When The Writing Life Turns Scary (Plus Some Fixes)
Vampires? Witches? Ghouls? Yes, they're Halloween scary (maybe), but they've got nothing on our spookiest writer moments.
Here are the three aspects of the writing life that can send us screeching and cowering under our bed covers. I'm also including some suggested fixes.
1. Eeeek! The Blank Screen, aka, Writers Block
You wake up with this idea that's so clever that you skip breakfast and grab a quick coffee on your way to your writing desk. Then you type furiously while visions of that Pulitzer dance in your head. You stop. You re-read. You want to puke. You delete it all and now you're plain stumped for what--if anything--to write.
Or you’re under a big, hairy deadline, but then, 12 hours before submission time, your brain circuits all fizzle and blow. Now you can't speak, let alone write. Oh. Hell.
Fixes: Get outside and take a walk or a run. Don't worry. The writer's pity party will still be in full swing when you return. When you get back, pick up your hand-writing journal to tease out what’s stalling you in this project. Or, if you’re not under deadline, take a break from this freakish project to work on a different one—preferably in a different genre.
2. Bwaaa! Haa! Haaa! The Rejection Letter
You drafted, re-drafted, edited, polished (and polished). Then, you submitted that short story or essay to that well researched and apparently perfect market. You followed their submission guidelines. Your piece is within the required word count. And now, here in your email in-box is one of those, “This-didn’t-work-for-us” notes. Or worse, there's a confusing or snarky missive that reveals that your work never got read in the first place.
Fixes: First, exorcise (as in, “cast out thy demons”) all self-blame or -flagellation. If you truly worked hard on your submitted piece, then remember that all writing and reading is subjective. I mean, how many New York Times bestsellers have you read that you honestly, truly loved (in my case, not many)? This rejection may have little or nothing to do with the quality of this piece. It certainly is not an indictment of you as a writer. If the editor was kind enough to offer suggestions, use them. The best cure for writer’s rejection? Review your piece, fix any boo-boos and, within 24 hours, submit it to a new market.
3. Help! "I’m About To Turn (insert milestone birthday), And Now It's Too Late!" Today’s workplaces demand more and more of us, and our 24/7, hyper-connected lifestyle doesn't help. In or beyond the workplace, it seems like there’s always someone who needs you. You’re facing down a milestone birthday and here's that inner voice telling you that life has whizzed by, and so has your dream of being a writer.
Fixes: Switch your own way of thinking. Taking time out to write does not mean that you are reneging on your work or family responsibilities. Writing means taking care of your own wellness to make you a better employee, a better parent, a better caregiver. Look at your entire week. Find some spots in there for quick, incidental writing opportunities. Insert those days and times into your appointment calendar. Early mornings? Lunch hours? Café on the way home from work? Turn off the T.V. at night. If it really matters to you, make a plan and start tomorrow.
What are the scariest parts of writing for you? Write them in the comments below.