The world is a noisy busy place. Constantly, we are surrounded by facets of distraction. Our phone needs monitored for pivotal social media updates, our dogs need to go for a walk, that work project deadline is looming. It’s hard to find space to create in all this jumble. Being a writer, it is even more challenging as my canvas is attached to the prime agent of distraction–my computer/the internet. Some days I sit down and feel like I can’t have a coherent thought, let alone finish a sentence.
It’s easy to get caught up and find yourself at the end of the week with nothing of creative merit stacked up to your name, and then get funneled into the weekend hoping to just relax for a moment. When our minds are so busy like this, downtime and relaxation are important, but when you’re a creative, even vegging out in front of the TV can cause anxiety because you know you could be putting your mind to better use.
Or at least that’s how my brain functions. If yours is anything like mine, you know the feeling. But you also need to recognize the power of sub-cognitive functions. While you are lounging on the couch, stuffing your face with pizza and downing wine, perhaps the film you are watching will inspire you in ways you never would have thought. During those extra lazy hours of sleeping in on Sunday, you might have a dream which solidifies a loose end of a story line. Our brains are working all the time, and are naturally focused on matters most important to us. As creative souls, these matters tend to be our art.
If this still isn’t reassuring, and your brain works like mine on twelve layers at once like some really magnificent cake, then consider this. Even when I am working on tax forms, balancing the books, planning a fashion blog, and playing fetch with my bulldogs in some chaotic ballet of working from home, my novel’s story is ALWAYS in the back of my mind. I don’t have to peel away many layers to discover the thread. My mind is continually churning away at it, waiting for that facet to be brought to the forefront when I finally close out of Facebook and open up Microsoft Word–even if that takes a couple days.
I’ll be the first (and not the last *ahem, agents*) to say it, my first page and pretty much my first chapter of Capacitance blows. It really sucks. There is too much exposition, it lacks any immediate grip to draw the reader to turn the page, and it contains a confusing flashback.
I’m somewhat embarrassed that it is included here on this blog, bar the fact that I hope to one day post a marvelous revision that will showcase my growth and effort as a writer. Someday.
For now, all my attempts at re-writing my first pages have been second rate at best. At worst, they haven’t even happened and have resulted in me staring obstinately at the computer screen refusing to mutilate the first stirrings of life in the brain-child that is my book.
There is a huge mind block for me in revising my first pages. In fact, there is a block in writing them in general. Each of my three books (perhaps with the exception of Inductance) the beginning is very weak. The writing is insecure and it’s obvious that I am just trying to get past that blank page anxiety and get my words on paper. Fast forward to the middle of the book and the prose is clean and engaging, things are moving much more quickly.
However, even if I am in this great writing style flow, the moment I go back and try to write the first chapter in the same style, my brain freezes up. I wish this post could turn from the struggle to the solution, but as of yet I have not been successful in revamping my shoddy first chapters. Does anyone out there have tips?
I’ve been off my writing grind for awhile, caught up in a busy time for my other job (driving grain trucks for harvest, believe it or not). It has given me time to realize, in a much more prolonged way, the processes I go through as an author. It was nearly a year ago that I made the big step which started me on the transition to “someday I will do this” to “I will do this now.” Over the past year I have learned a lot–to say the least! A lot of this learning has been about the industry, but much more has had to do with myself.
I go in cycles with my work. It starts out in trepidation, a lot of doubt and not much self confidence. But the need to write builds up and eventually I put words out there and feel an immense sensation of mental release.
Then I go back and read the words. This is an essential part of my process. When I’m writing I get so involved in the flow that I scarcely remember all the details the story accumulates. Thus, when I go back not only does it remind me of the plot twists, but it also builds my self confidence. I read my own words and my mind allows a not so humble thought (“hey, this doesn’t suck!”) to emerge.
This gives me confidence to write more. In my most confident moments I will go on a writing spree, accomplishing a chapter a day. I am high on the feeling of actually accomplishing my goals, and doing them well. This is how I got two manuscripts (rough drafts admittedly!) done in only six months.
After the high necessarily comes the low. For me, this comes with the denials, and the frustration of being stuck in the plot. When the writing isn’t flowing, I feel like it never will. When denial after denial flows into my inbox, I despair that is the only response my work will ever get. This is a recipe for sluggishness, a part of the process where I shy away from my Word document.
Thus, I’m back to trepidation and lacking self-confidence. Square one of my process. However, it is fascinating to inspect this circular way I work, and it is heartening to know that the next step is one in the right direction. Happy Friday!
I must admit, I am suffering some burnout lately. Since being a writer is an intrinsic part of my nature as an individual, it is hard not to let personal stresses affect the artistic side of me as well. When I get down, my confidence gets weak and it’s easy for old insecurities and habits to take over. Chapters loom way too large in my mind and seem so daunting that the words never make it to the page. My story feels like it is becoming repetitive in the plot buildup. Questions of what should happen next in the story? Am I making the right plot move? give way to the ultimate decision to sit and think on it longer. Thus words are trapped in my mind, leaving me feeling lazy and unfulfilled, compounding the stress I already am experiencing.
On top of this, I have not been putting myself out there in the querying world as much as I should. Part of it has been due to travels, but also a part of it is this same burnout. Denials do affect me–as much as I say they don’t! It’s more of a subtle, underlying effect that builds up and eats away at confidence in my novel. Lately, I haven’t even gotten any denials. And I still haven’t heard back from the agent who requested my full. This strange silence is ominous, and also has taken my focus off of contacting agents.
I know I need to hone in and start getting my focus back and beat burnout. I need to start making querying goals for myself and meet them. I will start small and build up so that I don’t get overwhelmed. Re-reading my work has always been a confidence booster for me, so I will go back and read the eight chapters of Resistance that are finished so far. That should hopefully not only give me confidence in my storytelling, but also spark some confidence in the trajectory of the plot line. Once I get in the flow of producing chapters and continuing work to get myself out there with agents, I know I will feel better. I’m learning that as an author, not only will seasons create slumps, but personal stress will reduce output. What’s an artist without a melancholy stage, I suppose?
Stay tuned tomorrow for a special blog tour post and a chance to win an Amazon gift card, sponsored by Inklings Literary Agency! 🙂