In today’s Journal
* Quote of the Day
* Topic: Fear, and What to Do About It
* Of Interest
* The Numbers
Quote of the Day
“And of course, there’s the fear that I’ll never be able to write decently, much less prolifically, again.” New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Russell Blake in “Taking a Break” on 9 July 2019https://russellblake.com/taking-a-break/
Topic: Fear, and What to Do About It
Notice the Quote of the Day above. If you go read the blog post, you’ll see that the conscious, critical mind has pretty much stilled Russell Blake, a once-prolific author. I only hope he isn’t on his way from “bestselling prolific author” to “Whatever happened to …?”
Because Blake and I are contemporaries (he’s written 60-some novels in 8 years) I’m pulling for him. I hit a wall similar to the one he’s talking about in the post late last year. Remember?
From July through November (5 months) I wrote only 46,277 words of fiction. My “big” month during that time was only 15,916 words and my smallest month was 4,862.
By contrast, I wrote 55,128 words of fiction in December, and so far this month I’ve written 60,029.
Please have no doubt: The fear that caused Russell Blake to stop cold is common to all professional fiction writers to one degree or another.
Blake is both a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. He was even invited to co-write two novels with Clive Cussler. The guy meets my personal definition of “wildly successful.” Yet now he seems to be throwing in the towel.
Why? Extrapolating from his blog post and specifically from the quote above, I suspect Russell got some rave reviews (duh). And even his blog post is riddled with comments from readers asking when they can expect his next book.
All of that adds pressure IF YOU LET IT:
1. You begin to worry about whether you can live up to what you’ve done before.
2. Then you begin to look more closely (consciously, critically) at your current manuscript because you want to make sure it rises to the level of your previous works.
3. That conscious, critical focus causes you to bog down in words and sentences. You begin playing mind games with yourself, and suddenly what was originally a lot of fun becomes tedious, labor-intensive, time-consuming work.
4. The notion that the book is “important” seeps in, unnoticed. And your fingers are frozen on the keyboard. You think some version of, “Can I really write another book as good as the one before? Maybe it was just a fluke.” And you’re screwed.
So how to get beyond it?
There’s only one way that I’ve found. You have to climb back up on Heinlein’s Rules. If you’re a writer, you have to write.
So how do you do that? In my case, I wrote off into the dark. I didn’t worry about what anyone thought of my work. I was just telling a story, nothing more important than that.
THAT I wrote was important. WHAT specifically I wrote, the specific story, was not important in the slightest. After all, any specific story is only a few minutes’ or hours’ entertainment. That’s all.
And once I’m back in that mindset — the mindset of THAT I write is important (because I’m a writer, duh), but WHAT I write is only a few minutes’ or hours’ entertainment — I put my fingers on the keyboard, drop a character with a problem into a setting, and write the next sentence.
A Personal Case in Point
Just yesterday, I was pressured by my critical mind. In addition to my goal to write a novel every month, I have a goal to write a short story every week.
But with my weekly deadline looming, my conscious, critical mind latched onto the opportunity to mess with me.
I didn’t even see it as I was writing yesterday’s Journal entry, but once I overcame the fear and my conscious, critical mind by actually writing a short story yesterday (3121 words in just over 2 hours), it was readily apparent.
It became obvious that my conscious-mind was bombarding me with rationalizations yesterday in an all-out onslaught. The rationalizations were as follows, in quotation marks below. How I got rid of those rationalizations are in parentheses:
“Novels and novels in series sell far better than short stories do, so why bother writing a short story every week?” (The answer: Because it drives me to the keyboard and it’s FUN.)
“Plus I enjoy writing novels more.” (No, I don’t. I enjoy writing, storytelling, period. Again, because it’s FUN.)
“I’ve already written almost 200 short stories, so it isn’t like I have to prove anything.” (That isn’t the point. I’m not writing anything to prove anything. I write because it’s FUN to tell new stories.)
“The main reason I set the weekly short story goal in the first place was to provide me with more novel ideas …, but I’m not having any problem coming up with ideas for novels so no worries there.” (Again, that isn’t the point. I need to refocus on WHAT I write is not important. Only THAT I write is important. And again, the drive to write a short story every week gets me to the keyboard.)
“Either way, I would continue to write short stories through the year as they occur to me….” (Yes, I probably would, but again, that isn’t the point. I use my goals to drive me to write.)
“It will be interesting to me to see how many short stories I’ve written when the year is gone.” (The conscious mind lulling me into thinking it’s all right to set aside my weekly goal. Only it isn’t all right. It’s an easy goal to attain.)
“So for now, I was THINKING [conscious mind], I want to keep my primary focus on writing novels.” (Why? Because novels sell better and are therefore “important.” Ugh. Gotta get rid of that, always.)
“So FOR NOW [conscious mind hedging its bet], the weekly goal lives.” (No, the weekly goal is back, period, thanks to that look from my wife and my catching the critical voice at its mind game just in time.)
See what I mean about being bombarded? And all with one goal: to stop me from writing. And it almost worked.
This is me checking in with myself.
So maybe you should check in with yourself too.
If you’re a fiction writer, are you writing? If not, why not? Make room for the rationalizations so you can clear them out.
And if you ARE writing, but not very much, why not?
You don’t have to share your conscious-mind rationalizations in public like I did above, but please do what you can to scrub them out of your life and make the writing fun again.
Because if you don’t, you might find yourself surrendering to the critical mind and “taking a break,” either from writing at all like Russell Blake did, or from a particular goal, like I almost did yesterday.
And is that what you really want?
If it isn’t, get back up on Heinlein’s Rules and write. It really is that simple. If you’re a writer, write.
No writing today to speak of. I’ll start a read-through of my WIP (cycling) and finish it tomorrow morning so I can write when I get back to the blank page.
Every novel writes differently. This one is becoming a techical novel, so diagrams are necessary so I don’t get lost. Maybe even for the lunar base and the lunar orbiter, but definitely for the spacecraft in which my four main characters are currently confined for a trip to another planet in another solar system.
So I’ll spend the balance of today off and on drawing those diagrams. Then if time allows, I’ll finish cycling and write a little more. No pressure though. This is the novel that has to be finished by February 28, so I have several writing days in the bank.
I’m gonna go ahead and post this now, and I’ll update you the next time I post re my progress.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Create and Edit Universal Book Links” at https://authorhelp.uk/create-edit-universal-book-links/.
See “Inspiration – It’s Everywhere” at https://prowriterswriting.com/inspiration-its-everywhere.
Note: The next two posts might be great for structure (which you learn with your conscious mind), but remember to write from the subconscious:
See “Further Reflections on the Mirror Moment” at https://killzoneblog.com/2020/01/further-reflections-on-the-mirror-moment.html.
See “Revisiting the Mirror Moment” at https://killzoneblog.com/2014/09/revisiting-mirror-moment.html.
Fiction words today…………………… XXXX
Nonfiction words today…………… 1410 (Journal)
Writing of Algae Prime (SF novel?)
Day 1…… 2421 words. Total words to date…… 2421
Day 2…… 3312 words. Total words to date…… 5733
Day 3…… 2205 words. Total words to date…… 7938
Day 4…… 0578 words. Total words to date…… 8508
Day 5…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX
Total fiction words for the month……… 60029
Total fiction words for the year………… 60029
Total nonfiction words for the month… 26140
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 26140
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 86169
Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 2
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 46
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 199
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31