Revising my story

Revising my story

So… why don’t I write when I say I want to write?

This blog came about precisely because four writers said we wanted to self-publish — and then struggled to do that. In my case, I’ve been published in the past but I knew I wanted to write a story that wasn’t quite “in the box.” I wanted to do something different, write in my own style, take a few more chances than New York would be comfortable with. I wanted to write a fantasy novella trilogy that was more romantica than erotica. (And if you read erotica, you know what I mean.)

But even though I wrote the first half of the first book in 2 weeks while on vacation last summer, I struggled to get the second half under wraps. I found all sorts of other things to write. (Yes, I’m a prolific fanfic writer, and one day I might tell you for what, but today is not that day). I suddenly took a greater interest in my day job. I discovered hobbies that were critical to my sense of well-being.

Then the Write or Consequences challenge came along. Or, as it started out, the Ice Bucket Bikini Babes. Now there’s some motivation to jump-start the writing! Not me, not in a bikini, not getting doused with ice water, and certainly not in February. Remarkably, the second half of the book started coming along nicely.

That got me wondering about motivation, drive, and desire.

I say I want to write my novel, and then write something else. I say I’m going to punch out that scene on Saturday afternoon, but I cook bibimbop. Or develop a sudden and urgent need to do yardwork. Or decide to learn a new language.

Is it a matter of not being properly motivated? Has my desire to tell that compelling story waned? Am I just lazy?

Then I came across this article from the NY Times that I found intriguing. In a nutshell, if I sit down and literally write “my story” about an event or experience — the way I perceived the event, how I felt about it — and then rewrite it in a more honest and positive way, I can change the narrative I live by. My brain will look at the new story of my self and assimilate it into my future behavior. Whoa. The power of positive thinking on steroids, and starting from a story of self that I know could be more productive.

One of my predominant stories about my writing self is that “I never finish what I start.” Since reading the article, I rewrote that self-story to be more honest: I have finished and sold four books and three were published before the line I wrote for folded. So yes, I did finish what I started, and did a pretty decent job of it, too.

My story about this novella trilogy is, so far, that not only will I make each goal I set, but that the novellas will be damned good — some of my best storytelling, my most poetic writing to date. This isn’t about being “successful” in terms of selling a lot of copies (though that would be nice), but about writing as deeply emotional and emotionally honest a story as I can within the framework of my chosen genre.

That’s my new story. What’s yours?

8 thoughts on “Revising my story

  1. Dear DRY K – so, if I rewrite my story and say I’m going to finish this book, and I’m not going to let LIFE prevent me from doing it, then I CAN DO IT! And it should work the same with moving to a new city and home – I will be organized and stress-free because I am organized and stress is self-defeating. And what about exercise – I will exercise daily because I WANT TO – okay, maybe I got carried away. I DO NOT WANT TO EXERCISE – I want to HAVE exercised; I just need to figure out a way to induce an exercise coma, so I wake-up and wall-la – I’m sweaty and buff. Actually, that’s the way my muse works – I go into a creative coma, forget everything except my story, and wall-la, a story is written. Well, pages are written, but eventually those pages add up to a whole story. Now, if I could just induce that creative coma on demand???? WAIT – NO! That is exactly what this blog was about – I CAN INDUCE A CREATIVE COMA ON DEMAND BECAUSE I BELIEVE IT TO BE SO! And with that, I think I’ll go create a few new pages!
    Terri

    1. I think the key, dearest thing, is to recognize the story *underneath* the behavior. In your case last year, life hit you with some major disruptions! You get to honor that, and be gentle with yourself over it.

      This writing exercise is intended to get down to the place where we’re lying to ourselves about what we’re capable of doing. Most of the time, we tell ourselves a story about how we can’t do something. That story undermines our efforts on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

      What we have to do is face reality about what we actually do and the choices we make that lead to these undesirable outcomes. There’s soul-searching involved to see the root of the problem. In my case, I’m carrying around a very old story from my childhood about how I never finish what I start. Another of my stories is: My work will never be good enough. And: I can’t succeed because the cards are stacked against me.

      All of these stories make us “victims” of life rather than participants in it.

      We become participants by owning the parts of the story that are true and recognizing the parts that aren’t. With this more balanced and nuanced understanding, we can start seeing a way forward.

      I suspect this exercise is best done with another person. I’ve used it with great success with a couple of women I mentor, and they’ve both reported that broadening of mind which comes from recognizing a empowering truth. They fundamentally are not the people their old stories are telling them they are.

      And that’s a beautiful thing. 🙂

  2. My old story? I fear success. You see, I’m a great goal getter, but a horrible goal keeper. All my life, I’ve set goals, worked my ass off (and in the case of my multiple weight loss goals, I mean that literally :-)), and in almost every case, I HAVE ACHIEVED MY GOALS. Yeah me, right?

    Not so much. I boldly march up to my self-set goals, tap them on the shoulder with a big, brave, bold, “Got ‘ya!” Then I immediately turn my back on all my hard work and go back to being a major slacker.

    My new story? I deserve, and more importantly, I can handle success. The big ones: self-publishing, my health, growing old gracefully; and the little ones: cooking more and eating out less, getting my nails to grow, eliminating my to-be-filed bucket.

    So here’s to becoming big, brave and bold on a full-time basis!

    1. Ah, Dawn! You lovely creature!

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on revising your story. What we always forget (or ignore) is what we’ve already accomplished… You’ve already accomplished so much, and not just in terms of the writing. You’ve published with a major NY publishing house; you’ve helped your husband build a successful business; you’ve raised two fine young men; and you’ve faced the difficulties you shared in your Gremlins post.

      I think we get to take credit for what we’ve accomplished, and that’s part of what revising our story is all about.

  3. Where I have trouble is taking my “new story” from a conceptual realization to an imbedded truth.

    1. That’s why we write them down. 😉 Writing the stories down literally (as I understand the article) writes them into our brains.

      I’m going to try it on another area of my writing life, just to see what happens. Any port in a storm…

      Good luck, sweeting. You’re amazing.

  4. So it may be a bit late to comment on this post, but I came across some motivational words that I thought applied to this notion of “rethinking” so perfectly. You can find all kinds of motivational anecdotes at http://www.sunilbali.com/blog/
    But this is one really spoke to me . . .

    “Harvard University’s Professor of Innovation, Clayton Christensen says that the great inventors and problem solvers down the ages have solved their problems by fixing their thinking. Christensen argues that when you fix your thinking, the problems fix themselves. So how do you fix your thinking? Christensen recommends thinking nothing. Lightbulb moments are most frequent when the mind is not fixed, open and at ease. Like when you’re driving, in the shower or out for a walk. For centuries, scientists, philosophers and sages have proposed that nothing may in fact be the key to understanding everything, from the true nature of the consciousness to the expansion of the cosmos. In Taoist philosophy it’s said that, “a truly good man does nothing yet leaves nothing undone. A foolish man is always doing, yet much remains to be done”. It’s quite possible then that unless we do nothing, we could get nowhere!”
    Now, how’s that for rethinking?

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