Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

A Few Words About Starting

Go Slow…

Due to the fact that I only have so much computer time I can use because of my one good eye and the fact that I was spending most of the computer time over the last month plus moving workshops to Teachable, I haven’t done much writing.

Normal for me, since I tend to start and stop a lot over a year and still manage to get a lot of words and books done. So I am very, very good at starting up.

And I know a lot of you reading this are starting up again this week, either as a New Year’s resolution or after time away because of the holidays.

And some of you are worried about that, maybe fighting it a little.

So let me tell you here, quickly, how I am doing this restart.

— My focus is no pressure on the writing. I’ll get to it if and when I get to it. That lack of pressure has allowed me to actually want to get back to writing. And I am.

— Keep the writing fun. I picked a project I had sort of wanted to try for a while and had started once, but instead of trying to catch up with that, I just tossed away what I had and started over. That made the book feel fresh to me.

— Don’t get in a hurry to hit page counts. Let them build slowly. I have done that and fascinating enough, I now want to do more on the book each day. The book is becoming fun and I want to read more of it, so I need to write more so I can figure out what happens. And the page counts will climb naturally as that happens. That’s fun.

— Pick a fun book to start up with.  I did that as well, deciding to go after a book with a lot of humor and that has a few short stories already done in the world. That helps as well.

— I never once doubt you can get back writing. This may be hard for some of you to do, but honestly writing is not something you forget how to do. Your critical brain will try to keep you stopped because that’s safer, but you don’t forget how to do it.

The key really is getting the critical voice that is telling you that you can’t do something out of your head. Negative thoughts are always critical voice and nothing is ever written creatively in critical voice.

So if you hear yourself think, “This is hard.”  Just stop and correct that thought. No, writing fiction isn’t hard. Writing is fun. Nothing hard about sitting alone in a room and making stuff up.

So kill the critical voice and just go have fun.

Let me make one more suggestion. Put a sign over your writing computer that says, “Go play!”

Then take the pressure off and have fun.

I know I am once again.


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  • Vera Soroka

    Today is my day to get back to it. I had a week off but I have not written for a while. So today kind of feels weird. I’m starting off with a short story that I’m going to turn into a longer work. A prequel to the novel I finished up last year. I made a list of things to today so we will see how it goes.

  • Ashley R Pollard

    Yeah, been doing that time accounting thing today. Two hours fifteen minutes into my working day. So far zero new words, because publishing business stuff has eaten my time.

  • J.M. Ney-Grimm

    This was absolutely what I needed to hear.

    I’ve had a story calling to me most beguilingly for the last 2 weeks. I’ve been longing to answer its call and write, but I’ve also been afraid (yeah, I know, fear’s a killer). My mom died October 7, and my brain simply ceased to work for the first 6 weeks or so following her death. I truly could not hold two thoughts together at once. So I didn’t even try to write.

    But my brain has been slowly returning to functioning, and I’ve been missing the writing increasingly as time passes. So I finally decided I would just dip my toe in today and see if writing were even remotely possible. Especially because that story really draws me.

    But I truly did feel as though I’d forgotten how to tell a story. So your reassurance that one does not forget is reassuring.

    I told myself that anything went. I could open a computer file and close it again, if need be. I could write one sentence, or even just one phrase, and then stop. I could write a paragraph and then stop. No pressure at all. No need to produce. Just the chance to write again, to connect with this missing piece of myself and my life.

    As it chanced, I wrote 277 words. It felt good, and I saw as I wrote that I haven’t forgotten how. But I was fighting a rising fear the whole way unfortunately, driven (I think) by a desire to do this story justice. I need to toss that creeping perfectionism, because that’s really what it is. I need to remind myself that I can trust myself, trust my creative voice., that surrendering to the story is the way to go. There’s no need to try and muscle it; that way lies insanity; that’s the critical voice. Creative voice is a dance. I want to dance with my story, not strong-arm it!

    • dwsmith

      Exactly, J.M… And no story is ever perfect and the moment we treat any story like a special snowflake, the writing becomes work and stops being fun. Too much pressure for me.

      So glad you are back. Now just allow yourself to have fun and that fun will come through in the story as well.

      • J.M. Ney-Grimm

        …the moment we treat any story like a special snowflake, the writing becomes work and stops being fun. Too much pressure for me.

        Too much pressure for me, too! Thanks, Dean!

        I did more writing this morning and it felt even better than yesterday. I realized when I woke up that yesterday’s fear had come from a wrong turn I took in the last two sentences of yesterday’s session. That realization caused my enthusiasm and excitement to surge anew. I ditched those last two sentences and carried on from there, going in a direction that felt much better. It felt great!

        Thanks for the encouragement and the welcome back. Much appreciated.

    • allynh

      J.M. Ney-Grimm said: But I truly did feel as though I’d forgotten how to tell a story.

      I literally can not sit down and write a novel. All I can do is write the idea that I see now, and let “future me” pick up from there and move the story a bit more for the next “future me” to deal with.

      I’m not alone writing the story, I am collaborating with “past me” who had a great idea, and “future me” who may see where to take the story further.

      – The “past me” is this brilliant guy with all these great ideas.

      – The “future me” can solve any problem with the story.

      So I don’t worry. All I need to do is my part today, based on all the work done by all of those “past me”, and hand it off to the “future me.”

      When I forget that I am not alone, when I find myself holding back, thinking that I don’t know what I’m doing, I write a letter telling “future me” what I see about the story based on the great work done by “past me.”

      That is to remind myself that “we” will get this done. HA!

  • Robert J. McCarter

    “Have Fun!” You say it over and over, Dean, and I’ve hung out long enough to finally believe it. When I’m having fun writing the words just fly out.

    This, though, is my favorite line here: “writing is not something you forget how to do.” Like riding a bike right? If you watch kids riding bikes they are not serious, they are not judging themselves, their peddling hard and feeling the wind on their face. They’re doing exactly what they want to do. They are having fun.

    Thanks for the New Years inspiration.

  • Lauriann

    Your blog posts really get me fired up to write. Last year you had a challenge 3 books in 3 months. I almost made it but school really took a lot of my time. The good thing was that I realized that I can write a 50k word novel in less than three weeks that barely needs any editing. So I guess I failed in a sense since I didn’t finish the three books but I did finish two and a half in addition to some other projects so I don’t feel bad. Now to tackle the monster that is publishing. Keep posting good stuff.

    • dwsmith

      Lauriann, that is what I call “failing to success.” You set a great goal and ended up close and thus got far more than you would have without the goal. A total success, not counting the learning involved. Well done! Keep having fun with the writing. That is the key.