This post, by Andrew E. Kaufman, originally appeared on the Crime Fiction Collective Blog and is reprinted here in its entirety with that site’s permission.
I’ve been thinking about doing some rewiring lately. Not in my house, but in my brain: my writer’s brain. It seems to have gone a bit wonky.
Because I’ve realized that being a good writer isn’t just about grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Plot arcs are crucial, but they don’t mean a damned thing if your own story is out-of-whack. Writing is about being in the right place emotionally, not just on paper, but in your head.
So in doing my rewiring, I’ve identified some short-circuit issues—places where I seem to be getting in my own way, where a fuse or two got tripped. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
Comparing Myself to Other Authors
I don’t do this as often as I once did (not really), but occasionally, I find myself slipping down that slope. It’s a bad one. Here’s me reading a book. It goes something like this:
Me: (First chapter) “Damn, what an awesome passage.”
Me: (Fifth chapter) “Damn, the dude can write.”
Me: (Tenth chapter) “Oh, Damn….”
Me: (Midbook) “Oh Sh#*… I’ll never be this good,”
Me: (End of book) “Ohgoodlord. I seriously suck.”
Coveting thy author: bad move. It’s a prescription for failure. It’s a trap, a self-imposed esteem ambush. Even worse, it’s the fastest way to kill inspiration and creativity. I can’t compare myself to other writers because quite simply, I am not That Writer.
Worrying About Numbers
I’ve decided to decide that numbers don’t matter—not in the overall scheme of things; or at least in the little one, that worrying about them doesn’t do a damned bit of good. Worry all you want, but whether you do or not, numbers are still going to happen. They’re a unit of measure, not a way of life. Sales rankings, book units, word count, my age, my checking account balance: all unhealthy obsessions. Life matters. Numbers don’t.
Forgetting Why I Write
I still do this. Sometimes (he said, grudgingly) . I get so caught up in deadlines, book deals, sales, and everything else that writing isn’t about, that I forget why I do it in the first place. And then I remember the times when none of those things existed, when it was just me and the written word, and the more I do, the more I realize, those were the best days of my life. It’s so easy to get caught up in the business of writing instead of the passion that drives it.
Not Trusting My Process
The moment I’m about to give up–when I’m chewing the ends off pencils, throwing things, and doing the primal scream–is always the exact moment before I make my biggest breakthrough, when the most amazing things happen. I’ve come to accept that this is part of my process. It’s how I roll. I can’t change it, so I’m going to learn to live with it and accept that I have to go There before I can get Here (even if it sort of sucks sometimes).
All Work and No Play:
I’m the first to admit it. All do is write. I don’t mind that all I do is write, because I love being a writer—but still, it feels like all I ever do is write. And it feels unbalanced. And unhealthy. And it feels like I have no life outside of writing. So my goal this year is to make time away from writing (After my deadline, of course–just in case Thomas & Mercer is reading this). To take Caleb to the beach more often and to simply enjoy. To live more. Writing is my passion, but my passion can’t thrive in a vacuum; I have to feed it with living.
Fear of Failure
How about you? Got any bad wires that need fixing? Here’s the place to come clean. Promise, I won’t tell 😉