If learning something new makes you uncomfortable, you’re doing it right. That sense of off-balance discomfort should tell you that you have ventured outside of your old comfort zone. You’re not in your old groove – instead, you’re trying to make a new and improved groove. This goes for any new skill: writing, martial arts, cooking. But take heart – this, too, shall pass.
I used to be a decent writer. I’d sit down and get that feeling of zen flow going, and the story just appeared on the screen. Fresh, engaging, funny, angsty – it had a life of its own. It didn’t feel emotionally flat. Now, however, after spending a week in a writer’s workshop boot-camp, I am still trying to get that old sense of competence.
But it’s elusive.
Now that I know what to look for, I realize how much my old writing sucks. Even proofing a galley of my newest book, I cringe, thinking:
“I buried the dialogue again.”
“The pacing is off.”
“Too much of this.”
“Not enough of that.”
Yet it’s too late to fix it. And, fixing it would just mess it up even more. My best bet is to get over myself, finish the proof, and send the corrections to my publisher. Smile, let my followers know a new book is out, and hope for the best. Just fake it and look ahead – do better next time.
I better not spend my time just waiting for the new book to hit the shelves, though. New skills demand practice. I will get that old flow back, but only if glue my ass in the writing chair, turn off the internet, and write. No distractions, no diversions.
It’s okay to be bored.
I dare to be mediocre.
I allow myself to fail.
Only then I’ll forget about the mechanics of typing, about pacing and plot structure and how many sensory layers I have in my opening. After enough of my bad starts fall prey to the delete button, I’ll sink into the mind of my character and see the setting through his or her eyes. And my character will be irritated, pissy, all wounded pride and grand ambitions. My character will be in trouble as rough as the pavement under his hands, his hunger will gnaw in the belly, and his phone will have a cracked screen and insufficient charge. I’ll lay the trouble on thick, I’ll sink him deep. Give him something to work against, give his energy and anger and grit a suitable target.
Then, eventually, once I forget about what I’m doing, I’ll be writing again.