just write: getting out of your way

here i am again. starbucks, at lunchtime, trying to squeeze in just 30 minutes of writing. i started a new writing class last week, and he implored us to spend at least 30 days writing. more, if we could, but at least 30 days. it sounded so attainable and i was appropriately inspired.

and yet, here i am again. circling the same drain. i bore myself. i know the tricks (butt in chair, write shitty drafts,the  more you write the better you get, write what you know, write to find out what you know, write what you don’t know, make everything up). I know what to do. i even know what my problem is.

and still. i cannot get out of my damn way. i am not afraid of failure, or i don’t think. no one is reading this, or has to. i have seven different stories open on my computer. just pick one, i tell myself. but i can’t get there, into that character. how do i make myself care? and why will anyone else care?

my problem is that i’m not writing authentically. from the heart. through the fear. whatever you call it, i am not doing it. and i know i’m not doing it. and i don’t know how to get through it, or around it. it’s that intuition that you just know is the truest voice you have telling you: cut out the bullshit. just write what YOU want. this is not fear of failure, or being stopped at the borders by my inner critic, or writers block or procrastination. i don’t have my own voice. i don’t believe in my characters yet. i don’t know how to find my story, my voice.

weirdly i do believe in myself as a writer. i do think that i have what it “takes”- at least a small amount of talent, the desire, the willingness to put in the hours and slog through. i just can’t get out of my own way.

my new teacher is intense. capital I. one of the first things he had us do was take out a piece of paper and write down three things we are ashamed of, three things we would never tell a soul. one i had instantly. took me awhile to come up with more. but i wrote them in code. no one reading the paper could decipher my secrets.

then he had us pass them around so everyone had someone else’s (anonymously). and we were to write about the other’s secret fear.

vulnerability. maybe that is what i’m missing. my secret fear? that i have nothing interesting to say. that i can write beautiful sentences, and quirky characters and funny lines, that i can draw you in and establish POV and pacing and do all the right things but still, you will be bored. you will think, so what?

i am not aiming for so what. and of course, i know the answer to my own quandary. there is no answer. the only way around this problem is through it. writing through it. writing my boredom away, writing pages and pages of boring things until I find the one sentence that isn’t.

i know this. and yet, here I sit.

This post is written as a link-up to The Extraordinary Ordinary’s JustWrite series, an exercise in free writing. Check it out, and link up!

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10 responses to “just write: getting out of your way

  1. It’s okay, just keep trying and keep it up, write something different then what you normally do. Try reading fantasy or taking a prompt.
    Trust me, I’ve been there.


  2. Erin Margolin

    I can relate to this so well. Only I don’t have the answers for myself. And I don’t have seven drafts. And I’m not in school anymore. But I can certainly think of a long list of things I’m ashamed of. How did you write them in code?

    Visiting from Just Write. I’m glad I stumbled across your site.


    • Erin, I think it’s just part of the writing thing, and yet I am always surprised by how daunting it can feel. I wouldn’t call them seven full drafts so much as seven different starts at seven different stories, none of which I like. 🙂 And I work full-time so it’s a class I found that meets once a week- nice to have a group all trying to do the same thing. Code- well I just wrote it so that only I knew what it meant, I didn’t actually make up a secret code. Though maybe that would have made it more interesting! Glad to see you here.


  3. Oh yes, I relate. Some days flow. Some days are nonsense. Some days are true nonsense (aka, just putzing around the internet.) I’ve decided it all has its place. I’ve read many articles by writers I admire saying that do not do quality work every day. I DO try to have the butt in the chair every morning (and I’m pretty successful at that). I think for me that battle is the big one. So I don’t beat myself up what happens during that time is sort of unusable later. It’s all process, right? (Well, except shopping online.)


  4. Hannah

    I understand what you mean when you just can’t right. But I find that sometimes once you start writing even one sentence, the next few follow. It’s not about writing good and true, but writing so that you have a backbone. Then you can add on to that backbone and make it good and true later.


  5. Something I can’t recall led me to follow you on Twitter a little while ago, but I’m only now spending some real time on your blog. I love this, and can definitely relate. At least once a day, I come to the uncomfortable conclusion that perhaps I just suck and should hang it all up. Writing is truly an exercise in stifling self-doubt, isn’t it? For what it’s worth, I love your writing & will be out there reading…(ex-corporate lawyer turned writer/blogger here, too, by the way ;))


    • Dina, just now seeing this comment! I agree on the hanging it up thoughts- many days I think my life would be so much easier if I just stopped writing. More time, less angst. And really, who would care? And yet… I can’t. 🙂 And get antsy and grumpy if I don’t. So I guess we don’t really have a choice. Thanks for your comments, excited to check out your blog.


  6. Pingback: This Writing Life | Commonplace

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