Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Quiet that Inner Critic

Good morning, Dear Friends, and welcome to another Insecure Writers Support Group Wednesday!

January 5 question: What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

Well, this is somewhat of a difficult question to answer, because at times, I don’t feel my “writing career” has started. Sure, I have a few short stories and poems published in literary magazines, and of course I have multiple books’ worth of content on this blog.

But when I think “career,” the first thing that comes to mind is making money, and although the time and effort I put into the maintenance of this blog, from the posts I publish to the look and feel of the page layout, often feels like a second job, currently, the only check I’m getting is from the 9-to-5.

One thing I do regret—as I believe it has, in a way, derailed my progress to publishing that first book and, as a result, stalled my writing career—is being too critical of my work.

You know how the saying goes: You are your biggest critic. Well, as a perfectionist, I’m ten times worse.

I have left so many stories unfinished because I feared the first drafts sounded too elementary, or the plots I’d outlined too unoriginal.

I write, and rewrite, then rewrite the rewrite, then delete everything and start over. (Prime example: there are currently three versions of Love Poetry on my computer hard drive as we speak.)

I’m constantly ripping through the thesaurus because I don’t feel my vocabulary is diverse enough.

I second guess whether I’m showing rather than telling.

I worry about my pacing in some scenes. Is it okay that I have a page that’s 90% dialogue?

I question if I’ve provided enough details in the narration for the reader to visualize the story:

  • How many ways can you say it’s dark outside?
  • Does every detail in the room need to be meticulously sketched out to set the scene? I mean, I’m not a screenwriter here.
  • Can I just say, “She got in her car”? Do I have to write every step? She grabbed her purse, walked out of the front door, descended the porch steps, walked (is there another word for “walked?”) across the yard to the driveway, and got in her car.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that you don’t need a million pretty words to be a great writer. I’ve read books like that, and they were BORING! You also don’t have to be the next great American novelist to produce stories that people will still love and enjoy and want more of. That’s the one downside of taking those university literary courses. They assign you the wordy stuff, the dated stuff. Although classics, not many in today’s Internet age (the era of instant gratification) have the attention span to read them. Well, let me speak for myself, I don’t have the attention span to read them. Not anymore. So why am I trying to write like them?

Writing the drabble, the 100-word story, has helped me to eliminate those inessential words and descriptions that, although great for atmosphere, don’t necessarily move the plot along, so that all I’m left with is a story. Because that’s why we read, right? We want a good story.

On New Year’s Eve, I embarked on an ambitious challenge to write a marathon of Twilight Zone-inspired stories every hour, midnight to midnight. While I wrote some stories that were pure gems (I smile and get giddy every time I read them), there were others that I wasn’t 100% satisfied with. But I had one particular fan (okay, it was my mom) buttering me up the entire time, encouraging me to keep going, saying that she was enjoying the stories more than the actual marathon on TV. It was a great feeling, and I definitely want more of that.

So my goal for this year is to not be so critical. Don’t worry so much about the details. Perfectionism is an enemy of success, and do you really want to deprive your biggest fan?

Hi, mom! 🙂

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Writing Stress

Good evening, Dear Friends, and welcome to another Insecure Writers Support Group Wednesday!

I’ve been away for a while, for reasons I kind of half explained in a previous post. But I’m back now, and hopefully to stay, and this month’s IWSG question seems perfect for my return.

December 1 question: In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?

So what stresses me the most? Easy. Sharing my writing with other people. Now, I know what you’re going to say. “But Nortina, you’re a blogger. It kind of comes with the territory.” I know. When it comes to sharing with total strangers, I have no problem, because if they don’t like it, they can just leave, and if they drop a nasty comment, I can just block them. It’s the people I know who give me pause.

Maybe I just have a very judgy circle of family and friends. They love to define my character by the things I write. As if everything I publish is somehow an autobiography because I prefer to write in first person. Although I do draw inspiration from real-life experiences, everything should be presumed fiction unless stated otherwise.

There have been times (and when I say “times,” I’m referring to a very specific incident) when I’ve written about, or in the voice of, some very morally questionable characters and have gotten panned for it. As if these were my actual thoughts and opinions and not a commentary on the state of society right now. In the age of quick conclusions, out-of-context screen shots and quotes, and cancel culture, fear of misinterpretation (whether intentional or unintentional) forced me to take the posts in question down.

Slapping a disclaimer at the top of such controversial posts for those people who can’t seem to tell the difference between fiction and nonfiction is always an option. But here’s the thing. I HATE having to explain myself. If common sense doesn’t tell you that this is just a story, and I have no immediate plans to go off and commit accessory to murder after the fact for a boyfriend, then I can’t help you, friend.

So I just don’t share.

I do have a Facebook page, where I post all my latest writings (though in a recent insecure writer meltdown I cleared it out and started over because I didn’t like how it looked *sigh*). But my personal Facebook feed? Full of memes.

The last time I shared with people outside the blogging word, my mom’s coworker politely asked her, “What’s wrong with your daughter?” after reading a poem inspired by Fransico Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. She called it deeply disturbing. Um, have you seen the painting? It’s meant to be deeply disturbing.

Available in US public domain

I also have uber-religious family members who aren’t too keen on me writing about sex all the time. To which I respond, have you actually read the Bible? I mean, one story that always tickles me is that of Judah’s son, who died on the spot for pulling out. Then Judah’s daughter-in-law dressed as a prostitute, slept with him, and got pregnant. And you wanna know who came out of that seemly dysfunctional family line? Jesus. So if God can use that and so many countless other “bad” things for good, why can’t my sex scenes serve a specific purpose in my writing.

Okay, maybe I’m grasping at straws here, but it’s not like I’m out here writing porn. And I have toned down some details as my writing has evolved, preferring to leave some things up to the reader’s imagination. Plus, there’s only so many words you can use to describe the actual act before it starts to sound nonsensical.

But I digress. I’ll end this post by saying I do understand that my writing only gets noticed when I share it with others, good or bad. And I’m often delighted when people tell me how much they love my writing and wish I’d share more. So I will try to get out of my own head and give you guys the benefit of the doubt.

Insecure writer signing off.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Writing Beautiful Music Again

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of making New Year’s Resolutions…

Lose weight, eat healthier, save money, blah, blah, blah…

I’m sick of the “New Year, New Me” status updates on Facebook…

Starting at 12:01 AM, January 1, 2018, things will be different. I’m making big changes, people, BIG. And they’re gonna be huge (“h” is silent). 

I’m sick of setting goals I’ll forget about by February…

Write at least 10,000 words a week, post on my blog every day, publish my book, start a business, take morning jogs, drink 2 gallons of water, lose twenty pounds, adopt a furry, four-legged child, own a home, get married, find a cure for AIDS, solve world hunger…  

For the past two years, I’ve been running around like a chicken with her cut off, worrying about career goals, life goals, accomplishments; comparing myself to former colleagues, former classmates, even kids younger than me who all seem to be doing better; questioning if I truly have support from my family and friends or if all they really care about is money; stressing over income, how to make a living, whether or not I can truly survive in this big, bad world on my own as an adult without mommy always having to hold my hand; feeling crowded because I put everyone else’s opinions and aspirations above myself.

I’m done. Stick a fork in me–I am cooked!

I miss who I was in 2015, when the memory of college was still fresh on my brain; when walking into the office on Monday mornings didn’t slowly kill my soul; when I could sit in front of that computer, or notebook, pen in hand, and the story flowed seamlessly, like I wasn’t even writing it, just listening and following along; when I was prolific in my writing; when I was submitting poetry and fiction to magazines on a daily basis; when the pressure of being “good enough” to get published occasionally arose but didn’t completely weigh me down to the point where I couldn’t write, when my dreams of being a published writer weren’t bogged down by thoughts of “How can I make a living being a published writer?”; when all I did was write instead of think, over-analyze, start on new project after new project to “get rich quick,” lose focus on my first love because I was busy doing so many other things…

In 2018, I want to go backwards, remind myself why I started this blog in the first place. It’ll be four years next Tuesday. Back then, writing was simple. I didn’t care who was reading; I didn’t even care if they liked it. The only thing I cared about was whether or not I liked it. And if it spoke to me, if it sang to me, if it soared above the clouds and made beautiful music to my ears, I hit that publish button.

That’s what the Countdown series did for me these past several weeks. That’s what Love Poetry did for me in 2015, Black Poetry Writing Month in February of 2016, and 26 Husbands–26 Unusual Deaths that April, before my meltdown and the subsequent on-again, off-again battle with writer’s block.

So for 2018, my goal is simply to relax. To go back to writing beautiful music to my ears and sharing it with the world when it’s ready. To stop putting so much pressure on myself to be better than the year before, or to be better than or just as good as the next person, which has only led to anxiety, sleepless nights, and stress-eating. To stop worrying about “plans” and to simply enjoy life; not to let the year get away from me like that last two have. To take a vacation every once in a while, treat myself, read a book, read more books. To remember to take things one step at a time; not to force something ahead of it’s time, but only when I’m ready for it. To learn to say no, I just can’t do that. To put myself first—if I lose even a minute of sleep over it, I know it’s not for me. To figure out what is most important to me, and to do that and only that.

The last time I talked about goals, I had seven of them, but one shouts to me the loudest right now…

CHILL THE FUCK OUT!

Tune out the rest of the world. Find a happy place. Read. Journal. Write. Write some more.

Nortina


This post was written for Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This month’s optional question is: What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: NaNoWriMo Woes

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day…

I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day and Day One of NaNoWriMo happen to fall on the same day this year. And to further torment me, here’s the IWSG “optional” question for November 1:

Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

Ugh! I’ve said it a million times—I can never finish any project I start, so what do you think my answer to this question is?

N-O

A big, fat z-e-r-0000000000000000000000000000000000000000

The sad thing is, I thought I was ready this time. I spent an entire month planning my novel. I wrote an outline (which I’ve since lost because of my incessant need to write everything on scrap pieces of paper), I’ve sketched characters, explored backstories, brainstormed on themes, even went to jail for an hour . . .

Ok, so research for my novel wasn’t the original reason for my visit, but while I was there I took advantage of the opportunity (especially since my prison ministry contact never came through for me).

I think what derailed my plans was Camp NaNoWriMo this past July. My goal for camp was to finish my novella, Love Poetry (ironically my first attempt to write Love Poetry came in November, 2014, for NaNoWriMo). Nothing too arduous, 30,000 words in 31 days, manageable. My hope was that finally finishing Love Poetry would give me the boast of confidence I needed going into November.

I didn’t finish. July got too busy. I had too much on my plate. I fell behind.

I’m still not finished.

And the perfectionist writer in me doesn’t want to start a new project when I haven’t finished the first. Especially since the new year is right around the corner and I really want to enter 2018 burden free.

Maybe I’ll just wait until next NaNoWriMo, or next Camp.

But then, I recently joined Simply Marquessa’s #TribeTuesdayWPChallenge: 12 new life habits to enhance your life in 12 months. And I kinda made November all about beating procrastination.

And here I am . . . again . . . about to procrastinate . . . on yet another novel.

Well, enough is enough. At this rate, my first novel will be published posthumously, and the publisher would still need to find a ghost writer who is familiar with my writing style to finish it!

So I am making a conscious effort, scary as it may be, to continue on with my original plan to write Lost Boy (renamed Wanderer—still a work-in-progress, you know I’m no good with titles) this November for NaNoWriMo. I won’t officially register for the challenge, though. I don’t want that added pressure to meet my daily word count, especially on those less than productive days that are sure to come.

Going into NaNoWriMo, I want to take a relaxed approach, which is hard for me because I overthink everything. But in her “How to Tackle NaNoWriMo” series, Candice Coates said something that really resonated with me: There’s no such thing as writer’s block. We always have something to say, we just have to allow ourselves to say it.

Well said, Candice. I’ve been silencing myself for far too long, using the excuse of writer’s block, or busyness, when truly, I’ve just been scared. Of failure? Of success? I’m not sure, but if I ever want to get that book published one day, I have to write it.

I have to write it.

So I will write it.

Right now.

—Nortina