Monday, August 27, 2012

Freeing Yourself To Write

I have an idea for a story.

No you don't.

Um...yes, I do. It's a good idea. It's different than anything I've ever read.

That's just because you haven't read crap. This story's been written before, many times, by authors much more talented than you.

But I'm going to put a new spin on it.

What, the "I've never published anything" spin? I'm sure that will revolutionize the genre.

Well...even if it's been done before, since I haven't read it that probably means there are plenty of  others that haven't read it either. If nothing else, it should be fun to write because it's a good idea.

Yeah...about that...


Is it really a good idea?

Sure! It has action, interesting characters, and tons of conflict.

And a giant plot hole in the middle that you have no idea how to fill. 

Yeah, but I'll figure that out as I write.

And a two dimensional bad guy who seems to be bad just for the sake of being bad. Come on, you read three blog posts last week about how much people hate that.

Ok, I'll give him some back story.

And all of a sudden your short story turns into a novella. You've only read a hand-full of novellas and you've many?

A few...


Ok, zero. But that doesn't matter. I've got to start somewhere. If the idea pans out it could even turn into a novel.

And when are you going to have the time to write said novel, hmm? You barely have time to squeeze in one or two short stories a month, let alone a novel. Even then writing takes more time away from family and friends than you want it to. 

You may have a point...

Of course I do. Just set the idea aside for now. You can always come back to it when you have more time. It will be a better story in the end for having the time to mull it over.

That's probably true.

I had an idea for a story.

Sometimes my greatest barrier to writing is me. I don't consider myself a particularly negative person and I'm not prone to over-thinking things but that doesn't mean I don't get in my own way FAR too often.

And just to be clear, grilling yourself about whether a story is worth writing isn't always a bad thing. None of us have a lot of spare time so it's important that we scrutinize our ideas so that we can prioritize our projects and not go on too many time wasting wild goose chases.

Asking questions is good but over thinking is bad. It can shut down creativity and take the fun out of writing.

So what do I do about it?

I give myself permission to screw up. 

I've found that, for me, it's best to let the questions come. I'll let myself fret and worry for a little bit and then I'll say something like this:

"Ok, that's enough. I want to write this story. It's ok if it isn't original. It's ok if the characters aren't perfect. It's ok if I never finish. Maybe the story will suck. Or maybe, just maybe it will turn out good. Or even great. Either way, I'm going to write because that's what I love to do and, regardless of the outcome, I will be happy."

And that's the truth. I've written a ton of crappy stories, things that will never see the light of day, but that's not important. The important thing is that I enjoyed writing them. I like writing and it's ok if every story doesn't turn out. I write because it's fun.

How many times have you had a similar internal dialog? What approach do you take to push past the questions?


  1. Well, I think you're not a very nice person, in that case. ;)

    But seriously, allowing yourself to suck can do wonders for the MS.

    1. Who knew sucking could be a good thing?!?!

    2. Dude, do you not have Twitter? :O Now I have to assault your blog! ;)

      How much does Willamette's cost?

    3. No Twitter for Adam.

      Since this years conference is over they must have taken the registration link off their website.

      I seem to remember it being over $200 plus more for just about every workshop and discussion group. It looked like a good conference but I just can't swing that kind of cash on a grad student budget.

  2. "The important thing is that I enjoyed writing them."

    Exactly. As long as you have fun creating stories, as long as you enjoy the writing process and put your heart in it, it doesn't matter what that nagging little voice on your shoulder says. We've all got that damn little devil sitting there, mocking us, and the only way to win against him is to keep writing.

    I would've given up on my WIP a hundred times so far if I had listened to that nagging voice of doubt, but then I would have lost something, not won.

    Keep your head up, Adam. :)

    1. How is your WIP coming along? If you need a beta reader you just say the word.

  3. Tell the story, Adam. The storyteller makes each unique.

  4. Oops...I think I was one of those bloggers that wrote about bad guys.

    I like Stephen King's writing analogy: it's like archeology. You dig it up, you're careful to bring out whatever artifact you've found. Sometimes you find treasure, other times it falls apart in your hands. Just gotta keep digging.

    1. This King fellow sounds like a pretty smart fella. I'll have to look him up.


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