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Just. Write.

21 Jun Posted by in Meetings | 3 comments

You are born a writer. You must become an author. This takes diligence, persistence and perseverance. And a laptop.  I have heard this over the years, and it is true. But the pursuit of authorship can, if we’re not careful, strangle the writer in us.

A handful of years ago I completed my first manuscript. I remember the feeling of elation. How rewarding it was to have a final scene, a final word, a final period. The story was over! I’d told it start to finish!

I rode that high for a while, and then it hit me like a tanker truck. The story was over. Now I have to start a new one. I worried that perhaps I only had one story to tell? What if I got halfway through this second manuscript and just ran out of words? What if I got to chapter thirty-four and realized I was writing the exact same novel, just in a different setting with character that had new names?

What if I couldn’t do it?

Well, after a bit of procrastinating I realized the only way to find out would be to try. So…I wrote an outline and then I was ready. I was going to do this. I was a writer, by golly, and I would finish this thing.  Well, I did. And for the most part I really enjoyed writing it. I loved these characters, who weren’t just the old ones in disguise, and the plot challenged me.

So, after you finish your second manuscript, you write a third. I felt a little more confident going into this one. Now I knew I had more than one story, so my goal was to fixate on this next one. I wouldn’t be distracted, I would be serious. I would write as if on a deadline.  And I did…for a while.  Then I slowed. Life got busy, priorities got all wonky, and I realized it had been weeks since I’d visited my heroine and her journey.  I knew I should sit and write, but it felt a little awkward, like when you see someone you used to be besties with and neither of you has called the other in months.

But, eventually I dragged my behind into my writing chair and opened the file. And I found that me and my heroine were still besties, that I still have a crush on the hero, and that the plot still wraps around me.  I love that feeling. But then…life happened again. And I felt guilty again. I would get these ideas for future plots, for heroines, or their names or professions, for settings and funny characters, for great opening lines. It felt strangely like cheating. I tried to tuck it away and be serious and…I got worn down.

I used to love this. What happened?  In my pursuit of a good goal, I had smothered my joy.

So what do you do? Give up on the dream? Or work harder? Be more regimented?

Well, for me, the answer was freedom. I am not giving up on my story or my goals. But, I have given myself permission to play. I now keep a file of those wonderful first lines that are jut begging for stories. I jot down funny names or lines, and I document plotlets when they appear half-grown in my head.  Sometimes I purposely flesh out an idea that has nothing to do with my current project (gasp!) I know.

Not only is the guilt gone, which frees me to love and work on the project without pressure, but I have some killer ideas for the next project. And who knows, I might even keep working on one while I write my current story. But, perhaps best of all the joy of putting words together on the page is back. This, this is why I love writing.

If you’re discouraged or overwhelmed, or feel guilty about your own neglected besty, take a breath. Let yourself just be a writer for a while.  Authorship will always be out there as long as you choose to pursue it, but sometimes we need to stop and smell the roses and then write about the experience.

  1. Jenny Miller06-22-12

    I remember feeling exactly like this when I finished my first ‘big story’. First really excited because I finished it. Then depressed because I had finished it and couldn’t think of anything else to write. Like I’d been all used up and didn’t have any stories left in me. I felt like I’d come to a turning point in my life. I had, in more ways than one. I was 12, for one (yes, I started writting really early) and I realized that if I wanted to be a writer I needed to write. So six months later I forgot about being depressed, got a story idea and started writing. Now I don’t worry about running out of ideas. What good writer doesn’t have a zillion ideas and tons of bad stories cluttering their computer vaults?

    I still have that little 30pg handwritten story in a my desk somewhere. I pull it out whenever I want to winch at how bad I was back then.

  2. Jenny Carlisle06-23-12

    Great post. A friend gave me a very sturdy blank book. I have filled it with story ideas that come to me in the middle of writing something else. I know have several stories waiting in the wings. Since I just wrote THE END on one, my dilemma is deciding which one to bring out next. Imagine a horse race where they only let one horse out of the gate at a time! Frustrating for the horses, but a lot easier to manage!

  3. Scott09-25-12

    When I sat down to write my first manuscript, I decided that it was a larger story that had to be told in parts. I wrote a skeleton for what would happen in the first part and at the very end and came up with a couple of ideas for in between.

    I finished the first piece, then I sat down to write the second. At that time I outlined all of the remaining parts of the story and then finished part two (but it took longer). I am now writing the third manuscript and it is going a little slower, but it is going. On the way I have come up with three or four more ideas for stories to work on following this one.

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