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The Thrill of Having Written and the agony of Writing

My biggest problem with writing seems to be the fear that the act of writing itself will somehow not be as good as whatever supposed brilliance is floating around my noggin. That is, of course, stupid, because how would I know? And yet, half the problem with This Thing I’m Writing is just the simple issue of my not putting words on the cyber page.I’m so in love with the idea of my story, the sheer world that has been created, that I’m terrified I’m going to ruin it somehow with my clumsy attempts to share it.

This is the part where I whine: I use Scrivener, which makes things a little weird, because while it tracks your word count like an obsessed auditor, it’s all in weird little snapshots and I’m finding the idea of writing on boundless notecards to be strangely offputting. Writing is hard. And also? Writing is hard.

In effort to commit myself to write (by the way, that’s part of my excuse for the absence of blog updates: I am loathe to write words that aren’t going toward This Thing I’m Writing*), I made an agreement with Aych while I was in SF this June: I would write 500 words a day, or 3500 words a week. That, in theory, should give me something reasonably Thing I’m Writing* sized after six months. Our agreement is that we would check in with each other on Wednesdays and report in. Aych sometimes scares me, because I know for a fact that she knows how to beat people up, so I hoped that it would help me stay on track. Plus, I don’t want her to mock me, which she has indeed threatened to do.

In truth, it worked for about a week.

I’m such a lazy bastard. Now, in my defense, I haven’t given up, I’m just eking along, writing closer to half of my goal, which is dumb because I used to write 1500 words a day for Elastic Waist, if not more, and I still wrote fiction for grad school. Mostly because I had to, though, which is the crux of the issue. I need to “have to”.

It’s a weird myth that only the good writers get published. There are some lousy-assed writers out there getting published, who have agents and book deals and call themselves an author even though all they did was repackage some shit their dad said or old badly-written blog posts (please note: this does not refer to people whose books I own, for instance if your initials are MS, WM, GZ or JA). If you have any doubt of that, just look at the petri dish of the blogosphere: there are some JACKED writers out there with hit counts that MAKE NO SENSE. But what sets them apart (and those great, unlauded writers) from, oh, ME is that they are typing a lot more text into their empty DOC files. I know this. Of course I do. Blah. I should probably eat more green leafy vegetables too, but look! Candy!

It comes down to the lesson I learned in the pottery studio, at a profound level. You’ve got to persist, insist and exist as an artist (or a writer), which means that you “just keep making”, even though you are pretty sure it’s going to suck. Sometimes it’s just easier to do that on a potter’s wheel than when faced with a blinking cursor.

In semi-related news, one of my short stories (mentioned a few times in this blog as “the sleep story”) will be appearing in the upcoming issue of Drunken Boat, which you can read here. I’m banking on the fact that the thrill of Having Written and the feedback therein will give me some momentum to move forward. Here’s hoping.

*I have nothing against the word “novel” ok? And I’m sure that I’ll start using the word “novel” when I have a “novel” but until then, it’s not a “novel”. It’s a collection of larger snippets that is trying to be something more, and also, I hate how pretentious it sounds to say “I’m working on a novel”. It sounds quite a bit like saying “I’m not really a waitress”. It might also have something to do with the fact that “novel” is a scary word and I’m a super big chicken.

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  1. ladyloo wrote:

    ‘Novel’ isn’t something that scares me. It’s so far out of my field of range that I can’t be afraid of it. I’m still stuck at being scared of the word ‘writing’. I just got a job with that word in the actual job title. And found out today that one of my press releases got printed in a real magazine. And I still am afraid of the word ‘writing’.

    Also, I am very excited to read the sleep story! Hell, I’m excited to read your blog post! Weetabix’s words! Woohoo!

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink
  2. Allyson wrote:

    OK FINE, this may have nothing to do with your post…..BUT you have no idea how thrilled I am that I got this VERY random e-mail in my inbox today. I have been looking for you for a long time, but couldn’t find your site. I was one of your biggest followers on d-land, and then well, you know how that went. We all defected. So, I have missed Weetabix. I think it’s fascinating that I got an update e-mail today, when I literally have not received one or read you in a few years. So YAY, I’m so happy! I will be back in your reading fold.

    Is that pathetic sounding? Hope not. And if so, oh well. haha

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  3. I am so glad you updated and I can’t wait to read the sleep story.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 11:24 am | Permalink
  4. KD wrote:

    This TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert might help:


    Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  5. aych wrote:

    How absolutely lovely that you posted this while I was writing a blog post (my first since March!) during a power outage, and that the post included a bit of the same, and you, unnamed. The universe is all over us. I have located the horse, and I am getting right back on that bucking bastard.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  6. lisa-marie wrote:

    I usually use the word “book” instead of novel because I’m mostly writing YA or MG and it seems silly to say I’m writing a novel for 12-year-olds. So, I’m writing a book. Or, if I’m being honest, I’m working on several half-finished book-like-thingies.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 10:22 am | Permalink
  7. tiff wrote:

    to quote Futurama: ‘ya gotta do what ya gotta do.’ If, you know, you have the job chip implanted. Maybe that’s what you need! An implant!

    đŸ™‚ Kidding aside, it might take some effort to get back on board, but I’ll bet in no time you’re captaining with aplomb. Congratulations on writing again!

    Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 5:36 am | Permalink

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. the no-powers that be « Swampwalker on Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    […] the one I’ve been flaking on for a few Wednesdays) wrote about the writing and checking in here. I think both of us mentioning it means that we are now accountable to the entire internet. Shit. […]

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