Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where is the Joy?

I turned 30 on August 10th. Yes, apparently it's milestone birthday season here at DSW!

My gift to myself was an epiphany: I miss my childhood attitude towards writing.

I've been writing ever since I can remember. Before I knew how to actually write, my mother would type while I dictated. It was one of my favorite playtime activities. Fast forward to 5th grade, when I started my first novel. In 8th grade, I finished my first novel. It was a wretched Sweet Valley Twins rip-off, less of a story and more of an extended musing on (a) how much I wanted a boyfriend and (b) how little I liked sharing a bathroom with my brother. But you know what? I loved writing that thing. My parents had to force me to get off the computer and go play outside. My best friend, bless her, was always happy to hear the latest chapter.

As I've grown older--and more serious about publication--things have changed. Thankfully, I'm a better writer than I was at age 13. And thankfully, I'm no longer lavishing pages of description on my heroine's "rad" stirrup pants.

But maturing as a writer has a down side, too. My inner critic has grown stronger, and she loves to rain on my creativity parade. I've also discovered a need to procrastinate on my novel. As a bonus, I've invented clever ways to criticize myself while doing so. (Excel word count spreadsheets = an excellent time-waster. Now I've outsourced my guilt to Microsoft!)

Is there any escape from the down side? I don't want to give up my hard-won improvement as a writer. At the same time, however, I don't want to lose my sense of fun. It is, after all, why I got into this whole writing gig. So I'm asking your advice: how do you balance professionalism with pure love of writing? And how do you ignore your inner critic until it's time to revise?

11 comments:

Mons said...

When you get answers to these questions - LET ME KNOW!!! :-)

Wendy Delaney said...

Kate, first of all, congrats on hitting 30. Hope it's a wonderful year for you. As for the internal critic, I think that's a tough one for a lot of us. There's a quote that's up on my office wall to help me with this very problem. "Don't look down at your feet to see if you're doing it right. Just dance."
So, keep the love of writing alive and just dance.

Laurie Ryan said...

The pure love thing? It only gets to last until about 2/3 of the way through my first draft. Then the "I need to edit" gremlins attack and I have a very hard time getting to the end without revising.
I wish I had a magic answer. And I'll be keeping an eye on the comments to see if someone else does. :) In the meantime, I think we should use whatever we can to motivate ourselves to write, eh?
Great post, Kate. And happy belated birthday.

Carolynn Estes said...

I used to have an editing addiction, but I finally kicked it when I set weekly page goals and returned to writing by hand (I can crank out way more pages that way.) I'm now a fan of storyboarding, so I just have to see what I need to write for the day and go with it. Anything I don't know about gets marked to note that I need to research or fix something. Then I move on. I don't allow my thoughts to get clogged with what I don't know or what could be better. That's a job for another time. It was a mental shift, a change in the way I write, that made it possible for me to "let go" of my editing obsession.

Also, my hubby said something recently that helped my confidence. He reminded me that most actors don't like seeing their own movies because they aren't happy with their work - even when they are oscar winners. It reminded me that I just need to do the best I can in my writing and realize that every one - even the best sellers - most likely question and second-guess their work. (Sorry for the long post!)

Kate Diamond said...

Wow. Thank you all for the great comments.

Mons and Laurie--I hope you had a chance to read the suggestions by Wendy and Carolynn!

Wendy, I love the quote. Carolynn, writing by hand sounds like a good idea... no delete key option. I'll be trying that ASAP.

Anna Richland said...

Laurie's comment - it's only fun 2/3 of the way through - seems right. Then I've found the fun comes and goes in spurts, with individual satisfying events but not a steady every day buzz. If I had a seismograph, I guess the first 2/3 of the novel - plotting and all the easy stuff with the [fill in transition] hard stuff left out, would be the big quake, and then all these quiet periods with little aftershocks as you achieve the last milestones of full draft, enter a contest, whatever. But those writing ups DO come again, really,e ven though they're harder to reach after finishing the easy parts of the book.

Christine said...

Happy Birthday! Just take that critic and stick her somewhere fuzzy with chocolate and wine. You've got creating to do!

You are not old.... trust me.... you're inner critic will turn off somewhere around 40. Then you'll just worry about running out of time to write fabulous sex scenes before you go through the change ...

:-)

MsHellion said...

*LOL* Love it. And I have no answer. I wish I could find the balance again. I too enjoyed writing a lot more when I was horrible at it. *LOL* I still have one of my handwritten stories in a trunk, there my fantasies of this guy I had a crush on in high school, but I made him a knight. *LOL* Of course, I the princess end up with a prince who is much better than my crush.

Back then I had no problems with anachronistic writing or wrong historical detail. Or anything that was non-horrid.

Kate Diamond said...

MsHellion, you made me snicker. Nice with the historicals! I, personally, was obsessed with the Oregon Trail. Apparently, nothing says "romance" like a grueling migration.

In terms of bringing back the fun: maybe it's about writing motivation. Writing for fun is, well, fun. Writing to get published... instead of working out your own adolescent fantasies, you have to start thinking about things like character motivation.

Hmm...

Mom said...

Kate, maybe you should dress up in your Oregon Trail outfit and mosey on out to the playhouse to do some longhand writing :) You really are your own worst critic - you are far better than you realize.

Tara said...

Oh, the trip down memory lane! Pulling the stool over from the bar, perching on it, waiting, anticipating, hoping that today they might (gasp) kiss!!! :) The joy of creation is so beautiful, but it starts to tarnish when we get it mixed up with *work* - I think it's part of the world's preoccupation with vacation and leisure - that our work must be difficult and grueling in order to be productive and worthy. It's so false! It's so destructive! Take a note from Disney and sing a merry little working song. :) (Can't hurt, might help!). And I hope your birthday was delicious!