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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Don’t Let Writer’s Resistance Stop You — Soldier On


Nothing will block you faster than an expectation that your first draft should be good

Do you think you have to write something good, that if you’re going to take the time to sit down and write, you should produce something worthwhile? And by good, most of us mean perfect or almost perfect, logical, fascinating, funny, grammatically correct, sexy, grab-the-reader-by-the-throat thrilling, coherent, deep and wise and inspirational – despite the fact that some of those qualities are contradictory.

Expectations that your writing should be good are an all-too-common source of resistance. So I’m delighted to introduce today’s guest blogger, Lois Greiman, author of over 30 novels, to dispel the myth that writing has be good. At least at first.

Soldiering On by Lois Greiman

For me and a lot of writers, it’s a constant struggle to believe in myself long enough to get anything done. Oh sure, I have times when I think, “Hot damn, this is the best thing ever written. This is fabulous. Better than fabulous. This is unique. This is too good for publication.” Those times generally last about thirty-two seconds or long enough for me to sit down at the computer. After which I topple into despair. I know I’m a hack or a has-been, or even worse…a never-will-be. But… Glory be! I have a solution.

Here’s what I do: Every morning after feeding my menagerie of farmyard friends, I go for a run, brew myself a little tea, chant, “I don’t suck, I don’t suck, I don’t suck,” four hundred times, and settle into my work chair. That’s it. That’s the entirety of my secret. I sit down, I put my fingers on the keyboard and I write something.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t write anything good. Nothing noteworthy or hopeful or even remotely creative. But I do write. I have a goal for the day and I meet my goal. Generally, it’s 10 pages of rough draft every twenty-four hours. And when I say rough draft, don’t underestimate the roughness. Think cat’s tongue rough, extra coarse sandpaper rough. That first attempt is barely legible. If someone read it, I would, in fact, have to change my name and take a lifetime vow of silence. But day after day and week after week it gets written.

I don’t edit. I don’t second guess. I don’t whine. (Okay, that last one was a total lie. I whine all the time. But nobody listens anymore so it hardly even counts.) What I do is soldier on…through the terrible dialogue that makes me want to weep for my lack of creativity, past the nonexistent scenery, over the plot holes as big as battle ships…on. And voila, after about forty days of this dogged, but totally uninspired soldiering, I am rewarded with 400 pages of …drivel.

Rewarded with Drivel

I mean seriously, did you expect it to be good? No. It’s awful. Worse than awful. It’s nonsensical. Because without fail when I was writing page 77, I discovered that I hated my hero’s name. Who ever thought the male lead should be called Kismet? I’m obviously deranged. But do I go back and name him something manly and dynamic like…King George? I do not. I remind myself of my cardinal rule: no edits shall be done until the first draft is complete. Do I go back to page 83 to add the gun with which Kisment will shoot Destiny on page 122? I do not.

I soldier on until I have a first draft, a literary backbone, if you will. Granted, it’s a weak backbone. It has scoliosis and rickets and some osteoporosis, but it’s still a backbone and once I have that, I can move on. I can inject a little calcium into the vertebrae, add flesh and muscle and pigment. I can shape and hone. I can change my poor misbegotten hero’s name for God’s sake.

So there it is, the entirety to my secret. It’s not very exciting. Not very sexy. In actuality, it’s pretty painful, but I’m willing to hack up 400 pages of drivel if it’ll get me one step closer to a polished manuscript. So I dare you to try it. Be brave, be committed, sit down and write 400 pages of slop. Because really, writers have to write. It’s what we do. And it’s better than having to change your name. I mean really, what if you can’t think of anything better than ‘Kismet?’

Lois Greiman is the author of Uncorked, the 7th book in the Chrissy McMullen mystery series, She invites you to follow her on Twitter or on Facebook at either www.Facebook.com/Lois.greiman or www.Facebook.com/chrissymcmullenmysteries and to visit her website just for the fun of it.

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3 Comments on “Don’t Let Writer’s Resistance Stop You — Soldier On”

  1. George February 8, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    Thanks for these very practical suggestions. The pain of creation when associated with strong determination and will could make wonders.

    Like

  2. loisgreiman February 7, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Thanks for having me, Rosanne. Always good to ‘talk’ to the writing community.

    Like

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