Stories I tell myself

Stories I tell myself

Let’s talk procrastination. (Because talking about procrastination means I’m not actively writing my WIP. See what I did there?)

And by writing, I mean writing scenes. You know. Contributing toward word count. Getting to The End.

Being a creative sort of person (as you are, too!), I can come up with all kinds of writing-related rationale for not writing my story currently in flight. Maybe some of those reasons sound familiar. If you’re not a writer, you might recognize the same sort of reasoning going on when you have to tackle a difficult project in your field or industry.

Let’s have a look!

  • I don’t feel inspired.
  • The plot isn’t working.
  • I’m focused on fleshing out my character sketches.
  • My day job is taking all my creative energy right now.
  • I’ve written myself into a corner.
  • I need to work on my marketing.
  • I just read a published book that’s exactly like my mine! Back to the drawing board.
  • My horoscope/critique group/Great Aunt Sally says I should take a break from writing this month.
  • My creative well has run dry.
  • I’m doing research.
  • My research has totally trashed my story and now I have to rewrite 80,000 words.
  • The Girls in the Basement have given me a completely different story, and it’s super-exciting!
  • The Girls in the Basement aren’t speaking to me today.
  • The Girls in the Basement have gone dormant.
  • I just can’t get through this sagging middle.
  • I have no motivation.
  • I woke up late and now my best hours of the day are shot.
  • I crashed early and now my best hours of the day are shot.
  • Why should I bother? This book isn’t going to sell, anyway.
  • I’ve lost my conflict.
  • Writing sucks.
  • This story sucks.
  • I suck.

You can tell at a glance that some of these might resonate with you (if you write) or with different writers of your acquaintance at various times.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes the story I’m telling myself is legitimate — I do burn out, work too many hours at the day job, or lose enthusiasm for the work.

But the question is, At what point does “being honest” slide into “letting myself off the hook”?

As I dive wholeheartedly, one toe in the water at a time, back into working on Evelyn, I find myself asking that question in various forms:

  • Am I genuinely tired this evening or just prefer playing Stick Hero to working on the book?
  • Is that brick wall I sense in my head a real obstacle or is it actually more of a habit I’ve fallen into since taking a writing burnout break?
  • Am I really stuck on the major themes of the book or simply overwhelming myself to avoid doing the hard work of straightening it out?

As I inch closer to figuring out who the heroine actually is — what she wants, what she fears — I find that perhaps this process is a little easier than I thought.

When she’s a “product,” she’s hard to feel enthusiastic about. She’s just a chess piece to shove around on the page.

But when she’s someone I feel real affection for, when she feels relatable — to me as a woman — I really want to know more about her and see how she works through the story obstacles that get tossed into her path.

Maybe, just maybe, the trick is to get out of my story and back into hers.

Sandra K. Moore

Sandra K. Moore has been writing one thing or another since she could scribble on a Big Chief tablet. A former Silhouette Bombshell author, Sandra has given up (temporarily) the kickass heroine and is now writing from her softer side for the self-published Promise House series. This novella quartet explores the journeys of four young women finding their way — and remaining true to themselves — through the social expectations and turmoil of 1950’s Houston.

5 thoughts on “Stories I tell myself

  1. Okay, I’ll admit it – I resemble this procrastinator! I’ve used just about every one of these ‘reasons’ for not writing at one time or another. My current REASON is that I’ve included too much ‘stuff’ in the current WIP, so I need to rewrite it as a trilogy.

    For me, it comes down to habits – when I’m in the habit of daily writing, it is ‘easy’ to get myself to the keyboard add words to the story. But good habits are easier to break than breathing! Daily habits I’m trying to cultivate: meditation, exercise, writing and eating smart. Interestingly, these good habits seem to morph off of each other – if I meditate, it’s easier to motivate myself to exercise and if I exercise, its easier to motivate myself to eat right and somehow, all that makes it easier to spend an hour or two at the keyboard. However, it takes three months of daily activity to create a habit – I’m two months and 28 days away!

    And if I miss just one day of a ‘good habit’ – its easier to miss the next and the next and so on and so forth and then I’m starting all over at day one. On the other hand, bad habits are all but impossible to break – I’ve known cigarette smokers who go for years without a smoke, and then they have just one and before you know it, they are back to smoking a pack a day. For me, I need to control my in take of carbs and refined sugar – but it doesn’t matter how long I go without, I’m always just one bad decision away from turning a bad habit into a daily habit!

    Thanks for sending me on this self-discovery trip, Sandra! I’m not sure I fixed anything, but seeing it written down makes it seem more manageable.

    1. I think you’re right about habits, Terri. They’re easier to break if they’re good for us and harder to break if they’re bad for us… WTF?!?

      After I started dipping my toe back into the writing waters, it has gotten easier to meet the page on a near-daily basis, and the story is percolating again in my head, which is always a good sign!

  2. For me, the main bullet point reason why I don’t write (a lot of the time, anyway) is that my story is too complicated and I don’t have the mind for it. I feel my story, my plot lines, my characters are all unraveling in both logic and motivation. It’s a great feeling! Another reason is my abject fear of turning out an inferior product. Put it all together and you get NO NEW WORD COUNT. I’m hear to tell you, such thinking works like a charm. It’s a constant struggle to get out of my own way, and I can always stand for a reminder of that now and then. Thanks for the great post.

    1. Ah, eating the elephant. I think that’s why I’ve struggled with my WIP so much — a lot of moving parts that I’m trying to execute seamlessly. Maybe I could concentrate on just executing and leave off the “seamlessly” part. Or, as you hint at in your comment, detangle the dang thing and write a simpler story until I build confidence in my skill set.

      I personally believe that if you can dream it, you can learn to execute it, so I have confidence in your ability to write your fantasy novels. The question then becomes managing self-doubt, which is never easy… And self-doubt itself is a story we tell ourselves: I can’t do this, this is beyond me, I might be able to do it but it’ll suck.

      But that’s all it is: a story. Our stories can take us down for a bit, but they don’t have to keep us down. Hang in there, babe.

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