Low-Budget Writing Program: Part 5 Fear is the Mind-Killer

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Anywriter who spends any time thinking about showing their work to another person has likely felt fear.  Unfortunately, that never goes away, according to the professionals who share tips.

I have already given my thoughts and book suggestions for getting the story written, but, obviously, there is more to learn.  There is a deep connection between the fear of writing and good writing.  Honestly, there should be a copy of “The Courage to Write” by Ralph Keyes (Henry Holt and Company, New York 1995) in the starter pack of every writer.  You didn’t get the starter pack?  Neither did I, but I did find the book at my local library.  (And just in time.)

The book is at first a warm hand telling you all is well, and your fears are perfectly normal and–more importantly–useful, then there are a ton of examples of writers finagling their way around their fears to produce words of worth.  (And writers are pretty creative when it comes to finding a comfortable way to write.  Prepare to be shocked and amazed!)  If you find you are lacking the courage to put your work out there, please seek out this book before giving up on yourself.

“Trying to deny, avoid, numb, or eradicate the fear of writing is neither possible nor desirable.  Anxiety is not only an inevitable part of the writing process but a necessary part.  If you’re not scared, you’re not writing.  No message in this book is more important.  A state of anxiety is the writer’s natural habitat.”

Ralph Keyes

While we are on the subject of fear, there is a book that is incredibly useful in detailing the physical manifestations of fear, and when and why you should listen to your body/brain warnings.  “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker (Originally published by Little, Brown and Company in 1997, now updated and published by the author through Amazon 2010.) is also useful in lots of other ways to writers and other persons just trying to navigate the world in unsafe times, and nearly as important as a reminder for trusting your intuition.  (Intuition is sister to Inspiration.  Ignore either of them at your peril, for sisters do gossip.)

“‘No’ is a word that must never be negotiated, because the person who choses to not hear it is trying to control you.”

Gavin de Becker

 

Here are the other posts in this series (although, they have not been cleaned up, yet):

  1. Butt in Chair
  2. The Monster in My Manuscript
  3. Take over the Literary World!
  4. When the Manuscript Goes Into the Garbage
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The Purpose of Art…

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That’s it.  All thirty-one pieces of art from Inktober.  I framed them and put them above my desk.

It feels a bit weird, like I’m betraying my humble, working class heritage.  We don’t go  for vanity, or tootling your own horn, or any such drawing attention to yourself.  I mean, they aren’t that good, and some of them a really bad.  Nobody would buy them, and art is a waste of time, and you have to work hard to feed your family.  I mean, you could put one or two of the best up, but not where anyone would see, except maybe family, who will love you anyway.  You don’t want to get above yourself.

Fuck that.

I turn fifty in a couple of months.  My country is a dumpster fire.  Human rights and social safety nets are being lost and cut like they’re made of tissue paper.  (The really cheap stuff, from the dollar store.)  Profit is God, and people are dying on it’s altar.  Everybody I know is struggling to keep it together, sometimes just day-by-day.  Including me.

I’m going to make Art.  I’m going to draw and write my feelings.  I spent thirty-one dollars at the dollar store for frames.  I went to the library for books on graphic novel and comic book techniques.  I’ve written three novels, have the notes for six more, and I’m going to keep working on them until they are ready to publish.  I’m going to submit short stories to anthologies, and keep writing my blog, and…  Keep screaming my words to the wind.

I don’t really know what else to do.

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”  Pablo Picasso

Can You Bribe Titans With Chocolate?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve got titan-sized thoughts shrugging their way through my brain matter.  And this is the kind of shrugging that shoulders can do that also hold the Heavens and the Earth apart, so that we humans have a nice, comfy place to live.  They’re important, humongous thoughts; FEAR, and COURAGE, PERSEVERANCE, and some LUST, too.  My head aches from their shuddering footfalls and oversized, grabby hands.  I’m alternating between attempts of fuzzy blanket naps and shoving more other-writer’s-blogs-about-writing into my head, hoping it will all coalesce into an overflowing, bounteous soup of Writerly Knowledge For Me To Share!

But, mostly it’s just a throbbing headache.  Erg.

In more human-sized news, the notes for the Low-Budget Writing Program series is coming along nicely, so at some point I will be sharing something actually useful for new-ish writers.  I get a piece of chocolate for useful posts, so I am super motivated!

I’ll have to admit that both general writing and revisions for my WIP haven’t been going well, and it’s not too surprising when you consider life, but I’ve seen these kinds of temporary blocks before (see attached pic), and just on the other side of them is writing-nirvana.  The state of flow that makes writing as comfortable as slipping on your second favorite pair of pants. (The first favorite pair of pants being reading, of course.)  I just have to find a decent sized crack to wedge some writing into, like opening a safe passage with the jaws-of-life, then more cracks naturally open up, and writing slips in.  Or on, since I was using a pants metaphor.  <sigh>

(I have been known to fall over while putting on pants, so, there is that.)

Happy Writing!

Rules? We Don’t Need No Stinking Rules!

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  1. Don’t bore the reader.
  2. Don’t break the contract with the reader.
  3. Keep writing.

These are the Three Rules of Writing as I currently understand them.  They are subject to change if I get new information.

(BTW, the second rule refers to all the un-written expectations a reader has when choosing your book.  Off the top of my head are; both staying inside but also challenging the advertised genre, sticking to a single grammar/punctuation/formatting style, and plot/characters stay true to themselves.  There are probably more…)

In other news, I’m shoving some amazing information into my brain at a rate that is a bit difficult to process.  What does this mean for you, my giddy audience?  I will be adding to my Low-Budget Writing Program series as soon as I can sort the information out properly.  There will be future posts about fear of writing, profanity, sustained motivation, and (my personal kryptonite) grammar/punctuation.  (I’ll wait to link to the old posts, because I suspect they could use some serious editing and fall cleaning.)

Back to my WIP revisions.  Happy writing, y’all!

Just Write, Writers Writing Words!

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Just write, writers writing words!  That was my list of five “most used words” according to a Facebook game.  (It was probably compiling all my information to give to Equifax.)  Yeah, I’ve added punctuation to it, and reversing the order, but that was it.  <sigh>

Look, I DO have strong opinions about life, and I find the political landscape vs. human rights truly heartbreaking.  I also love/hate different aspects of our culture, but I was raised to only say helpful things, and have learned to carefully pick my battles.  I could loudly express hate for everything I find wrong, but I don’t wish to be defined by those things, nor let my entire outlook be one of hate and despair.  That leads down a dark path of exhaustion and hopelessness.

I see it in some of my friends, that rage, and I am afraid for them.  And I know–from personal experience–that nobody listens to random hateful shouting, both on-line and off.  There are people-a type of vampire, if you will–that will use the energy you put out to fuel themselves.  Online trolls are using you, whether its meant to be harmful or just catfishing.

I use social media to expand my point of view, and no well-reasoned argument will ever sway a person who has reached the point of ranting in public.  Self-care is more important that pointless anonymous arguments.

So, I save my energy for when it matters.  One-on-one encounters, everyday teaching moments, and I put my money and my vote where my hopes are.

And I save my energy for writing.  I don’t know if my writing will reach anyone the way some books have reached me, but I find I must make the attempt.  It looks and feels like I’m writing pulpy entertainment, but I know how much of my own thoughts are put into my character’s mouths.

Every time I finish a manuscript, I feel horribly exposed.  Like anyone reading it would know my every thought.  I have NO SECRETS when I write.

It’s terrifying.

But, as I am learning, there is a connection between writing and fear, and THAT is a topic for another day.

On a lighter note, here are five things about me that are not connected to writing:

  1. I desperately want to pilot a giant robot warrior.  In space.
  2. I am collecting the materials for a set of gilt and silk embroidered linen underwear.  (It’s a recreation of a museum piece.  Think boxers with elaborate gold-work and bright floral decoration.)
  3. I’m terrified of driving in traffic or unfamiliar roads. (But I do it!)
  4. I have a black thumb, but I can’t stop buying plants.
  5. Inanimate objects frequently bend logic and physics to trip or hit me.  Sometimes, I hit back.  Or yell.

Meanwhile, “Just write, writers who are writing words,” may become my new motto.

Happy writing!

Do The Work!

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I follow a couple of writer’s groups on Facebook, and I find some of the questions a little strange.  (Yes, we are back on those wacky writers and their funny ways.)

“Should I write in 1st or 3rd?  Past or present?  Close POV or can I have a narrator?  What genre should I write in?  What plot should I use?  How many pages in a chapter?  How many chapters in a book?  Do I have to include diversity?  Can I still write about vampires?  Can I have a prologue?  What should I name the character?  Am I required to have a map?”

It just seems strange to even be asking these kinds of questions of other writers, as if there is a strict structure for storytelling.  All of these questions get answered by YOUR STORY, as it gets told by YOU!

Stop asking questions and WRITE!  If you are new and haven’t finished a story, JUST WRITE!  Finish!  And when you do, shelve that story and write another.  When you finish the second, pull the first off the shelf and compare them.  Did you get better?  Is the first story salvageable or should it be hidden in a drawer?  Does it need a different POV or style?  Is it YOUR style?  Is it worth the effort to revise it until it’s publishable?  Are you happy with it?  Can you do better?

No matter what you decide, start the next story, and write more, and repeat…

Asking other writers their opinions isn’t doing the work.  It’s just collecting opinions, and writers have opinions like they have obsessions; in numbers that frighten mental health care professionals.

Do the work.  Discover yourself.  Your style.  Your faults.  Your strengths.  Your voice.  Words are tools; learn to use them.  Do the work.

Even people whose jobs require the use of words; journalists, scientific or technical paper writers, editors, etc… complain about how hard fiction writing is.

It’s not easy, Cupcake.  It is a painful, tedious slog, but you do it IF you are a writer, because you are a self-absorbed, narcissistic, masochistic, sociopath with delusions of fame.  Nobody will write it for you (unless you pay them).  Get to work, dammit!

Artists Are Nature’s Pinhole Cameras

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Artists are the pinhole cameras of society.  We create shadow plays of the events happening in our culture.  Sometimes the shadows are what you expect; sometimes every thing changes and moves, or even disappears.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that ART (including fiction) is the safe place to watch the big, cosmic things happen.  You don’t need special equipment, or mechanical tricks of light and shadow.  This service we provide is a part of out nature if our voices are free.  We show you intangible things like eclipses and justice.  The feel of sunlight and hope.  Of darkness and despair.  We show you as much as we can, to the best of our ability, but also within our limits.  It’s up to you, and me, what we do with it.  We create the world we live in.

I keep forgetting to mention it, but I really do like hearing your points of view (and stories) on my various topics of writerly life.  Sometimes I’m slow on a response, or completely miss a comment, but I AM trying to make myself available as a sounding board.  It makes the whole thing seem less like self-imposed solitude.  NOBODY understands the creative weirdness of the artist/writer life like another artist/writer.  So feel free to comment, here or on Facebook.  (Twitter seems harder to follow threads, but also do-able.)