Wednesday, April 19, 2006

From the Neck Up


Not Writer's Block.
Writer's Paralysis. Paranoia. Panic.
An occasional condition.
Total incapacitation.
One owner of a trilogy described this condition as constant until she saw the sales results of the first two releases.
Others have suggested a similar digital lock when they have finished a contracted novel.
They are convinced what they have written is slop.
Crap. Garbage. Way below their standard.
They feel they have failed. They feel their characters are stranded on the cross-walk, their plot in need of a good mechanic, and that there is nothing under the hood but an over-heated radiator or a seized engine block.
One reads these confessions with awe, assuming that successful writers have seat-belts, spare tires, gas cans and all that, the confidence of having a good mechanic on call, or at least, CAA.
(Don't ask me where this metaphor came from, it just drove unto the lot.)

Then there's Newbie Paralysis.
The first time they sent out a query, the first time they sent out a partial, the first time they wrote "REQUESTED" on a bubble-pack envelope.
Have heard of writers crouched on the porch roof ready to leap upon the mail person.
Of developing calluses and swollen joints from clicking their e-mail program every 3.1 seconds and inspecting their spam with furrowed concentration.
Of having a cell phone surgically attached to their ear.

The cure for this is plain, sensible, and frequently expressed.
Go and write something else.
Anything.
Vituperative letters to the local paper about dog squat in the park.
A dissertation on the tonal anomalies in the love songs of Bulgarian tree frogs.
An essay on removing blood from keyboards.

Do not sit and obsess, following your precious words along the highways, electronic or temporal.
Do not visualize it being crushed and torn under some careless mail person's insensitive feet or mangled in a sorting machine.
Do not imagine it lost in cyber hell or that the agent/editor's programs have crashed.
Do not seek by psychic intensity to lime your words with gold as the agent/editor reads them.
The die is cast.
Write.
Anything.

26 comments:

Savannah Jordan said...

Obsession is my bane.

The best way for me to deal with ANY stress, etc, is to write. Doesn't mater what I write be it sinfully sensual, venomously dark or heart breaking poetry. Putting it to words purges the soul.

That first work of mine ever submitted was worried over, fussed about, stressed and prayed for. I found that all to be a damn hard wall of reality that I didn't like banging my head against. So, I moved on and start writing again, which is what it's all about anyway.

In summation, I completely agree with you, Bernita. Write. Anything.

Bernita said...

Akin to alchemy. Distillation of thoughts and emotions.
Some produce a purer product, Savannah.
You do.

Erik Ivan James said...

I am really looking forward to having those obsessions!

Savannah Jordan said...

*blushes* Bernita, you always boost my spirits!

jason evans said...

E-mail clickitis?

*raises hand*

Oh yeah, I'm guilty of that one. My next round will have my Yahoo account on it so that Yahoo messenger can pop up new e-mail messages. That way, if it hasn't popped up, it ain't there.

Dennie McDonald said...

Oh heeellloooo {waves} this is so me!

I haven't written anything but checks to pay the bills (though that IS important) let's just hope my editor doesn't find out - thank goodness she's been busy and seems to have forgotten I promised her another book

Bernita said...

A version of just wanting to "know" - for good or ill, is it not, Jason?

Plan to avoid the most extreme, Erik.Plan now.

Savannah, I've read a number of excerpts on line from certain publishers. Many, if not most, are competent, good, clear, engaging. Few have that extra oomph you have.

Bernita said...

Dennie, maybe you're just re-charging, not obsessing.

Shesawriter said...

I'm all too familiar with obsession, especially in my own writing. I tell myself CONSTANTLY that I'll overcome it, but I've since given up. It's who I am. I will continue to obsess over a word (for hours) or a sentence. It's in trying to deny what's in my nature, that I have problems.

Lady M said...

How did you know how often I clicked on my email?

*looks around and wonders where the spy cam is*

*G*

Lady M

Bernita said...

That sort of obsession is often productive, Tanya. This sort is not.

Hee, Lady M.
Now that you mention it, sometimes I swear Gabriele has been into my files.

archer said...

They are convinced what they have written is slop.

I got to listen to E.L.Doctorow talk at a bookstore once. He said he wrote a draft of The Book of Daniel and put it away to cool, and then came the big moment when he took it out to read it over, and he said he threw it across the room and told himself he had a fat lot of nerve calling himself a writer.

He also said that after he calmed down he started playing with the voice and re-set it in first person, and that turned out to be the key, and after that the book gave him no trouble.

Sela Carsen said...

One person's obsession is another person's focus on the job at hand. I'm great at obsessing, not so good at focusing. I'm working on it, though!

Bernita said...

It's amazing how many pros claim the same doubts as beginners, Archer.
Mark Terry and P.J. Parrish blogged about it recently.
I suppose there's a difference between the usual self-doubt and the genuine miss you mentioned.Pros are more confident about fixing things.

To me,Sela, obsessing about things one can't fix/control is what has to be eliminated. Not the general concentration.

Anonymous said...

I am total anal retentive...and I need everything to be lined up...if any of those little ducks get out of the row, I squash 'em and serve 'em with sauerkraut!

It may not be nice, but it makes me feel better! LOL

I'm printing out this post to put next to my desk, so that the next time I submit, I can remind myself that I need to let it go and let God decide what I get! LOL

Anonymous said...

For some reason....now I'm anonymous...just noticed....

Bonnie Calhoun

Bernita said...

Thought it might be you, Bonnie. Blogger did that to you once before.
Have you checked the little boxes?
Sometimes it makes us sign-in again.
Another thing is to plan where you're going to send it next, if you're a one-place-at-a-time submitter.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I don't feel like it's 'cooked' enough...I don't want to send raw food out there...it'll stink!

hey...the boxes are back...I'm me!

Alexandra said...

Thank you Bernita.

Sometimes the simplest of things become the light at the end of the tunnel...and now you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, never mind, I'm in a strange place today. Nuff said.

But thanks for being out there.

James Goodman said...

Ah, now I have a name for my odd habits. :D

Bernita said...

M'dear.... a feeble candle to be sure, but you're welcome.

James, surely you don't...?

James Goodman said...

No, twas said in jest. :D

Lisa Hunter said...

My husband, who's a screenwriter, has a theory that every project seems to suck when you get 40 percent done. Your initial enthusiasm is gone, you're starting to see the problems, and you have a long way to go before finishing.

I've observed this phenomenon in my own projects too. Now, instead of giving up, I just think, "Okay, I'm at the 40 percent part" and slog through.

kmfrontain said...

This was precious. I laughed, it was so true. Good post, Bernita, as usual. :D

Bernita said...

So was mine, James. Never thought that of you, really.

Lisa, what does he say when these fits hit you AFTER you've finished the final 47th polish?

Thank you, KM!

Anonymous said...

best regards, nice info
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