Monday, February 18, 2013

Go on, then

I mentioned a few weeks ago that one of the things I'm going to do this year is to write. I also mentioned that I'm not quite ready to do that yet because there's a lot of pre-writing work that needs to be done. True to my word, I read through my story and pulled out the parts I thought were worth saving. I am (oddly) okay with telling you that I ended up trashing about 99.8% of the original draft.

It's not all bad news. The overall plot and most of the characters have remained. But the entire feel of the story is going to be very, very different. I'm hammering out plot points that I was never quite sure of, I'm creating a mood board, I'm changing people's names, I'm reinventing my characters--   No, that's not quite right. I'm discovering who my characters really are. This is something I've struggled with for a few years, and I'm very pleased with how things are coming. They're characters, not caricatures anymore, and I like them better for it. Hopefully you will, too.

Writing, by J. Paxon Reyes
But the actual writing? Haven't started yet. And as I thought about it this morning, the old fear returned: the near-paralyzing dread that I will not be able to write the story the way it deserves; that it would be better, deeper, richer under someone else's hand; that I am not good enough.

I fear that I am not good enough.

And, oh, isn't this the human experience? We do not all fear being a bad writer, but we all have creeping feelings of inferiority from time to time. What if I'm not a good enough parent, a good enough spouse, a good enough friend, or employee. What if I fail? We have self-help books for a reason, after all. We all feel that we need help to be our best. We need to be told that we CAN do these things, and we feel that we need to be told HOW.

But there's another aspect to this fear, one that all writers know well: procrastination. After all, as I already mentioned, I haven't actually begun my rewrites just yet. I've been otherwise engaged. And this otherwise has kept me preoccupied. Excited, even.

But now that the writing part is staring me in the face, I feel the fear bubbling in my stomach. And I feel, as Anne Lamott says in her book Bird by Bird, "the tiniest bit resentful" about "the one fly in the ointment: that at some point we [have] to actually sit down and write."

So I return to words that I have stashed away in a folder, words of encouragement and admonishment, words that shore me up. (Because, truly, aren't words one of the great loves of my life?) This morning, I am finding solace and stimulation in these two points about writing from Gina Barreca, professor of English and feminist theory at the U. of Connecticut. 

First: "The perfect is the enemy of the good. You can rewrite, you can revise, you can refine, but the first thing you have to do is write. Of course what you write is going to be imperfect. The fun part, remember, is that what you think is good might turn out not to be (kill your darlings and all that), but more important, what you think is absolutely terrible might turn out to be a version of the most interesting idea you’ve come up with yet."

Write first, edit later. Oh, how often I have to be reminded of this.

And second, and perhaps most germane: "Only writing counts as writing. Long discussions over dinner, reading yet another piece of research, having yet another discussion over drinks, none of this counts as writing. Don’t kid yourself. Your dream-self, your cats, your dog, your spouse, your colleagues, your writing group, and your friends: None of them can write your book for you. Only you can do it. That’s the hard part, and that’s what’s great, and that’s what you need to do. Go on, then; get started.”

No one can write my book for me. Only I can do it.

So while I can't promise it will be today, soon--very soon--I will actually write.


Unknown said...

Dear Amy, Amanda Beck here. Thank you for your post (as I am avoiding writing by checking facebook...)! I think this is really helpful too: your gifts are for your community. I get intimidated thinking about writing for publication or national reception....but I think that if we can keep our eyes on our goal--writing for our community, then it is less intimidating. I think it's really a part of Colossians 3:16--Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
This is what small gatherings are about: sharing our gifts for the edification of others. :o) So encouraged by you!

Amy said...

Thanks, Amanda! I really like the idea of writing for my community. Good stuff.