Friday, February 17, 2012

No disclaimers, no doubts: writers, listen up....

All of us are plagued with doubts at one time or another--or all the time.  Writers suffer from this as much as anyone else--maybe more--because most of us are too sensitive, neurotic, obsessive, reactionary, on and on.

But when you're sitting down to write, or even contemplating writing or planning to write, this is the worst time to let doubts creep in: I'm no good, Why me? What's new about what I have to say? I'm horrible at plotting! My dialogue sucks! My vocabulary is teensy weensy....The list goes on!

In my Literary Posse workshop, I have an aqua Bell jar that my students have to stuff with money when they let a disclaimer drip from their mouths.  Disclaimers and keeping that negative self-talk does nothing--nothing at all!--for you as a writer, or you as most things.  All doubts and disclaimers do is keep you from writing and send you hightailing it to clean the grout or feed your face or whatever it is that you do as a lovely distraction.

So when you hear that negative self-talk or think about how bad (not good) a writer (or singer or photographer or artist or musician... you are, here's what I want you to do. I want you to get out your notebook (or camera or easel....) and start creating.  Writers write. Writers progress by writing. Ideas are great, but ideas aren't writing. 

Get out a timer, set it for 15 minutes, and start writing. Freewrite about a character in a story, write a scene in a story, a scene in your memoir, or whatever interests you. Don't stop writing. 

I promise you that the more you do this, the more the doubts and disclaimers will stop and the more you will progress in your writing.

What's your negative self-talk and how do you get past it--or do you?


SM Levesque said...

I think everybody goes through this - I know I certainly do. Some days are just better than others for me. I have days when I check my blog stats and I get down on myself for only having two followers, or because nobody comments on my columns. Then I have days when I read a book or a magazine article or an online columnist, and I walk away scratching my head and thinking that I write just as well, if not better, than the author and it uplifts my confidence. Or, I'll have days when my friends will be clamoring to read my next column, or wanting to read the next chapter of my novel, and that motivates me as well.

I think the key is to surround yourself with positive people and to keep plugging away at your craft. If that doesn't work(and sometimes, it just isn't enough), I like to research the great writers and see how many times they were rejected before they made it. If C.S. Lewis could be rejected over 800 times, then there really is no reason for me to hang my head.

Mark S. R. Peterson said...

I think it's harder for writers to overcome this, because so much of our work is done in isolation. I've found that having another writer to bounce ideas off on, or even to be part of a writers group helps.
Great blog post!

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett said...

SM .... wow, 800 times for CS Lewis. Great for us that he tried that 801 time.

And Mark, it's so true that we're more isolated (unless you're collaborating, say, on a screenplay or on staff at a TV show). Any sort of group, class, or even a writing buddy is a must.

Thanks to you both for visiting.