Words on the page…

 

Anyone who mentions how many thousand words they throw out before breakfast, anyone at all on the #amwriting hashtag, any completely unhelpful “10 great writers who wrote prolifically” get THE LOOK from a not-writer. The one that says – I’m trying to be cool here but the truth is I’m jealous and will now resort to making personal comments because my argument really is that weak.

So why not just write? You’ve got these ideas you say, characters and plots and so on, so just get it down. It’s what a writer does.

Here’s where I have to admit something – I am ambitious.

It doesn’t sound so terrible but there’s something else I have to admit – I am impatient.

And when ambition combines with impatience it’s a recipe for disaster. It means that every word, every phrase, every sentence is criticised before it’s even complete. Criticism is one thing, but the factor that kills creativity dead is the judgment. Everything is judged as though up for the Man Booker, for the Pulitzer, for the Nobel and even for the Oscar (screenplay, adapted).

You see, before I have even got a word on the page I have already been through the writing (easy), editing (super easy), publishing (bit difficult, but not my problem) and critical acclaim (super ego boost amazing). So when I finally write a few words they don’t live up to the critically acclaimed, award-winning novel that I’ve not written.

And it gets worse – it’s damn hard to get those words out. Hard and then they’re rubbish, what gives?

So within less than a paragraph I’ve hit headlong into a wall of discouragement. I go make some coffee and eat some chocolate and browse the internet until my time is up and I have to go do other things.

The next day I sit and I see the discouragement seeping out of the file on the computer. I ignore the sensible self who says practical things about needing to write words, about writing being the reward, about starting being half the battle and finishing the other, just do it. Instead I allow lack of motivation to take hold. I skip any words at all and go straight to coffee and browsing.

And then before I’ve noticed six months have passed and I am still a part-time not-writer.

  • Geraldine

    You know Catherine, I am an amazing procrastinator, and like you (we are undoubtedly similar!) a perfectionist and always my own worst critic, so it’s easy to get discouraged. I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned patience, and the unhelpful combination of ambition and impatience. Keep at it, eke out what words you can everyday; focus on being patient and expect gradual, non-linear progress. Patience itself can be rewarding!

  • I’m also prone to letting any setback/upset in any area affect my writing. It’s the first thing to go in any crisis no matter how minor. Patience and the long-term view are definitely helpful.