I am the author of three middle-grade children's books, and I blog on the side. My favorite topics are movies, writing, and pop culture.
I recently sat down to write about a topic I’ve been thinking about for a few days. A few hours later, I was midway through and battling through each sentence. Was what I was putting down on paper something workable into a finished piece, or was this something that I was going end up filing into one of my “unfinished” folders on my laptop? Would anybody want to read it anyway? Was I pursuing it from the right angle? I really wanted to complete a finished piece so that I could continue with my day, satisfied that I had made the most of my writing time. Instead, I moved on and wrote the following about self-doubts when writing. After all, these are the thoughts that were really consuming my mind. As a result, I was able to get about 700 words down on paper. I hope they are helpful and that they provide other writers with the inspiration they need to get over a large bump in their writing road.
When a writer is blocked, it’s not usually because they have no ideas. They just feel like they don’t have any good ideas. Either the idea isn’t hitting them in the inspiring way that it takes to get started on a project, or they start to think about their readers. It’s always a good thing to keep your audience in mind when you’re writing anything, but over-thinking the project can cause it to stall completely. You start to picture your worst outside critic, and suddenly, they’re peering over your shoulder, questioning your every word choice and every thought.
It takes a lot to put your ideas out into the world and try to come up with original material and project it in a way that hasn’t been presented before. With thousands of years of human writings ahead of you, it can seem like we’ve said everything there is to say. You question your authority on the subject, your attitude towards it, the characters you have invented, the people you have interviewed, your research, and the general interest in a subject. The thing to keep in mind is that you have your own style, your own set of interests, your own collection of personality quirks, skills, feelings, and experiences that no one else has had before. No one else was raised in your body, in your home, had your exact education, worked at your exact job, been through your tragedies and triumphs, experienced your personal relationships, had your reactions, learned what you have learned, or absorbed information and experiences in the way that only you have.
Yes, we can be grouped into categories, feel a kinship with others who share a certain interest, experience, or downfall, but if 20 similar people were asked to write their memoir or make up a story, it would produce 20 different results. And even if a story isn’t original, the classics can always use an update with our progressing world. If an idea has already been told, it needs to be told again to reiterate its importance or maybe provide a different perspective. It’s not until you start putting ideas down on paper that the real meat of a piece emerges, unrolling like carpet across the page, not splattered all at once like paint. Some of my favorite elements from my stories or articles have come while piecing together details and coloring them in within its simple structure.
One of my favorite parts of writing is connecting the middle dots that it takes to get from one plot point or idea to another. Those are the eureka moments, the high that the writer is trying to feel while plugging away at their craft. Sometimes it is recognized by the reader. Sometimes it passes by them and remains an inside secret to its creator. Either way, that’s okay because a reader is not meant to experience all of the blood, sweat, and tears of a piece. Like any manufactured item, they should only see the polished result, ready for consumption. What they get out of it is not up to the writer.
How many scholars have gotten it wrong? How many believe they know the motivations of Shakespeare’s word choice or Austen’s reflections of the customs of her era. These classics hold up because of the stories themselves. The rest is picked apart in a way for fans to pull as much limited meat off the bones of a piece as possible. Hungry for more story, they plunge deep down into its contents and come out with more dirt than gold, unsatisfied with the limited content that they were given, unwilling for it to end.
We struggling writers can only hope to be rewarded with over-analysis of our work. This yearning for admiration is a great reason to want to write, fulfilling a basic human need for acceptance. But not everyone will put you on a pedestal, and to hope for that is like using your lunch money to buy a lottery ticket so that you can one day buy the restaurant. Just cook your meals for now and celebrate a finished piece that is written as best as you can make it. If you can let go of that doubt and worry, you’ll complete a lot more projects and have an arsenal of work to leave behind, whether it is read by one or many.
Michael Greshaw from between on June 10, 2018:
Great comparison in the last paragraph (lottery ticket and eating to writing).
Val Karas from Canada on June 09, 2018:
Laura---First of all, I like the way you presented all the "mental technology" of writing, and let me say it in this same sentence---it really varies from one writer to another.
As for myself, I don't have any particular concern "how I will be accepted". You might almost say that I am writing it "for myself", allowing myself a freedom of expression and not thinking of the "market".
For, let's face it, we are always dealing with a garden variety of tastes.
In other words, we can't predict how the reading public will accept us. It may even depend on the time of the year, or maybe on some bombastic political events going on, when the public mood is contaminated and overcritical.
So, my advice would be---just write, while applying some general criteria of a good composition. Then you may be surprised how people may like more some of those "inferior" works you have done, while almost ignoring those "stars" among them.
Enjoy expressing yourself, even allow some silliness from time to time, to show the reader that you are not begging for their approval---they will respect it. Nobody likes a stiff perfectionist, while a free style will make a reader relaxed.
Well, that's my opinion---and again, something like a subject to tastes, so some may like it, while others will reject it with passion. That's one beautiful thing about us writers---we are also individuals, and no one is forcing a reader to "buy" our stuff, they can always go to "another store".