All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it? ~Philip Pullman
My inner demon looks a little like this.
Being a writer is hard. It is. But I guess you could say it's hard being an elementary school teacher, dentist, bus driver, waitress, nurse, etc...Every job (yes, writing is a job) has its difficulties. And some, more so than others. I SO get that. But if you go to a dentist and you don't like him, do you send them a rejection letter? Or how about review them on a Dentist website and give them a one star? Would you ever think to call your dentist a hack? A wannabee? And if he gave you a cleaning you didn't quite like, would you tell him? Would you tell all your friends and make a public spectacle out of him? Most likely you wouldn't do any of those things. You'd simply not go back. If you had a bad waitress, you'd probably just not tip her and then walk away feeling justified. She may never know how bad she is...well, until she gets fired. But anyway...
For a writer, the fear of ALL those things (and more) always lingers in the back of our minds. Are we good enough? Will people like us? Our WHOLE existence is based on public approval. Every review. Every comment. Whether our book sells or doesn't. It's all about the public (YOU, the dear reader) loving us and loving what we do. So rejection and approval is one inner demon we battle each day. We have to battle it. We have to shove it to the side so we can go on writing again and again and again. It never goes away either. It's always there, with every page we write, and with every novel we publish. You'd think it would get easier with time, but, at least in my experience, it doesn't. In fact, it's almost a little worse. What if I let my readers down? That is always a possibility. It can happen any time too, without warning. We may think our folllow-up book is pretty darn good, and then WHAM, a reader tears you apart, letting you have it. *I just shivered*
I haven’t had trouble with writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly. My first drafts are filled with lurching, clichéd writing, outright flailing around. Writing that doesn’t have a good voice or any voice. But then there will be good moments. It seems writer’s block is often a dislike of writing badly and waiting for writing better to happen. ~Jennifer Egan
Another demon we fight...the dreaded Writers Block. Is it a real thing or not? It can be debatable (see the quotes from above), but I've been there, where my fingers sit on the keyboard, hour after hour, and NOTHING comes.I remember once going to the local cafe, hoping to get past my block by putting myself in a new atmosphere, only to walk away four hours later having only written 400 words. One hundred words an hour. It was awful. And the more I tried to write, forcing myself to do something, anything, the worse it got. I felt like such a loser. Fortunately, I worked myself through it. Those 400 words really did help to get the ball rolling. But guess what, for the past several months, all I've been doing is editing. Editing and writing are two totally different things. They're different modes of thinking. Now that the editing mode is coming to an end (shameless plug here for DESERT FLOWER coming out January 15th--fingers crossed). And here I sit, trying to get back into the writing mode. IT'S TOUGH. It is. I'm really struggling (thus this blog).
The worst demon to fight...the demon of DOUBT. Ahhh...that stupid doubt demon! Doubt actually encompasses a lot of the above and so much more. What if I'm not good enough? What if people hate my writing? What if no one will publish my book? What if no one buys my book? What if no one buys my next book? What if my publisher drops me?
I actually wrote a poem about this exact thing called: Doubt's Big Hairy Behind. It's another one of those things a writer has to fight EVERY DAY.
I think every time you put yourself out there, open yourself up to the world by creating something and then sharing it with others, there will be fear, there will be struggle, and there will be doubt. It will probably always be there too. And...it's not necessarily a bad thing. Once we lose the fear, the doubt, and writing becomes easy, THEN I think we're in a heap of trouble. Without these things to fight through and motivate us, we will become complacent and cocky. A cocky writer is the worst. They won't improve because they think they don't need to. So maybe being humble and constantly afraid is a good thing (trying to put a positive spin on this).
I have never thought of myself as a good writer. Anyone who wants reassurance of that should read one of my first drafts. But I’m one of the world’s great rewriters. I find that three or four readings are required to comb out the cliches, line up pronouns with their antecedents, and insure agreement in number between subject and verbs…My connectives, my clauses, my subsidiary phrases don’t come naturally to me and I’m very prone to repetition of words; so I never even write an important letter in the first draft. I can never recall anything of mine that’s ever been printed in less than three drafts. You write that first draft really to see how it’s going to come out. —James A. Michener
Remember, you're not alone. All the demons above are demons all writers face at one time or another. Don't believe me? Then check out these statements made by writers when I asked them what scared them (via facebook and twitter):
Kayla Mccoy @TWFanmilyKM being called a bad writer.
Leila Vázquez @LeilaIrea I am amateur writer (I write fanfic), but what scares me is that people do not like what I write.
Darcy Flanagan @DShenanigan25 stories not being good enough, people not liking them, having long term writers block.
Shana Hammaker @Literarygrrrl My well running dry
Megan Trefry-Bennett Never getting another idea
Marie Borthwick That no one will like what I write
Sara Beth Cole I'm with Marie. Rejection terrifies me.
Amanda Rinker Writer's block. Yikes.
Robynn Gabel The EDITOR! LOL
Kortnee Bryant that someone will see my google search history
Rhi Paille That nobody will read my books.
Surreal Nyx Losing my writing mojo.
Looks and sounds familiar, doesn't it? So we're not alone. In fact, we're quite normal to feel these things. So what do we do about it?
The only thing we can...WE WRITE. Then we keep on writing. And then we write some more. That's it. Or give up. But who here wants to give all this up? Not I. And I hope, certainly not you :)
How do you fight your inner writing demons? What's worked for you when you found yourself in the midst of writer's block? What do you do to keep yourself plugging away, day after day? Please share. We'd all love to know. Advice is TOTALLY welcomed and appreciated here!