Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dear Veronica. Freaking Jump Already. Sincerely, Veronica.

I do actually intend to write a series of blog posts about SCBWI, but today is not the day, because I've got something else on my mind.

I haven't really written in about three weeks. And it doesn't feel good.

So for the past week and a half I've been wondering what the heck is wrong with me. Am I ill? Am I depressed? Do I no longer like to write? THE HORROR.

I keep telling myself the answers to these questions:

A. No. I feel fine.
B. No. I feel fine.
C. I've been writing since sixth grade. If I haven't hated it before now, it's probably not going to happen.

After a week and a half of fretting, I think I have finally isolated the cause of my writer's block, and it's unsurprising, given my personality: fear.

I'm not going to lie to you and say that it's exactly the same now, writing under a book contract. When you have The Contract, writing becomes your job (even if it's a part-time job), because someone is compensating you for it. And not only that, but in The Trilogy Zone, you know that there are people relying on you to make the new book at least as good as the last book. And you are fully aware that several important people are going to read one of your initial drafts. All of this floats around in your mind when you write, because it's awesome, and because it's real, but the unfortunate side effect of this incredible blessing is that it's not the same, because it's not just me and my computer and my desk chair anymore.

But the lesson I am trying to teach myself is: it must become the same.

Like so many of the lessons I try to teach myself, this one is about courage.

Before, I was writing alone, and I felt secure not because I was brave but because no one had a vested interest in how my work turned out, no one but me. This time, people do, and every time I sit down to write I put this pressure on myself for it to be good. I really don't want to let those people down.

I am not, despite how I may seem, insecure about my writing. When I sit down at the keyboard and I shut out everyone else, I know exactly what I'm doing. I don't mean that in an arrogant way-- I don't think I'm perfect or brilliant or that I've learned everything I need to know. I mean that in this space, and at this desk, I am fully convinced of my ability to do good work. This is what I am supposed to do.

But this time, when I sit down, it's hard for me to shut out everyone else, so I have a problem. I have to create space for myself to mess up. Badly. I don't think I realized how scary it is to launch yourself into a draft without knowing where it's going or if anything will work the way you want it to, not because I haven't done it, but because I've never thought about it before. It's like when you're young and you'll just launch yourself off the swings without worrying about how you'll land, and then you grow up and you know about physics and broken bones and fragments of glass potentially waiting in the dirt, and you won't jump anymore. I know a lot more about what screws up a draft now, and that makes it hard for me to jump.

But you can't be afraid when you write. You have to take ownership of your talent and shut out the world's opinions and do the work you love because you love it, and for no other reason. You have to fire your internal editor, who is telling you that every move you make is a mistake. You have to realize that you are the only one who knows your characters so completely that you understand all the inner workings of their stories. But most of all, you just have to get over it and freaking jump already.

Be brave. That's my plan. It's not very sophisticated, but there it is.

(Psst. Myra McEntire also has a post about this today. And it's awesome.)


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