Performance Anxiety

There’s always a period of time before I start a project where I’m afraid of what I’m about to do. I’ll have everything planned out– unless it’s one of those woah where’d you come from, let’s get you over with quickly then, ideas– and I’ll be excited to get to work so I can see my quiet thoughts live and in colour in front of me. Except, the closer I get to my start date, the more I balk.

I feel like anyone who’s serious about writing doubts their ability; I have days where I’m like, psh, I’m so good at this, I was born to do this, why did I ever want to do anything else? Those are the rare days, if I’m speaking honestly; the other ninety percent of the time I’m left scrutinizing ideas or already written works and thinking about how hard this stuff is. For every good sentence I write, there’s about sixteen more awful ones, and if I’m not tearing my hair out at that point, there’s likely a screw loose. But then I suppose every author has felt like that before they really got going, and continued to deal with that apprehension after they discovered that they could make a living from their scribbles.

I know that with enough elbow (knuckle?) grease I can write¬†good stories, ones that people will read and talk about. It’s just that it’s easier to imagine success than it is to actively achieve it, and that scares the hell out of me. I’m not afraid of the work, believe it or not. There’s nothing I love more than a good heavy writing session (editing is a completely different story; editing is a process Satan himself invented, I’m sure). I also revel in the rush I get when I finish a large project. (Again, editing excluded. Because that is like pulling teeth.)

What I’m scared of is starting. Because once you start, anything can happen. Once you start, there’s a possibility that you can get thinking about what crap the whole thing is and give up before you’re done. Or you can reach the end and cut off all the rough bits and slap a fresh coat of paint on your piece and send it out into the world with a bow in its hair only to be ridiculed by all who see it. Once you start, you can fail, and doesn’t that just scare you to bits?

It doesn’t always happen that way, I know. There are books on the market and short stories in magazines to prove that. But in the beginning, at that place where everything is rusty, and getting anything out is a whole lot like trying to get the first few sips of a chocolate milkshake through a plastic straw, it always feels like you’re headed straight down the not-so-nice and difficult path. I find myself thinking about quitting more in those beginning stages than I do at any other part of the project.


It’s probably not even that bad; I’m a total wuss.

I guess in that way, writing–like starting a workout plan or committing to piano lessons– is very much a test of faith in yourself. Nothing good ever comes easy, but whether you finish– regardless of the outcome– comes right down to how bad you want to get to the end. And because of how bad I always seem to want to get to the end, I push through the terror I feel at the beginning, right through the muck of the first few paragraphs, and then, once I’m up to a good clip, I keep going, because that’s what I was born to do.

But don’t you dare mention the word editing, yet. That shouldn’t come in until it is absolutely necessary. Before that point it is a forbidden swear, and until then, the project is beautiful and everything is perfect and don’t you ruin it, you little wretch.



Productivity: How to Stay Motivated When it Just Ain’t Happening.

I’ve decided that summer is an awful time to decide to finish your book. I made the decision to put it on hold a few weeks ago to work on my other projects– which are going along swimmingly, thankyouverymuch– but when I do actually have time to sit down and tackle a very large plot chunk, there are a billion things I find that I want to do instead.

For example:
Just yesterday I sat down to write one of my favourite scenes in the entire novel– I’ve been waiting to hash that sucker out for months and realized that I had to go pick up some interview equipment for work. So I hopped in my car, and ran that errand, excited to get back home and finish ‘er up.

But on my way out of the office, I passed by my gym. The call of the treadmill was too loud to resist. Already in a pair of trainers and yoga pants, I sneaked in for a quick workout.

And then it went downhill from there.

Got home, ate some yogurt. And some toast. And some cereal. In otherwords, the workout was totally useless.

Looked through some old photographs with my grandmother.

Helped clean out my basement.

Went to see a really bad movie with a really good friend.

Put all my laundry away.

Read a book.

And by the time all that was finished, it was one o’clock in the morning, and the scene I have waited forever to write is still locked away in the corners of my brain. I knew that when I started this blog I was going to record triumphs and failures. And though this isn’t quite a failure, it is a minor annoyance, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s experienced things like this before.

In the end, I’ve just got to remind myself that this is what I want most in the world, and if I want it, I’ve got to work on it as hard as I can. I’ll just start waking up super early to tackle a couple thousand words or so. Kind of like Stephen King.

A novel can’t be written in a month. Or rather, a good, full-sized one can’t be written in a month (sorry Nanowrimo people). I’m going to write it, and I’m going to write it as well as I can, and if it takes me a year, then it takes me a year. Patience is key. Either way, I will finish it. It is only a matter of when I’ll type the last sentence.

Editing though, that’s a whole other matter.

Those be some waters I’m ‘fraid to tread in, son.

I’ll keep ya’ll updated.