Is It Ever Okay to Let Go?

Almost everything you hear from writing advice (my own included) is: just write. Don’t think. Don’t look back. Fight the doubt. Word vomit. Chained to the desk. Just stick with it. Don’t give up.

And I would say, for the most part, this is good advice.

But what about when it’s not? What about when an idea just isn’t working, and it’s not about doubt or insecurity but about your heart not being in it?

Is it ever okay to let go?

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Blog Award Nomination

Hello all!

I am extremely honored to have been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by thepaperbutterfly!

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Thank you SO much for the nomination, and I encourage you all to check out her blog!

As part of the nomination, I’ve got seven facts to think up… hmm…

 

  1. Embarrassingly enough, I like to talk to myself. It helps me to get my thoughts out verbally, rather than letting them bounce around loosely in my mind. When I’m planning things out, or trying to figure out what I’m feeling, it helps to just… talk aloud. Not in a back-and-forth multiple-voices sort of way, but like I’m explaining it to… the air. Okay, I sound crazy. Anyway…
  2. I am so NOT a movie snob. While I can appreciate the artistry of an Oscar-winning movie, my favorites are always superhero and fantasy/sci-fi movies, maybe with a romance or musical thrown in. Even when I know how bad some of those movies are, I still like them better.
  3. The only country I’ve been to outside the U.S. is France—but I am dying to go anywhere in Europe as soon as I can find a way to get more of that, um, green stuff, like paper, that everyone likes…
  4. I love roller coasters (only the up-and-down ones, not upside-down), but ever since I threw up in a garbage can at Cedar Point, I get nauseous really easily. So I can go on rides, but not too many in a row, and not all of them. It means when I go with friends I spend a lot of time sitting on benches while they go on—but I don’t mind. The most fun was at Wizarding World of Harry Potter… like sitting in Hogsmeade. No problem!
  5. I don’t have cable or anything at my current place, just Netflix, but I like to watch TV while I eat—so I’ve been watching old sitcoms. Currently, it’s Frasier.
  6. When I was in fifth grade, I made it to the county spelling bee—and came in fourth, I think. Got out on “obstetrician.” After a humiliating disaster at the qualifying round the next year (got out on “quiche” in the first round), I faked failing the spelling tests to avoid going to the qualifying round—a teacher tried to call me on spelling things wrong on purpose, but I refused to fess up. By that time (8th grade), I was far too shy for public speaking.
  7. I’m horrible at picking favorites. Other than books (Harry Potter, obviously), I couldn’t pick a favorite movie, food, song, etc.—it just depends on my mood.

I’m sure you’re all just fascinated…

Well, thank you again to thepaperbutterfly! I would gladly nominate her for an award in return, but she just answered her own facts so you can just check them out on her blog. I would also nominate Victoria Davenport, but since she too just responded to a nomination, I won’t obligate her to go through it again. :)

Thanks so much!!

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The Friendzone and The Hunchback of Notre Dame

[I posted this on Tumblr, where it was promptly ignored, so I figured I’d put it here to be ignored as well. Just some random thoughts I had…]

So, on a whim, I watched the Disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame tonight.

And I noticed an interesting theme running through the film, though I’m not sure it was intended to come off exactly this way.

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The Three Types of Drafting Doubt–And How to Fight Them

It’s a little premature to say I’ve mastered my doubt. Unfortunately, one finished first draft does not a career make. But the mental transition I’ve made in the last month has at least given me the confidence that I can conquer my doubts enough to finish a draft.

A month ago, I would have given anything to know how to banish the doubts and just write.

I’m afraid the advice I have may be obvious, and it may be things you’ve heard a hundred times before. In many ways, I’ve heard all this before, too. But somehow, this time, it just worked.

Right now, as I work on a draft of a second novel, I live in a state of anticipation of doubt. I don’t actually feel it yet, I don’t know that I will, but I have been defeated so many times by doubt that I don’t trust my ability to fight it off forever. I felt this way the entire time of my first novel (I just love saying that), so I know that I can continue writing through it.

But as I fear the oncoming doubts, I’m trying to figure out how to fight them.

For me, the first key is to understand them.

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The Active Mind

I realized the other day that there is a misconception in the way we think about states of mind—that they are fixed, static, and once attained, never lost. Most of all, that they can be “achieved,” held, and maintained without any further work on our part.

My recent fluctuations in mentalities have proven all of this to be a complete myth. A “state” of mind is no more static and self-sustaining than a ruler balanced on end in your palm—look away or forget it, and it will fall.

Instead, states of mind must be actively pursued and constantly reinforced, built up again and again when they crumble or waver.

This… isn’t the best of news. When you finally seize upon the mentality that you don’t care what people think, you might be tempted to think you are done. Achievement unlocked! But the fact is that you can start to slip, feeling renewed doubts and insecurities, and you have to start that work of not caring all over again.

I think the negative mentalities we all face—in creating, in body image, in self-consciousness, in privilege and indoctrinated racism/sexism—are patterns our minds have learned and settled into, and it takes a lot more work than a single positive thought to undo them. I don’t know if they can ever be completely undone. Instead, you have to continue to tear these thoughts down, to build up your positive mentalities, over and over again.

In writing, I face a very simple cycle of anxiety and calm—I get anxious about length, pacing, and speed, I remind myself that these things don’t matter in a first draft, I calm myself… only to get anxious again in no time. I think it’s the same process that we face with separating ourselves from our desire for quality—we have to tell ourselves, again and again, that it’s okay that it’s bad, that it will get good later. But even when we can acknowledge these truths, we still fall back into doubt.

It’s why you can hear the same writing advice over and over again—write badly, write for fun, who cares?—and it can still fail to sink in. I think it’s because this whole idea of “sinking in” is either false, or takes far longer than a single positive experience. We have to constantly renew our knowledge, constantly go after the patterns of thought we desire, constantly deconstruct the negative mentalities that hold us back.

It’s not a one-time process, unfortunately. But once you learn the skillset of how to do it the one time—how to stop caring what others think, how to continue writing anyway—you can continue to do it. The key is not to get discouraged when the old thoughts remain, when they sneak back in, when they take over again. If you get angry or ashamed at them, you might lose the energy to fight them off. Instead, accept that they are a part of you, that you have defeated them before, and will do so now and every time that you need to.

Just focus on winning the first time—and on learning how you did it so you can do it again. And when you have to do it again, don’t feel bad or give up.

Win every day.

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Signs

I like to believe in signs.

I mean, they’re really just coincidences and my brain noticing certain things more given context, as well as assigning random events certain meanings, but it can actually be quite helpful to aid the mysteries of the writing process.

Signs can come from whatever you like to believe—God, the universe, fate, a deceased loved one watching over you, the literary deities, the muses, or… science? I don’t want to proscribe any particular view of the world here, but I think no matter what you believe, you can look for signs just for fun.

And, if you choose, you can interpret any sign as a positive one to motivate you further in your creative endeavors.

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Writing Through a Bad Scene

Despite all the omnipresent advice to just keep writing, no matter how bad, there is nothing quite as cringe-inducing as writing your way through a scene that just isn’t working. The dialogue isn’t flowing, the characters are boring cardboard, and the pacing is off—too short here, way too long there, and the transitions are a nightmare.

Sometimes, you know as you’re writing it, that it’s not going to stay for the final draft. Sometimes you know you’ll keep it, but have to drastically rewrite it. And sometimes it’s part of an entire section or plotline that will be lost or changed so much that this current scene is useless.

If you’re writing more spur-of-the-moment, you might be the type who will go ahead and make the changes now—stop writing the scene halfway, and either start again or start from there the way you ultimately plan it to be. But if you want to at least somewhat keep to the outline you have, or if you know that starting over will open up a doubt spiral, you have to just keep going.

So how do you keep writing a bad scene?

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