Sep. 21st, 2017

[Crossposted from Facebook, feel free to ignore if you've already seen it there...]

Well into the second week of working on a new short story, and enjoying the writing process more than I have for a long time.

It's taken me eighteen months on sabbatical to get over the deeply ingrained habit of checking every few minutes to see how many words I've written, of feeling anxious that it's taking so long to get through a particular scene, of worrying that my time and effort has been wasted if I end up having to cut some or all of what I've written and start over the next day. Not to mention the voice of my Inner Editor nagging, "That scene is boring! That description is sappy! That conversation doesn't advance the plot! Nobody's going to like this. Give up and write something else."

It's not that I don't care anymore about making progress, or writing the best story I can. I'm just not measuring my work by the same rigid, merciless standards that used to suck away all the pleasure of writing for me. I don't have an outline for this story, just a vague notion of where I want it to end up and a few scattered ideas about how to get there -- and that's fine. I don't know who the audience for this story will be, or where I'm going to publish it once it's finished -- and that's fine, too. I'm writing it because I want to, not for the money or the market or the fear of losing my career if I don't. And that's the best feeling of all.

But it's taken me all this time to get there, because I drove myself so hard for so long, running on fear and guilt and sheer bloodyminded determination, that I couldn't remember how to write any other way.

Creative burnout is a real thing, ladies and gentlemen. Don't let it happen to you.

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