When ego gets in the way

Posted by on February 2, 2010 at 2:39 pm.

Ever notice that when you have a great story in your head – you don’t have time to write it? Then, when you manage to carve out time in your hectic schedule just to write, you spend these precious moments without a lucid thought in your brain or worse, you’ve convinced yourself that the awesome idea you had was really just crap and not worth exploring.

I do the same thing when I want to buy clothes. I see all kinds of great additions to my wardrobe when I have no money or lack the time to try them on and then when I go shopping I can’t find a dang thing that matches. (Alas I never have this problem when it comes to buying electronics… *sigh* – I have way too many geeky toys.)

Anyway, back to my story, or it would be back to my story except I don’t have time to write today. Which of course means the characters are doing amazing things in my head right now and tomorrow night, when I have a writing appointment with myself (don’t laugh, it’s a great strategy), once I’m able to document the exciting lives of my hero and heroine, they’ll all just sit there, like bumps on a log no matter how much I poke and prod then to move.

So what’s a writer to do?

The best advice ever given to me was “Write through the crap.

Picture the writing part of your brain like a faucet that hasn’t been used in a while. Some days you have to let it run a few minutes before the water runs clear. Sediment settles in the pipes and if it’s been a really long time there might even be a few spiderwebs. The less it’s been used, the longer it needs to run, before anything usable comes out.

So open your blank page and give yourself permission to write crap. Use writing prompts if you find they help. Write about your day or the annoying little ache you feel because you’re not living up to the high standard you’ve set for yourself. It doesn’t matter what makes it to the page. The important thing is that you write. Write everyday, even if it’s just a paragraph or two, so the rust doesn’t have time to settle and that itsy-bitsy spider doesn’t have time to gain a foothold.

Take some pressure from your shoulders. Accept that you will never be able to sit down at a computer and spew out perfect prose, at least not consistently. We all have our moments of pure brilliance, but they are few and far between. If you join your characters on the log to sit and wait for the next burst of inspiration, you’ll be ill prepared, out of practice and will royally botch up any muse that comes your way.

Take a page from the athletes. They don’t just stand at the starting line hoping they’ll win. They’ve been practicing, learning theory, visualizing their victory… so why aren’t you?

I’m not alone in this opinion. I’ve attended several writing conferences and networking events and I’ll tell you, no matter what the genre, or how established the author, they all have horror stories about when they were ready to throw in the towel and give up. None of them talk about how easy it is to write well.

So why do we insist on assuming it is?

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