that way when she feels intimidated. That totally makes sense. It's okay to spend some time licking the wounds, but you only get so long to do that before you have to get back on the horse.