Monday, August 30, 2010

Scaredy Cat on the Block

I've recently been discovering that at the root of much of my bouts of writer's block is fear. This is actually a discovery I make periodically, and then somehow manage to forget. I suppose this is because I don't like the idea of myself trembling in front of my own keyboard as Dorothy's new companion, the cowardly novelist! But deep down inside there's always a little nibbling voice: What if my story's not good enough? What if my story's good enough, but I'm not good enough to write it? And I find that these fears get worse the deeper I get into editing. During the first draft, one can always say to one's self, "Self! It's ok if it sucks. First drafts are SUPPOSED to suck." But that mantra doesn't work so well by draft four.

There are a couple of strategies I've found for silencing this block inducing scaredy cat. One is to acknowledge that I'm afraid, remind myself that courage doesn't mean a lack of fear but going forward in spite of it, and shoving forward as hard as I can. Sometimes this works. Sometimes not.

Much more helpful is remembering I am my primary reader. As long as I write a story that makes me happy, everything else is secondary. A very big, very important secondary, yes, but if my book makes me happy, then I'm ok. And that lets me step back, forget the imaginary hordes who will someday line up to buy my bestseller (maybe), and ask, "What would *I* like to see happen next?"

So, all that to say, I'm trying to write a brand new chapter for the draft tonight, and I'm feeling a little nervous about it. It has the potential to be very cool, but also to go absolutely nowhere. So, tonight I am trying to ask, "Self! What would you like to see happen next?"

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