Monday, September 19, 2011

Creative paralysis

I've been attempting to edit my WIP since May.  Yesterday I finally reached Chapter 4.  That's a chapter a month.  That's pretty sad.  Granted, I moved from Colorado to Idaho in that time, but that's not the reason my edit is moving along at the pace of an octogenarian. 

In May, I submitted Seeds to Jennifer Weltz and was all afire to get to the edit of WIP so I could have it ready and waiting when she signed me and asked what else I had.  Optimistic thinking to the point of delusion?  Of course it was, but it never hurts to be prepared.  However, every time I opened my WIP to do what I had to to have it ready to hand over to Ms. Weltz, I was seized by an inexplicable fatigue, which was quickly followed by a sense of ennui and then somehow I ended up on facebook chatting with one of my old college roommates or taking the neverending book quiz on goodreads. I thought this had something to do with the fact that I was supremely unhappy with the place I was living at the time.

After I moved back to Idaho and put the depression inducing time in Greeley behind me I opened my WIP and blazed through edits on the first two chapters in a week.  Yes, I thought, here we go.  I'm finally picking up some momentum on this thing.  Then I got the rejection from Ms. Weltz and suddenly there I was fatigued, bored, distracted, spending more time on MSN games than my WIP.  I couldn't figure out whas was wrong or how to get past it and I hated it.

Then just last week I stumbled on this post by YA author Mette Ivie Harrison and in the same week this one by YA author Elana Johnson.  Both posts talk about how writing for publication is much different than writing for themselves and how they both tend freeze up when writing for publication because they're worrying what their agents, editors, fans and critics will have to say.  Both have a project on the side that's just for them, where they don't worry about what others are going to think of it because no one else is ever going to see it.

I kept thinking about these posts, feeling like there was something important there.  Then it suddenly came to me, even though I wasn't agented or published my paralysis on my WIP stemmed from the same source as Mette and Elana's.  When working on my WIP while Ms. Weltz had Seeds I had been worrying she wouldn't like it because it was very different from Seeds and wouldn't help me 'build my brand'.  After she rejected Seeds I began to worry that no one anywhere, ever would like my writing enough to publish it or, hell, enough to even read it.  Bingo, perfect recipe for creative paralysis. 

So I had a little pep talk with myself, told myself the only thing I might ever get out of my writing was my own enjoyment and that was more than okay.  I stopped worrying about what those faceless, amorphous agents would think and finally, finally I opened my WIP with the same sense of anticipation and enjoyment that has been so woefully absent the past four months.  I edited two more chapters this weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Conclusion, I need to write for myself, because if I don't I can't seem to write at all.


Old Kitty said...

I'm just glad you've rediscovered the love of your wip again! It's such an effort to really dig deep within and find your inner mojo and realise that what you are writing is of value to you first and foremost! Enjoy your edits!!! All the best and good luck! Take care

Charcoal Renderings said...

Whooooooo! You go, girl! Get it!

Although I am a writer as well, my 'day job' (hah! maybe when it pays the bills...) currently is acting, which is a related, although completely different, animal when it comes to creative paralysis. I recently attended a theatre conference where all of the professionals running the different workshops essentially said the same thing: "Who are you? Figure that out and getting to where you want to go in this industry will be easier than you think." It was an astoundingly simple yet novel idea--who am I??? Don't I know this already?

What they meant was to be brave enough to look at yourself closely, so close in fact that it'll make you vulnerable, which isn't always comfortable, but once you've done that, it gives you so much power to be able to move forward with your art. If I understand myself better, then the material I choose for auditions represents me better; if I take the time to really look in the mirror and listen to that honest voice in my chest, then I write from a more truthful place. This tactic has been helpful for me even in just the past week. I feel like it's already made me a better actor, a better artist, because I'm looking fear in the face and giving it a big 'ole slobbery french kiss, and telling it it has no power over me. Maybe taking a step back from the "what will he/she think" gnomes of self-destruction will help you find a more honest place in which to live with your WIP, one that will help you feel more fulfilled and satisfied with where it's going.

Hopefully this hasn't been a super-long comment full of senseless jargon--I'm on cold meds. Mea culpa.

Toyin O. said...

Good for you! Great conclusion.

Talli Roland said...

YES! Very well said. It's something I'm coming to terms with, too. Sometimes in all the angst, it's very easy to forget the enjoyment that comes with writing.