Writer’s Block sucks.
Especially when you know the reason behind why you are stuck in this prison is because of nothing other than yourself. The greatest enemy you will ever face is YOU. And this is true in a lot of things, not just writing. But lets stick with writing for a mo’, shall we?
I have been stuck in this limbo for a while now, just not motivated to write creativity. I have narrowed it down to two reasons: fear and the knowledge of the work load that is ahead of me. Last summer, I finally sucked it up and sat down in a chair and began writing the pages of what I hope to be my debut novel. I had this idea for a story fleshed out in my mind and scattered about on various pieces of scratch paper for years, first coming into fruition in my head and heart back when I was in middle school. Yet I could never convince myself to actually sit down and write the bloody thing. But the story continued to grow until I had a full blown trilogy mapped out within the blackness of my mind, floating around, wasting away, waiting for me to actually make something brilliant out of it. Seven and some months passed and almost 200 pages of Word Documents later, and ladies and gentleman, I did it. I completed the first draft of my first novel. I was elated, obviously, that I was finally taking the steps to make my dream come true, And I thought, quite foolishly, that the hardest part of my journey of becoming an established author was behind me.
That was as silly as a thought as when Bilbo says, “Well, I do believe the worst is now behind us” at the end of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Do you know what the audience did in the theatres right after he delivered that line to a cluster of grinning drawves? They laughed. And rightly so, because they knew how wrong he was and how foolish he was in his ignorance.
As I have attempted to begin the editing process, I can say that I was Biblo, thinking that I had already completed the hardest part of my journey. And the audience laughed because they know what Bilbo still has left to face. From the Elves to Mirkwood to the spiders to the barrels to Smaug, his terrors are far from over. We can laugh because we know that he is wrong yet we also know the ending. Unfortunately, I am still Bilbo. I used to think that the hardest part of my journey was over, but now I realize that it isn’t. I still have quite a journey ahead of me. And I don’t know how it ends.
I think that anyone can come up with a story. And if you have any ounce of imagination, you can make it interesting. I think it takes a certain amount of talent to craft words into sentences that are appealing to read and I think it takes an insane amount of dedication to actually finish the novel. And while it was difficult at times, I truly enjoyed the process of writing it. I loved seeing this story I had created come to life on a page and seeing what new scenes and ideas would pop up even as I was writing. Seeing the story come to life in my mind, playing like a movie while I wrote, was awesome. Yet editing it is grueling and daunting and I think that is where the true writers come forth, because that is where the actual work really begins. If you can make it through editing, then you truly are an author.
So, now you actually have to work. That can be enough to shy anyone away from a task that they need to complete. But then bring in the element of fear. You being to reread the words that you wrote and question yourself. Look past all the grammar and phonetics that you have to perfect (that alone is enough work for a lifetime), and get down to the basic narrative and plot that you one day want to expose to the world. Que self-doubt to enter and plague your mind, causing your fingers to hestitate or the delete button to get stuck deleting all of your words as your caught in a terror of how bad your work is. It becomes this constant battle of loving what you have written and hating it, praising yourself and bringing yourself down. Unfortunately, the idea that “you are your worse critic” is very true in this case and more often than not, you are berating your work and tearing down your confidence, not building it up.
So, for the past few months, I have only edited three chapters and the prologue. I still have a good 25 chapters to go and this is a very slow going process. Not because I don’t have the time (especially now that I work at a desk for nine hours a day), not because I don’t have the drive (I mean, I wrote the thing in the first place and am already anxious to write book two), not entirely because of how much work it is going to take (because let’s face it, it is going to take a lot), but because I am facing the greatest enemy I will ever face: myself.
One of my favorite authors, who also happens to be a motivational speaker/writer, is James A. Owen. I’ve blogged about him before, actually. He recently opened up this site called “Everything is Signal”, where he posts updates about his work, interesting rambles and motivational blurbs. I used to check it daily but now I only check it every once in a while. Today, I wasn’t in the greatest of moods. I got into a slump late into my shift and foolishly tried to start editing again while in my bad mood, for the first time in a long time. And, of course, my mood and the self-doubt harbored in the back of my mind caused me to think that what I was reading was shit and I gave up after a few pages. And somehow, I found myself back on Mr. Owen’s site. I read the first post that appeared on the page, published on June 12th, entitled “On Getting Out of Your Own Way”. And it was like he had written it directly to me.
Basically, he talked about his own struggles with self doubt that was hindering him from completing his drawings for his upcoming novel, The First Dragon (which I am terribly excited for). I won’t go into too much detail (I provided the link to his page above so you can read it for yourself :)), but basically, he is dealing with the same problem I am. This man, who is an established author, speaker, artist, etc. He has been published and as a very successful young adult series and a comic book series, plus loads of other fun things, yet he still harbors the same doubts that I do, an aspiring author who is still trying to get her foot out the door.
That was a very comforting realization. It shows that Mr. Owen has felt that doubt before and conquered it. It shows that while it is something that will carry with you and haunt you from time to time, doesn’t mean that you have to let it own you. You can achieve your dreams, even when the biggest fight your fighting against is your own mind. Through reading his words and drawing comfort from them, I am going to try and harness my doubts and fears and shove them into the darkest corner of my mind. Then, I am going to do the thing that I love to do most: write. Create. Invent. Storytell. My dream is within my grasp and I am not going to let anything stop me from seizing it.
“It is possible for anyone to be seized by doubt and fear — even bestselling authors and seasoned illustrators with years of experience and many projects under their belt. It’s also possible to overcome that doubt and fear and do something EXTRAORDINARY.” — Owen