Knowing when to turn your back

One of the downsides to reading blogs and books on the craft of writing is the quantity of advice that can be accumulated. It’s all valuable, but sometimes it’s all too much! There comes a point when we have to turn our backs on the information and venture off on our unique writing journey.

I have several sources I’ve trusted to help educate me on what constitutes good writing, but every so often I reach for my keyboard (or pen), and freeze. Where to start? What to include? How to best tell this story?

It’s not writer’s block, but a temporary, immobilizing panic, and it can happen whether I’m facing the first draft or the umpteenth revision — an agonizing paralysis while I hover on the edge of uncertainty, wanting desperately to get it right.

There’s only one way to move past this point. I have to make it personal. I remind myself that it’s a matter of trusting my instinct. That, and knowing if I’m not totally happy with the words I’m about to place on the page, I can exercise my control of their destiny and delete them.

The whispering Inner Critic that suggests I’ll never get the words right has to be ignored. I turn my back on the confusion of information gleaned from writing books and helpful blogs, plop a smattering of thoughts onto a page and give them permission to take flight. Without self-censoring I just write, because the only way to know whether the words will be worthy or not, is to fling them out where I can see them … give them wings. Once they’re on the page they can be fixed. But there’s no hope for them when left locked behind a paralyzed pen.

Am I alone with this phenomenon or do you sometimes face a similar moment of anxiety? Does ‘free writing’ help loosen your Inner Critic’s grip? What other ways do you have of dealing with it?

 ~

But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”
that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim. 

Romans 10:8 (NIV)

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13 thoughts on “Knowing when to turn your back

  1. Fiona says:

    I would say free writing is one of the best ways to get out of these jams, certainly for me. There has been a multitude of times where I’ve been writing and think ‘oh wow, this is awful!’. But instead of giving up and wallowing in self-pity (preferably with chocolate), I keep writing. I finish the piece, and know that it can all be edited. Everything I write is possibly subject to change. Which is the great thing about editing! I think during these points you can only get through it and know that your writing will be better tomorrow – or hope it will anyway. I’ve had some funny moments editing when my writing was incredibly bad, but I simply laugh and get on with it. Writing and the publishing industry requires resiliance. Pressing on is one the best ways I find to build that up, as well as building up your own skills as a writer. That’s my perspective, at least.

  2. Yes, at times there is nothing more intimidating than the blank page. It’s almost counter-intuitive to just allow our words to flow, then let them take flight, as you say, or delete. THe funny thing about writing is that we have to create the canvas first, before we can start painting on it.

  3. I recently posted on a similar subject. When my writing sputters, it’s often because I don’t move forward with confidence. It’s much easier to get the story engine flowing when you prime the pump, which means write, write, write!

  4. You are not alone, but I find just the opposite–I have to depersonalize it! Weird, but I guess everybody has something different that works for them!

  5. This is so helpful today, Carol. I’ve been stuck in this place you describe! Just last night I picked up a book on writing which I’ve had forever but hadn’t read yet. But I kept feeling prompted to write, not to read. I love to read and I have much to learn… and consider myself “teachable”, but I think sometimes you just have put down the book or step away from the blogs….and write! I get too caught up in what others say and then doing it “right”. It’s hard to force myself sometimes, but I just need to write…even if it’s ugly:) Thanks for a great post.

  6. joylene says:

    The next time you hit upon one of those moments, email me. We’ll brainstorm. Guaranteed to work!

  7. Carol says:

    A sunshiny good morning and welcome to everyone! I appreciate you stopping in with your comments. Lots of good thoughts, thanks. “… we have to create the canvas first, before we can start painting on it.” That’s a great visual concept! And brainstorming, Joylene? I just might take you up on that! :)

  8. Of course, as you can see, you are not alone in this. Yes, set your word free and let they fly. You might be surprised at what a joyful journey you will have :)

  9. Nesi Writes says:

    Here! Here! I love the free association approach to writing…no judgment or censorship…just letting the words hit the page/screen. After I’m spent from writing, I frequently rest, walk away, or do something totally unrelated to writing before I go back to molding, editing, polishing, and publishing.

  10. I face that moment of doubt after I post, each time I post. Knowing this about myself, it is sometimes difficult to strike that publish button. I pray, “Lord, I’ll never be perfect here on earth. You help me write, but you never edit out all that I am; yet, you treat me with such tender care, that I dare to publish. So, trusting you, I shall let it fly.” I don’t feel so alone in that position of self doubt after reading your post. Thank you for sharing. Blessings to you, Carol…

  11. I do get too caught up in the reading about writing over the writing itself sometimes. I’ve found that several minutes of free writing does help, and it’s surprising what spills when I let it flow. Sometimes all trash. But sometimes some gold nuggets. I love the visual of letting words fly–giving them wing/freedom to flutter over the page.

  12. Darlene says:

    I had to stop reading books on writing or I would have never actually written anything!

  13. Carol says:

    Sandra and Darlene’s comments are all too true. Reading about writing instead of doing the writing is a real risk! There has to be a balance between learning and putting the education to use.

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