Hi, Hey, Hello!
So I was doing some thinking the other day (dangerous past time, I know) because I was doing some checking through old word documents on my laptop and old stuff in all my notebooks (it was Tuesday night to be exact when I realised that I had nothing for Wednesday to hand) and I came to this realisation (that I feel a lot of writers have).
I have a shit ton of plots and not any actual content for most of them.
I can write elaborate plots and know exactly where I want a story to go but then when I sit behind a keyboard or a piece of paper everything that makes it onto the page is accompanied by an internal monologue of ‘NO!’ And then it burns out because despite all these plans I have and the perfectly bullet pointed plot that exists in the universe I never at any point ever think that I am capable of writing the story that I want as I am attempting to write it.
I just want someone who can do the thing to take my idea and make it good.
Even when I can and do actually get somewhere with it and it reaches thousands of words (Nano novel I am looking at you…still) when I go to re-read it I do so with the thoughts ‘UGH NO. STOP THIS NOW. THIS IS AWFUL.WHY????’ Then I silently vow to never write another thing because it will always be terrible and the self-doubt is too much.
It doesn’t happen so much anymore, but a couple of years ago it would cause me mild anxiety to push the ‘publish’ button on this blog because that would put it out there. And deleting it after I have made the step to push that button just seems like a massive step backwards, so I just keep it up there and push the terror that is coursing through my veins to the side. And to be honest the only reason that it doesn’t happen that much anymore is through continually making myself push that button (although it’s no longer the ‘publish’ button more the ‘schedule’ one) and also avoiding being online when it actually posts. I guess practice does make some kind of perfect.
Except for where it doesn’t, because I still can’t make the plot do the thing that I want it to do. It is one of the reasons that the whole June project that went down here (and one that I am currently trying to figure out the logistics of that may come by the end of the year) was kind of a massive step for me because it made me leave that wonderful cushion that is my comfort zone and didn’t turn out to be all that awful an experience in the end. In fact I kind of enjoyed it.
Having said that though, that whole thing has no plot. It’s one of the reasons that I love it. It can do pretty much whatever the hell I want just as long as there is continuity there (which is hard to keep track of now, because for some reason that doesn’t exist in a neatly bullet pointed list like all those plots that I am doing NOTHING with, but I think I am doing okay with it). So there is none of that joining up of the dots that comes with writing something that comes with a plot
I was reminded of this again on Friday when I got hit by this idea and started jotting things down in a manner that meant I had an entire first one and a half chapter of a story with no plot. And I was fine with that. Until I realised that it was one of those things that could maybe have a full blown plot if I did a bit of research for some things and fleshed out the characters etc. Which was the point that I started to get panicky and lost faith in the idea.
Because the more I try to do the thing the less I feel like I am capable of doing the thing. I have the minimal amount of belief possible that I can write something in excess of 80,000 words that would do justice to the idea that I have swirling around in my head. I get to the same point every time. 10,000 words and then a GIANT NO! to myself.
But I keep going back to it. For some reason, the main one being that I love it and I am always going to be my own worst critic, I find myself picking up that pen (I am old school like that sometimes) and looking at a blank page and writing away. Then editing away. Then hating away. Then finally typing away and doing something with it.
And there are days when writing, anything, seems like the hardest, most pointless thing ever and I am suffering from so much more than just writer’s block. I, funnily enough, don’t quite know how to put it into words what it’s like, but it’s mainly just a massive case of fear of writing something shit. Or pointless, or just outright bad. I reach moods that I need to be kicked out of, but it feels like home, it’s comfortable. And it is maybe the worst place to reside for a long period of time.
But it’s sooooooo hard.
So I’m gonna attempt to flesh out this plot bunny that bounced into my life on Friday gradually over time and create a nice little brainstorm of it. I’m gonna remember that the reason I hate it is because it is spending so much time with it and I am going to be over critical of it because of that. I’m gonna try and believe that I am capable of doing the thing, no matter how much I, or maybe even others, think that I can’t.
And I am going to remember that this is in the preface of Yes Please:
‘The truth is this, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not…I have told people that writing this book has been like brushing away dirt from a fossil. What a load of shit. It has been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver.’ *
And also this (which I will warn you now is a bit lengthy because I couldn’t cut it down and the English student in me is hating it because you should never include quotes this long, ever. But it all relevant.):
‘How do we drag ourselves through the much when our brain is telling us youaredumbandyouwillneverfinishandnoonecaresanditistimeyoustop? Well, the first thing we do is take our brain out and put it in a drawer. Stick it somewhere and let it tantrum until it wears itself out. You may still hear the brain and all the shitty things it is saying to you, but it will be muffled, and just the fact that it is not in your head anymore will make things seem clearer. And then you just do it. You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and write some more. You put your head on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. This is what I know. Writing the book is about writing the book’ *
And she wrote a pretty darn great book in the end (yup, yup still in love it. I have a little natter about it here if you missed it).
So I leave you with the wise words of Amy Poehler on this Monday afternoon: ‘You do it because the doing of it is the thing.’
Parentheses count: 12. See you tomorrow!
*Amy Poehler, Yes Please (Picador, 2014) pg.x and pg.xv (told you, English student, referenced it and everything.)
Find me here: