The blank page, part two

Like many people who want to do creative work, I struggle with lack of faith in my ability. Keeping my butt in the chair long enough to write something is harder than getting my girls to sit at the dinner table. And we have threatened them with seatbelts.

When I was quite young, I wrote a story for someone whose opinion I treasured. With a grimace and a shrug, she told me it wasn’t very original. She was right, but with that early discouragement my internal critic was born.

Still, I continued to play with the idea of writing fiction. Over the years I’ve taken classes and tried different writing practices (some lasting longer than others). Each time the critic ultimately won, and I stopped.

But I’ve never entirely let go of the idea, which is either pathetic or impressive, or maybe impressively pathetic.

I don’t know if I’ll ever write a piece of fiction I’m proud of, let alone one that is published. Maybe I am meant to be a reader instead of a writer. Maybe “meant to be” is bullshit, and the only thing that matters is what I choose to do. If there’s one thing this blog has made clear, it’s that I don’t have the answers, people.

So here is my commitment. Every day for the next week, I am going to write…something. I’ll use writing prompts from Writer’s Digest and from a few books on my shelf. I’ll finish the exercise even if I think my writing sucks. I hope to post the fruits of my labor by the end of the week but I am not promising anything. Cue chicken sounds (bwok, bwok!).

I’ll post the prompt I’m using each day plus an update on how it’s going. I’ll try not to whine. If it feels right to me, maybe I’ll extend my commitment by another week. We’ll see.

If you feel like it, write along with me. If you post what you write in the comments, I promise kind yet honest feedback.

So here we go. Today’s prompt, courtesy of Writer’s Digest:

You had planned to attend a friend’s birthday party and plugged her address into your GPS system, but the system guided you to somewhere else. Oddly enough, there was a man waiting for you at this mysterious place. “Sorry I had to rig your GPS, but this is urgent,” said the person.

Have fun. To encourage you (and me), I will share the following video, which the wonderful lady over at WHATIMEANT2SAY recently posted on her blog.

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34 Responses to The blank page, part two

  1. bigsheepcommunications says:

    Out, out, nasty self-doubt! You ARE a writer. You write stuff here that people WANT to read, that they respond to, relate to. They/we laugh with you, cheer you on, and feel inspired to be just a little braver too. What one person thinks is crap might be pure brilliance to someone else, so just write for yourself and share whatever you feel you can. Seriously, you’ll find nothing but support from your blogging friends. Great video – thanks for posting it.

  2. winsomebella says:

    Kudos to you for the bravery to forge ahead. You’ve got a voice and something to say so push through just like Ira Glass says. Thanks for sharing the video.

  3. Jodie says:

    Have you ever tried to do November Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo)? It’s about pushing through and just writing, without worrying about whether or not your stuff is quality, because you can always go back and edit later. I have found that some real gems have popped out, that may not have if I had allowed my inner critic to take over.
    BTW I love reading your blog. 🙂 Keep it up.

  4. Michael says:

    One man’s trash is another man’s treasure – you’ve got the chops, if what I just went through is any indication. I felt compelled at several points to stop and read a couple of lines to my wife, who promptly laughed and seemed rather pleased with the world in general.

    Ira had it right – it takes a while, perhaps even years, before any given writer’s skill is good enough that they can be satisfied with the quality of the work that they put out. What he didn’t point out in that clip – or perhaps didn’t have the time to point out – is that while a person’s taste might be great, the sense of doubt, or perhaps the sense of scale, in that person’s mind can be distorted till what is awesome in everyone else’s mind is laughable at best in ours.

    One of my favorite stories in writing is about Nicolaus Copernicus, the guy who invented the heliocentric model of the solar system. Copernicus had a theory about writing: namely, that anything which is written and revised should then never be immediately submitted for publishing. Instead, you should lock it away for seven years. At the end of the years, if you read the work again and still think it has something valuable to say, then go ahead and publish it. Is this because of taste? Not exactly. It’s about perspective.

    Sometimes, if you’re too close to the work, it can distort your sense of value of exactly what it is worth. And sometimes, that’s just a matter of time. Set it aside – not for seven years – but for a month or two and then see what you think about it. You might surprise yourself. In the meantime, though, keep writing. From what I can see, there’s still plenty of people who want to read what you have to say.

  5. Good for you for challenging yourself. I look forward to reading what you write during this adventure.

  6. Debbie Keating de Juan says:

    I finally accepted that I’m a reader and not (except for blogging!) a writer, but I’ll bet you can do it. Here’s hoping….

  7. notquiteold says:

    Very brave to do it; extra-very brave to show it. Good for you.

  8. It is all about making that committment to actually write the words, so I’ve got kudos for you, too. When it finally got through to me that I could work to make what I write better by deeply considering my approach and my form, I realized just how much control I had over my work. I’m not at its mercy. The more I’m open to finding and learning the disciplines I want to incorporate into my stories, the more control I have. We’re artists, just like painters are, and they’re not expected to be da Vinci or Klimt right out of the box!

    If you okay me leaving you a link, I’d love to point you to a thoughtful post my friend Lisa wrote about criticism versus critique, and the conversation in her comments section that helped illuminate the conflicting emotions we all have around the subject of “being read” and dealing with reactions to our work. I’m an emotional person so I cried some happy tears of fellowship when I read her post.

    Good luck with this weeks stories! I often like working from prompts, so I might join you for one or two, if I have the time. Thanks for the invitation.

  9. Muff says:

    Hey, quick question. Why fiction? What about non-fiction comedic comment. Kind of a narrated genre…I think, based on this blog alone, that your witty perspective would be addicting to read. Think Sex and the City or better yet, Scandel in the Suburbs…

    I just read an interview with Kathryn Stockett. She wrote 40 some odd drafts of The Help before she got published. WWII, baby. Percerverence!

    You know I think you are brilliant. Get inspired because I can’t wait to read what you write!

    • I love that you are not dropping WWII. Talk about perseverence! Why fiction. Because I have read some that I love, and have always wished I could create something transcendent. But I don’t know. Maybe this is about me finding what I should be writing, something I enjoy writing that I could one day receive a check for. Whether that’s fiction or something else. So long as it’s something that allows sentence fragments that start with conjunctions – cause I am really good at those! I really appreciate your support, Muff. You are awesome.

  10. Keep writing! I love reading your blog, and I bet you love writing it!

  11. rumpydog says:

    Ya know, when I’m honest, I find that my writer’s block periods had far less to do with motivation than with an internal struggle over what to write. I WANT to be one of those critically acclaimed writers that also happens to make a fortune. What my heart calls me to do is to write a blog using the voice of my dog. Rumpy will never win me critical acclaim, but I’m happy. For now that’s enough.

  12. workmomad says:

    The most important part of writing fiction is to complete writing it. The best novelist in the world will never be known if he or she never finishes writing their novel. Tell the inner critic to hush until you finish something, then pull her out on a limited basis only for editing (and then when she goes too far and tries to convince you that what you have written isn’t any good and you should just throw it out shut her up again!) Blogging really helps with the inner critic; when mine gets too loud on a blog, I have to point out that we are working on a deadline and unless she has a better idea she better shut up about it! She usually does.

    Nancy
    http://www.workingmomadventures.com
    http://www.thefootballnovice.com

  13. I love the idea. I love your commitment. I love that you are doing this brave thing for yourself. So awesome! I wrote a novel in high school that was shortlisted for print by a small publishing house, and then declined when the economy turned. I put it in a box and left it there, and haven’t written fiction since. Funny how disappointment lingers and lingers, no? Anyway, you are such an inspiration to me in so many ways. Rock ON, lady!!!

  14. Patrick says:

    The hardest part is sitting down and doing it – so you’ve already cleared your biggest hurdle. And you’ve got a lot of fans to cheer you on, so keep going! You can do it!

  15. Hope we get to see some of the final products!

  16. Where are the brave pants in that reply? (I almost wrote, “Where are the brave pants in that reply, Missy.” Oh my.)

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