Trust Your Creative Process

Just hear me out on this one.

Before you tar and feather me and run me out of town on a rail for saying it’s okay to edit as you write, hear me out.

I recently went through the longest case of writer’s block, or as I call it “page fright,” that I have ever experienced. I barely wrote a word for 7 months.

Granted, I was trying my hardest to plot The Mists of Bellicent Bay, so I wasn’t totally inactive. I was reading books on writing, story structure, and all that dry stuff that while important, doesn’t fire me up creatively. I downloaded templates and to-do lists. I created outlines and diagrams galore.

While some of those techniques helped me organize my thoughts, I was still utterly incapable of sitting down and actually writing!

Well, I’m thrilled to say I’m out of that desert and have found my oasis of words once again. I am back in my heart after living 7 months in my head. And today I had an epiphany about this entire experience…

I was doing exactly what I tell you, my wonderful reader, NOT to do!

I was attempting to mold my creative process into something that is not my own. I was approaching my book the way others say it should be done. (I think it’s important to be open-minded and try new techniques to improve our writing, and as I mentioned, some did help.) But my God, I was sitting there staring at an outline I couldn’t unravel for 7 damn months!

Because I don’t outline. I never have. It doesn’t work for me. I write and the story reveals itself to me as I go.

Yesterday, after I finished writing a very satisfactory chunk of words I began to re-read and edit. I stopped myself because everyone says this is a mistake. Don’t edit and write. I even advised against it because I felt this habit was part of the reason it took me so long to write Dharma and Desire. And I sure as heck wasn’t going to make that mistake again with Mists of Bellicent Bay!

Another epiphany. I like to write and edit. Not to the point of perfection mind you, but I simply can’t stand having a bunch of slop on the page. So I edit a bit as I go. That’s how I do it. It’s part of my process. So what? Who’s to say it’s wrong?

William Styron, acclaimed author of Sophie’s Choice said:

I try to get a feeling of what’s going on in the story before I put it down on paper, but actually most of this breaking-in period is one long, fantastic daydream, in which I think about anything but the work at hand. I can’t turn out slews of stuff each day. I wish I could. I seem to have some neurotic need to perfect each paragraph—each sentence, even—as I go along.

(Thankfully, I’m not that neurotic. I finish a few paragraphs before I start to pick at them.)

7 months. I can’t believe I spent so much time being untrue to my own process. Oh well, another lesson learned.

Write from your heart instead of your head and you can’t go wrong. And trust me, I’m saying this just as much for myself as for you.

Available To Inspiration

The shoulds are stifling. They are stinky. And half the time we don’t even know we’re sitting in them!

I may be a free-wheelin’ pantser with an aversion to plotting, but I still like to plan. “I’m going to write this e-book by then! I’m going to work on chapter four of this novel the entire weekend! I’m going to sit my butt in this chair and get THIS part DONE.”

But I’m coming to realize that this isn’t necessarily how creativity works. Inspiration doesn’t like to be confined. Sometimes planning can become a prison.

We tell ourselves that this is the way it should work. That we should sit down and bang it out. And by God, I am in charge of what “it” is!

I truly believe that as a writer, as any kind of artist, we are channel for something bigger. While it’s important to be committed to our projects, I think we also need to remember that we are here to midwife creation, not to dictate what that creation will look like.

Similar to the importance of changing the way we think about our crappy first drafts, this is all about a simple shift of attitude.

It’s about saying:

I’m going to show up for what wants to be expressed, instead of sitting down in a pile of shoulds.

The shoulds are stifling. They are stinky. And half the time we don’t even know we’re sitting in them! Yet we wonder why we’re so uncomfortable and the words don’t seem to flow.

The more I release the shoulds, the freer I am to write awesome, inspired words. The more I release the shoulds, the more available I am to inspiration. The muse can’t communicate with us if we have our fingers in our ears.

I love being surprised by my creations. Whether it is an awesome scene for my current WIP, a poem, a bit of flash fiction, or something else entirely (its purpose I may not yet understand,) the surprise factor only happens when I get out of my own way, stop should-ing myself, and let my muse speak.

If you’re feeling stuck, give it a try. Let go of the well intended plans, the stinky, stifling shoulds, and allow yourself to be the channel that you are.

Get your free printable

How To Create A Storyboard on Pinterest

Storyboards are fun and inspiring. Here's how I create one.

Okay, today I’m doing something a little different! Instead of a blog post, here’s a 12 minute video on how to create a storyboard on Pinterest. People have asked me how I find my images, so in this video I’m showing you my process. If you’re already a Pinterest storyboarding pro this video probably isn’t for you, but if you are new to storyboarding or Pinterest, check it out.

I show you examples of my boards in this video, but if you want to see more amazing boards by other writers, see my post 20 Storyboards You Should Be Following.

The Thrill is Gone

Have you lost passion for your project? Should you give up or keep trying?

Why do we lose passion for a writing project? I’m not talking about writer’s block or fear of the page here. Those are different. When we lose passion for a story there’s a kind of numbness, a big shrug of indifference around the whole thing.

I’ve been in this place for awhile now with my novella, Raven In Gray. (Boo-hoo.) So I decided it was time to really examine this feeling and find out what it’s about. In this post I share what I discovered. If you’ve lost passion for a project, maybe you’ll relate. And if you’re still gung-ho about your current work in progress (yay!) perhaps these insights will help you avoid losing passion down the line!

1. You’ve strayed from your why.

When you initiated this project there was a reason why. Something about it excited you. Ask yourself if you’ve lost sight of your why. Is your why still valid? Or do you need to create a bigger, more meaningful why?
With RIG, I wanted to challenge myself to write a story in a very specific style. To create a darkly sensual, visceral world, with vivid imagery and metaphor, using short sentences, in a rarely used POV. After writing the first draft, I don’t feel I’m living up to the challenge. Well, perhaps that has something to do with my loss of passion! I need to reconsider my why.

2. The stakes are too low.

You lose passion when you’re bored. And you get bored when a character’s wants aren’t big enough, the obstacles aren’t difficult enough, and the stakes aren’t high enough.
Do your characters have it too easy? Turn up the volume in every respect and (hopefully) you’ll get turned on in the process.

3. The characters aren’t real enough.

Caricatures are boring, while real human beings are deeply complex and endlessly intriguing. Spend some time diving into their psyches and history. Maybe you just don’t know them well enough yet. When a character is real they have a life of their own. You never know what they’ll say or do next, and that’s exciting. Writing a book is a lot like being in a romantic relationship. The passion level directly correlates to the mystery level!

4. It’s too close to home.

Yes, you should write what you know (and what you don’t know,) but if you’re revisiting a chapter from your past every time you open Scrivener or Word, the project may run out of steam. I absolutely believe that writing is an effective tool for healing, but once you’ve processed your experience there won’t be much motivation left to continue writing, revising and editing.
If you are writing your own story as a way to help others, and that’s your why, great, go for it. But if you are only writing it because you think it makes a good story, the passion may fade as you grow and heal yourself.

So, what can we do when we lose passion?

How do we know whether to throw in the towel or keep trying?

Here’s what I suggest: go to the final vision. Imagine the completed book. Imagine seeing it up on Amazon or holding it in your hands. How does that image make you feel? If it’s something you truly want to do and should do, it will feel good in your body. You will feel a lightness and an expansion. But if you feel a constricting energy – kind of an ookieness, inside… well, you might want to consider letting it go.

During the many years I spent writing Dharma and Desire, there were plenty of times I was stuck, lacking passion and motivation. But in my heart I always knew it would get done. It had to get done. The final vision was always something that brought me joy. So I couldn’t let it go.

But sometimes we do need to let projects go. It’s sad, but there’s no shame in it. I may have to swallow that bitter pill myself.

And who knows? Maybe we’ll be struck by inspiration at a later date and find our passion once again.

Have you lost passion for a project? Why? Were you able to rekindle the passion or did you decide to let the project go?

30 Day Writing Challenge

Hi everyone! It’s been awhile. As some of you know I finished the first draft of my novella, Raven In Gray, a few months ago. Since then I’ve been on a break from novel writing and blogging. I’m still not ready to return to that project, but I’m itching to start working on my next novel The Mists of Bellicent Bay.

I’m trying really, really hard to actually plot and outline and prepare before I start writing (not easy as a pantser,) and I decided that a little challenge might help.

Want to join in?

This will probably be most appropriate for those in the beginning stages of writing a book, but perhaps you’ll find a few prompts here to inspire you even if you’re further along.

I’ll be starting in April and will post about my experience on my Facebook page. I hope you’ll join in and share yours as well! Please use the hashtag #onewordwritingchallenge on FB and IG! 🙂

 

30 Day Writing Challenge to take you deeper into your story, characters, and creative process.

 

The Real Problem With Your Crappy First Draft

The problem isn't the problem...

Inspiration strikes. You have a brilliant idea for a book. You sit down and start to write. The words, sentences, and chapters flow in perfect order. Everything falls into place with ease and grace. Weeks pass, maybe months, until finally in a moment of glorious triumph you type the words “the end.” Ta-da! There it is. A perfectly plotted, crafted, and polished novel.

Yeah. Right.

In reality, the process looks little like that. It’s more like this:

Writing a novel is like wrestling an octopus into a mayonnaise jar. – Patti Hill

It’s a struggle to get that first draft finished. Granted, I’m a panster not a plotter. Maybe it’s easier with an outline. But whatever your approach, it’s not an easy task.

I’m nearly finished with my first draft of my second book, Raven In Gray. I’ve spent the last six months mustering the courage to face the page, vacillating wildly between “this is amazing,” and “this is the worst thing I’ve ever created,” and most of all, wondering how I will ever turn this pile of poop into something I can publish.

But I’m getting it done. In fact, I have never written a first draft of anything so quickly. (My first book took 7 years to write.) I honestly surprised myself with my level of productivity and my ability to stick to my goals.

How did I do it? Well, I discovered a little secret. It’s this: My first draft is crap. And so is yours.

Actually, that’s only the first part of the secret. The second part is this: the real problem with your crappy first draft isn’t your crappy first draft, it’s the way you feel about your crappy first draft.

The problem isn't the problem

My entire writing life I have paralyzed myself by judging my early drafts as not good enough. When I finally accepted that it wasn’t supposed to be good (yet,) it was like flipping a switch – from paralyzed to free.

We sit there in front of our computers, doing really hard work – shoveling words onto the page, and we don’t give ourselves any credit. Instead, we cry that it’s all crap. Yes. It is crap. But don’t forget that crap is fertilizer. It provides the necessary conditions from which something beautiful can grow.

I’ve heard from many frustrated young writers, wondering why they can’t finish a story. I honestly believe that at the root of story-abandonment lies judgment of ourselves and our words. We don’t even give ourselves a chance. We see our crappy first draft and declare it over before it’s begun.

Please. Trust me on this one. The sooner you accept that the only problem with your crappy first draft is your own expectations and judgements about it, the sooner you will be able to transform that pile of stinky fertilizer into a glorious creation.

So your book isn’t so great yet. That’s okay. It’s not supposed to be great yet. Just keep going.