Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wisdom From the Stars

I’ve gotten a lot of great advice on writing since my post below on writing anxieties, both from the great comments people have left and through sheer serendipity. I figured I would share some of what I’ve received with you hear, along with my thoughts. First up, this great post from Tiffany Trent posted over on kazdreamer’s LJ:

You know what's interesting about that? I remember having worries about that and remember feeling left in the backwaters when my writing buddy left me in the dust while I was still struggling to write the *same* novel over and over. Looking back now, I realize those worries were just blocking me from doing what I had to do. It takes as long as it takes. And if you waste more energy worrying about what you could or should have done, you are shortchanging the writing you could be doing now. It seems to me that it's all about energy flow. Where do you want the most energy to go? Into your writing or your anxiety about not doing it years ago? And believe me that once you are published in the manner that you hope for (whether it's in a big magazine or with a good house, etc.), you'll have a whole new set o'worries, no matter whether you shoot straight to the top or into the midlist. That I can promise. But the baseline is always arse-in-chair doing the work the best way you know how and *believing* that the work is worth doing for its own sake. (With layers of complexity added as you continue to publish...)

Seriously, I know how all this feels. I still have these anxieties. But there comes a point where the anxieities can cripple, and I hate to see that happen to anyone. Fear suffocates the future. I try not to let it, as best as I can. My motto (get ready for the cheese): It's about the story, not the glory.

Well said. For me, there are two major things in this post that really resonate: a) the idea that anxiety channels energy you could be using otherwise; and b) “believing” that the work is worth doing for its own sake. The first, I think, is definitely true-- all this energy, time, and frustration I use worrying about not writing, or writing junk, is energy I could be using to create a story, time I could be using to write it down, and frustration I could be spending banging my head against some arcane plot point. Now, of course, knowing this doesn’t make it go away, but I think recognizing it is a healthy attitude towards getting there.

The second point is a huge step towards getting there, and ties in with my second source of advise. Carrie and I went to a group for lawyers/writers the other night (more details here). The organizers had done a great job, and got John Hart, author of the New York Times best selling King of Lies and Down River (neither of which I have actually read, but I'm working on Down River), to come speak. John, with no prompting from me, talked a lot about writing through fear, and with fear. One thing that he definitely talked about a good bit was writing with faith. Not religious faith, but faith in your work. I think this is exactly what tltrent was talking about-- “Believing that the work is worth doing for its own sake.” You have to have faith that what you’re going to do is good, and use that faith to push through the fear.

The more I think about this, the more it feels like a good mantra to push you over the edge into the “butt-on-chair” phase. Because that’s what it takes, I think-- not an end to fear, but a leap of faith. A large part of writing is just closing our eyes, stepping off the ledge Indiana Jones style, and trusting that the floating path to the Grail is going to be there. Trust that this piece will be good, or if it isn’t, will be worth writing anyway. And as for fear, well, I’ve always thought that real courage wasn’t “not being afraid;” real courage is being scared as hell and doing it anyway.

One final piece of advice that happened to land in my lap: on the same day I posted my fear piece, J.A. Konrath posted these words of wisdom, straight on point. It’s about getting involved with crit groups and other writers, etc. This really hit home for me, because I still think that the real, best answer to dealing with our fears as writers is to share them, recognize that we all go through them, even if everyone’s are a little different, and help support each other when we need a prop up.

So are my troubles ended? Hell no. In fact, if I make it through next week without another Fear of Falling post, I’ll be doing well. But I’ve gotten a lot of good advice, and I’m going to take some time to digest it and let it sink in. Then I think I might sit down and do some writing.

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