I was supposed to have a Ferret post up, well… last Tuesday. Last Tuesday came and went, and Friday arrived, and I looked at my blog calendar and went, “Oh. Oops.”
I had originally planned to do a post on… something else. Probably worldbuilding. But I kept hitting a stumbling block. And then I decided to write about my stumbling block, and realized it fit quite well with ‘The Middle Years’ series we’d just finished up, so… bonus post!
Warning: this post is very long. But I suspect there’s a lot of people out there, besides me, who need it.
It’s been two and a half years since I had a consistent writing habit. Usually, I go weeks at a time without picking up a piece of fiction I’m working on. Continue reading
Once upon a time there was a wee Serena who read voraciously and created worlds for playtime, but swore she could never be a writer. The story of how she came to realise how silly that assertion was is another post (I’ve already written that one elsewhere). This is a story about how that girl went from a baby writer to the fledgling writer she is now.
The fledging process was a little bumpy, but isn’t that how it works? Of course, I might have made it a little harder on myself by flying repeatedly into the same walls over and over, but stubborn has always been a defining trait for me.
I’ve talked before about how much I love fanfiction, enthused upon the topic, at length. Fanfiction is, however, one of the reasons why my first steps (flights, if you will) as a writer were so . . . clumsy. The instrument of the reason, at least.
I’ve always believed – and often been told – that reading, reading much, and reading widely are of utmost importance for a writer. All my experience growing and struggling and occasionally (dare I praise myself) succeeding have underlined this. But I found that it can also be a pitfall – I let myself be too influenced by what I read.
That is, I didn’t just learn from what I read – and learn what I liked and what I didn’t, what worked and what didn’t, what sounded good and what didn’t – I let it influence how I felt writing ‘should’ sound. After all, if this is well-received, if readers like this and writers write like this, this is how things should be done, should they not?
For a long time, I didn’t know who to write for. Seems silly, I know. The obvious choice is “write for yourself,” but that’s hard. The stuff I write only for myself I don’t want anyone else to read. So what to do about the stuff I want to write for others?
Turns out, writing for some vague, amorphous “anyone” is a terrible choice.
I’ve heard of the phrase, “If you open a window and make love to the world… your story will get pneumonia” (–Kurt Vonnegut). Stephen King has similar advice about finding your One True Reader and writing just for them. They boil down to essentially the same thing: writing specifically for one person. It’s more than just knowing your audience. Having a particular person I’m writing for actually makes the writing easier.
Unfortunately I hadn’t really processed that until now. I used to be caught up in the marketability of what I’m working on, whether it would sell, whether anyone would read it. I used to think if I wanted to get anywhere, to be a REAL writer, I had to write nothing but ORIGINAL, THOUGHT-PROVOKING STUFF.
It is incredibly hard to write when you’re anxious about stuff like that.
In my early years I was a novelist. That’s exactly how confused I was. To think I dreamed of banging out 100,000 words on the keyboard when today a solid piece of work might not even break the 100 mark.
(I still have ideas. Notions. Inklings… maybe one day I’ll return to playing with the “big stories”.)
Noveling actually taught me, by accident, that I was a poet.
My early years as a poet consisted of a few key points:
- Entering every contest I could find that I thought I could “win big” at and preferably cost less than $30 to enter
- Thinking up all of the amazing titles I could use for future poetry collections (I have whole lists in some of my poetry journals)
- Writing only when the mood, the air, the sunlight, the whatever seemed conducive for poetry
- Figuring out what exactly qualifies as “real poetry” (Hint, it isn’t always perfect end rhyme)
- Wondering how on earth someone “finds their voice”
- Somehow still being certain that I was pretty damn special and the world just had to find me to see it
Do you see a pattern here? In the early years we want to make it big with as little effort as possible as we romanticize the glamour of being a mysterious writer.
The early years are like writing with a fabulous feathered quill by candlelight. The middle years are a Bic pen that only sometimes works while you sit next to an uncomfortably dim lamp.
Being a writer—being in any kind of creative pursuit, honestly—is an exercise in dealing with fear and doubt. Constantly struggling against that little voice inside your head that says “You can’t do this. Why are you even trying?”
And the fears don’t end as you progress down your creative path. With every fear and doubt you face and overcome, there’s a new one waiting just around the corner, ready to rear its ugly head and set you right back to where you started.
For some reason, I thought getting past the early stages of my writing career would mean getting over my fears. I no longer worry about finishing stories; I know I have what it takes to complete multiple drafts of the same novel. I no longer fear my writing isn’t good enough; I’ve had too many people (both amateur and professional) tell me that I’m a strong writer.
But the middle years have brought a new set of fears, ones I didn’t think I’d have to deal with when I was starting out.
Hello, readers! Welcome to 2016! We hope the year has been treating you well. It’s been a mixed bag for the Ferrets so far, it seems. But life is life.
Today, we’re kicking off our 5-week series about ‘The Middle Years’. If you missed the intro, or need a reminder about what we’re tackling with these posts, you can read that here. Continue reading
Wow, 2015 has gone fast! It’s been a crazy year, and while we Ferrets are not too eager for it to be done already, we’re also very excited for 2016. We have some awesome stuff coming up!
Mainly, in January we are kicking off a 5-week series that we’re calling… Continue reading