True Confessions, or Coaching Myself

I'm struggling.Book_work_teacher_238276_l

I'm having a hard time writing my next novel.

There, I've admitted it. 

I, the one who constantly harangues you to write every day, to keep the momentum going by checking into your project on a daily basis, I, that very same person, am having a hell of a time working on my novel every day.

Don't get me wrong–I am writing every day.  I get up every morning and write in my journal, I work on contracted projects, and I write a blog post every day.  Oh, and I write stuff on social media, though I'm not sure we can say that really counts. 

So I'm writing every day, and writing tons.  It is just that I'm not doing what I love to do, what I feel I've been set on this earth to do (well, partially, because coaching writers and blogging about writing is definitely part of my mission).  I'm ignoring my true love.  And we all know what that means.

My true love is dying.

And that makes it even harder, because if a project feels like it is dying, than who wants to spend time with it?  And so the vicious cycle gets established.

It is not that I don't have time for it.  At great effort, I have carved out a bit.  But during that time I am not writing.  Instead, I am re-reading the first chapter repeatedly, telling myself how very brilliant it is.  I make lists of things I should do for the novel (like, um, write it).  I jot notes about potential scenes.  Fill out character dossiers.  Convince myself I need to go sit on my office chair and take a nap meditate about the overall arc of the plot.

All this is great, but it is not writing.

Yesterday, after reading–yet again–the first chapter, I realized it is because I'm second-guessing myself.  I'm worrying about whether the work is good, whether than trusting the process.  Of course it isn't good, it is a first draft!  All it needs to be is enough to hang a story on.  And it is.

So I've decided what is in order are some words from the wise, ie., me.  It is time to coach myself with some tough love.  Here's what I've come up with for my marching orders:

1.  Remind Myself.  Of what?  That the last novel was once a first draft, too.  Yesterday I scrounged around and found the original scene list I had written for Emma Jean's Bad Behavior.  Shocking how different it was.  Oh, the seeds of the finished novel were all there, but the original scenes I had laid out were very, very different.  I found this comforting, because it reminded me that the process does, indeed, work.

2.  Use the Time.  What's been happening is that I get to my allotted novel-writing time and when something doesn't happen immediately, I feel guilty for wasting my time and make myself go spend it more gainfully.  But creativity takes time, and when working with the large span of the novel, this is especially true.  So I'm using the time I've set aside every day, even if it means staring off into space while thinking deep thoughts about the novel.

3.  Turn off the Internet.  Yeah, right.  I hear this works well, but I wouldn't know, because it is not something I am constitutionally capable of achieving. 

4.  Short assignments.  The novelist Darnell Arnoult talks about this.  She advocates giving yourself short assignments about your characters or points in the plot.  Stuff you can write in 15 minutes, but which will help you gain understanding of the project.  I know this works because one of my short assignments made it into that brilliant first chapter which I have read and admired so many times.

So those are what I'm working with.  Anybody want to take a turn coaching the coach and tell me what works for you?

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted