Monday, May 3, 2010

Taking a Breather

(No, I'm totally not.)

A member of my writing group recently decided to bow out of our group for an indefinite leave of absence. He told me that in the last year, writing for him had become a chore and he'd lost sight of what's fun in it.

Writing as a chore is a foreign concept to me. I can't imagine writing stories not ever be fun, even though the revision process is painful. It's all fun as long as I'm working towards telling a good story.

Here are some ways you might think of the whole thing as being a chore:

If you have a problem finishing novels, you might start feeling that writing is a chore, because you're never getting anywhere. You start new stories because starting is fun (let's face it, starting is writer crack), but the fact that you pedal without actually going anywhere is hugely frustrating.
Solution: Revisit your plot. Look for plot holes that keep your story from working. Think your outline through. Ask yourself if you even want to tell that particular story.

Bad Critiques
You might think writing is a chore if you belong to a critique group in which you consistently get negative feedback, or feedback that says, "You need to change this and this and this and this, and this and this....or just everything."
Solution: Get out of that critique group. Find one that is SUPPORTIVE and in which you find critiques that resonate with you, at least part of the time. (Supportive means ones in which you are not skewered for every little thing and where people laugh at things that are supposed to be funny as opposed to...not.)

Writing is a time-suck, and if you aren't getting anywhere, I can see where you might be tempted to throw in the towel.
Solution: Sit yourself down, preferably on a comfy couch in a quiet room with nothing else going on and no one to bother you or lick you or whatever. Ask yourself very seriously: in what areas could you do better? Honestly, now. Is your story really perfect? Is the writing really golden? Is the query letter really shiny? If you have a sneaking suspicion that there are some areas where you could improve, then develop a plan and get some help.

Burn out
Like sucking all your time away, writing can burn you out. Burn out is one of my chief fears because if anything makes me quit, that will be it. I don't really do "slowing down" very well. Solution: Burn out can take a long time to recuperate from, so if you feel the signs, slow down. Take a few days off and see if that makes a difference. If it does, take a few more. Two weeks off isn't going to destroy your creative spirit. And it might save your marriage or your mind, or whatever. In other worse, unplug and take a vay-cay.

If you do decide to quit, you're not a bad person or a bad writer. It simply means that writing isn't a priority to you anymore. And for the love of tiny kittens, that is okay, too.

What brings you to the brink of quitting? How close have you ever been? I admit I've had thoughts of quitting. But then the next day I start up again.

Psssssssst! Pssst! Yeah, you! I have 91 followers over in that Google friend thingy! Want to help me out and get me to 100? I know, I know. Who cares, right? Well, it's kind of cool to be at 100. So if you didn't follow me before, could you now? That would be awesome. Awesome, YES! Thank you. Mwah!


Lt. Cccyxx said...

I agree with you, Sierra: it's hard for me to fathom ever deciding I don't want to write anymore (taking breaks is a different matter). I find the whole "trying to get published" side of things much more fatiguing...I could envision, one day, just deciding I'm going to write for myself (or a small audience of people around me) and screw the larger publication thing. But that day, fortunately, is a long way off.

Travener said...

Oh, man. How many times a day do I just think of getting over this writing obsession and hanging it up already? Somehow I can't. I'll stumble on, despite the pain of form rejections and non-form rejections and all the rest of the woes visited upon writers by the publishing industry.

DL Hammons said...

Excellent advice! Whenever I finished the first draft of a novel I have no interest in writing anything for weeks afterward. That actually works to my advantage though because I develop some distance from the work and feel fresh when I dive into re-writes.

Cynthia Reese said...

The only time I ever threaten to quit is when I have to juggle family, editorial deadlines on a current book, revision deadlines on a previous book, and dayjob deadlines.

After I muddle my way through it without going postal, I'm usually my chipper self again. :-)

JEM said...

Um, not to be totally selfish here, but how many people are in your crit group? Followed by: are you guys looking to replace bowed out member? No pressure, no pressure, just asking....:)

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Great advice. I haven't thought of quitting, but I do have times where I need to step away and put writing aside for a while so I can get perspective again.

Simon C. Larter said...

Sometimes I think about quitting, but then I remember I have a nemesis to crush, and get right back to work. Nothing like the challenge of crushing a nemesis to keep you on track. Am I right? Of course I am.

Jm Diaz said...

Awesome @Simon's motivation.
Writing is a chore, but one that I enjoy. Even in the most dreadful of revision times. As it stands, I have too much NON writing time, so thinking of doing it less is just appalling.

And I'm already following you... it wont let me follow you again (though I did try)

Tahereh said...

love this post.

writing isn't for everyone, but if you love it, if your heart is in it? never give up!!


Amber Tidd Murphy said...

I'm unplugged, as I have been for 2.5 weeks. I can't decide how much longer I will allow this writerly vacay to last... but I sure know this: it will NOT be forever!

Design Wine and Dine said...

Great post. I love writing...think about it all the time. So many nights I go to bed saying no more, only to wake up the next morning running to my blog and to a story I'm writing about our 1800's home. Sometimes I'm all over the place - need to focus and work on fundamentals. Great Advice here, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Sierra. Those are all things writers should keep in mind.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Thanks for all the comments guys!

Lt -- I guess there's the publishing pursuit too, and that is definitely tiring. But, I love a challenge and it for sure keeps me going.

Trav-- glad to hear you of all people are still going like the Energizer Bunny.

Don --yours is a careful plan! I'm much too impatient to sit. But I admire you for waiting.

Cynthia -- I'm not there yet, but I can see it happening. Oh man. You know what, I'd love to talk to you about how you handle your dayjob in addition to all that -- email me if you feel comfy doing so.

JEM - :) Alas, for every person that leaves the group, a new one steps immediately in. That's my inperson group.

Roni-- how long does that perspective period last? :) Me, I last a day or two, max.

Simon-- You are right only in this one instance, no more.

Jm -- you are such a sweetie, and I couldn't agree more about the NON writing time -- even today at work I was sitting there almost shaking because I didn't want to sit there, I wanted to come home and REVISE my WIP!!

Tahereh - :) Your sunshine is amazing.

Amber -- I hate to tell you this but you will probably have some other things on your mind for a wee while. Has the fatigue started in?

Design -- thanks and thank you for commenting! I love that kind of obsession where you wake up and dive right back into the fray.

Atsiko - thanks again, and thanks for reading, you're great.

Meghan Ward said...

People are constantly licking me. It's a huge distraction. I've never considered quitting, but I know other people who have. And there are people, too, who just need a break now and then, and that's okay, too.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Meghan -- whatever can you mean, that people are constantly licking you? I imagine that WOULD be a distraction! Goodness. But fun for a while.

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