Monday, December 9, 2013

All These Words Are Stupid!

The other day I pulled out my work journal and starting sketching out part of a scene from The Steampunk Novel. It's an addition to an existing scene and I wanted to get the bones of the new material down on paper before I forgot.

So, I wrote the following sentence.
Keira sat up and laid her hands on either side of his face.
Only it wasn't that simple.

From the very first word, I realized it was one of those days. You know, Those Days. When this little voice starts screaming in the back of your head as soon as you set pen to paper. Some folks term it Writer's Block, but usually it's more like Writer's Indecision. This complete and nearly overwhelming doubt about every letter being formed on the page.  

So writing that thirteen word sentence took somewhere close to three minutes. The thought process was something like this. (And it's important to remember that I already had all thirteen words written out in my mind. I knew what the sentence was. I knew what I wanted to say. But this was the fight that took place trying to get it onto paper.)

Keira sat no, not sat. maybe straightened or stirred. what's the rest of the sentence look like, dummy? stick with sat for the moment. she was sitting in his lap. Keira sat up and laid cupped. no. rested. placed. cupped. placed. (This bit went on for a good two minutes.) gah. just stick with laid. Keira sat up and laid her hands on either side really? either side? how about against? no, that sounds too forceful. okay. Keira sat up and laid her hands on either side of his face. that's wrong. how about cheeks? or should it be jaw? that sounds even weirder. but face? come on. what kind of hack are you?

So, three minutes and thirteen words later I finally had the first sentence of this new scene on paper. Time for round two.

Her so what? now we start every sentence with a pronoun? how old are you? seriously, this is the worst thing you've ever written. 

And on it went. But the more words I put on paper, the quieter the voice got. The more words on paper, the more I was able to see the shape of the scene and you know what? It wasn't that bad. A little rough around the edges, but not bad.

Folks always want to know when rejections stop hurting, when the writer's block goes away. And the answer is... maybe never. But over time you can learn how to deal with the doubt and the disappointment that comes with getting a story turned down again. Or struggling with a scene that just doesn't want to do what you thought it should. Or struggling with each and every word because you just can't imagine that anyone else would ever be interested in these stupid words.

My key strength (and flaw) is that I am as stubborn as the day is long. When I run up against a wall, I will bang my head against it 'til that mother crumbles. There is sometimes a bit of crying and consumption of tea and chocolate in the interim. But eventually that wall goes down and I go on.

This is what works for me.

For some it will be easier to find a way around the obstacles. Or under them. Or simply to wait 'til they crumble under the ravages of time. (Which, since this is all metaphorical can be not as long as it sounds.)

So. When that voice in your head is screaming "All these words are stupid!" remember the following. (I've said this before, even recently, but it bears repeating.)

1. Few things are as bad as we think they are.
2. What is bad can always be fixed later.
3. You cannot fix what you have not already written.

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