A version of this was originally posted on my blog: https://thegiraffefiles.com/

Here is a thing I've learnt about myself in all the time that I've considered myself a writer. I think largely in plots. I can write the most elaborate plots you can think of and know exactly where I want a story for the most part (endings are a bit iffy sometimes) to go but then when I actually sit behind a keyboard or try and put pen to paper everything that forces it's way onto the page is accompanied by an internal monologue of ‘NO!’ And then it burns out because despite all these plans I have and the perfectly bullet pointed plot that I made a point of putting in the universe, I never at any point think that I capable of writing the story that I created the plot for.

I basically just want someone who can do the thing to take my idea and make it good.

Even when I can and do actually get somewhere with it and it reaches thousands of words when I go to re-read it I do so with the thoughts ‘UGH NO. STOP THIS NOW. THIS IS AWFUL.WHY????’ Then I abandon it and all its thousands of words and pretend it never happened to me. I put vibes out there that someone else will come up with the idea and make it (a la Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic).

It's not necessarily all large bodies of words that terrify me. I mean I maintain a blog that for the most part I post on 6 times a week and I've gotten good at ignoring the voice in my head that sometimes screams 'BACK AWAY FROM THE PUBLISH BUTTON!' But plots that I have carefully created and put time and effort into and could almost, maybe, possibly actually be proud of one day strikes some kind of fear into me and I suddenly forget how the English language works.

I've had to take a new approach to this whole fear of doing the fleshing out of a well bullet pointed plot. This past July I took part in Camp Nano. The word count goal was relatively modest this time (I've done Nano twice which is 50,000 words in 30 days and in April this year I set myself a 30,000 word goal) at 20,000 words and I was determined to fulfil that goal. The plot this time was mostly formed. I had no idea where it would end and I also was slightly more flexible with the idea that as I rapidly added words to the document that the plot might , shock horror, evolve and change. I went with the flow of what I was 'feeling' when it came to the plot, I didn't restrict myself to moving through it chronologically. I took it as easy a person striving to write 20,000 words in 31 days can.

And then July ended and the fear crept in. I cast my gaze over the first page and instantly wanted to delete all 20 thousand something words. Because there remains a part of me that feels I am less than capable of doing the thing. I honestly have the minimal belief possible that I can write something in excess of 80,000 words that would do justice to the complete idea that I have swirling around in my head. Part of it, yeah sure. The whole thing? No way.

 

But here's the kicker. No matter how may times I find myself going through that cycle, I keep going back to it. For some reason, the main one being that I love it and I am always going to be my own worst critic, I find myself picking up that pen (I am old school like that sometimes) and looking at a blank page and writing. Then editing. Then hating. Then finally typing away and doing something with it (mostly posting it on my blog).

And there are days when writing, anything, seems like the hardest, most pointless thing ever and it feels like so much more than writer's block. For example writing (or rather re-writing) this post took ages because of some weird fear. I, funnily enough, don’t quite know how to put it into words what it’s like, but it’s mainly just a massive case of fear of writing outright bad. And the worst part is sometimes I reach these moods that feel like home, they're comfortable. And it is maybe the worst place to reside for a long period of time.

But it’s sooooooo hard to kick yourself out of a place that feels so welcoming.

However I am going to try when it comes to this particular plot to not stay somewhere just because it's comfortable. I've already slowly started editing the mass of words that I left myself at the end of July, which is progress for me as before I've left it weeks, even months, before I returned to something I've written in such a concentrated period of time. And when I inevitably hit a wall with the editing and when I have to start writing and adding to it again and therefore I get clutched by the claws of fear I am going to remember that this is in the preface of Yes Please: 

‘The truth is this, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not…I have told people that writing this book has been like brushing away dirt from a fossil. What a load of shit. It has been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver.’ *

And also this (which I will warn you now is a bit lengthy because I couldn’t cut it down and the English student in me is hating it because you should never include quotes this long, ever. But it all relevant.):

‘How do we drag ourselves through the much when our brain is telling us youaredumbandyouwillneverfinishandnoonecaresanditistimeyoustop? Well, the first thing we do is take our brain out and put it in a drawer. Stick it somewhere and let it tantrum until it wears itself out. You may still hear the brain and all the sh***y things it is saying to you, but it will be muffled, and just the fact that it is not in your head anymore will make things seem clearer. And then you just do it. You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and write some more. You put your head on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. This is what I know. Writing the book is about writing the book’ *

And she wrote a pretty darn great book in the end 

So I leave you some more with the wise words from Amy Poehler because this books speaks to the writer in me on most days: ‘You do it because the doing of it is the thing.’

*Amy Poehler, Yes Please (Picador, 2014) pg.x and pg.xv (told you, English student, referenced it and everything.)

Published by Sophie Thomas