Learning How to Move Forward

A Rant on My Writing

It is amazing how effort begets more effort and lack of effort begets more lacking effort. Emotions feed themselves. Energy draws more energy. It is why routine and such habits tend to build upon themselves. It is also why when writers don’t write, we find it harder still to start writing.

The last update to this site explained how there was much that occurred in my life recently that has kept the writing from happening. While it is truth, it is only partly true. For too long, the act was a struggle — it is a struggle.

Think of driving a car and coming up to a speed bump. Distilling the approach down to two methods, one can apply analogy here. The first is that you let the car come right up to the speed bump and then stop. Sit there for a moment and then try to go over it. It takes a large effort on the car to go over it, a lot of gas, in a manner of speaking. The other way is to drive over it (slowing down, of course, if you care about your car’s suspension) and the momentum of the vehicle almost makes it a non-event. This is routine and habit. Slow down to a stop and it becomes massively difficult to start up again compared to the effort it would take to continue forward without stopping.

I have spent a lot of energy on the act of trying to get back into writing. Little energy should be spent on trying to figure out how it ever got to this point. Unfortunately, there’s a lot there, too. The best advice is what myself and other writers usually hate to hear (all the while knowing that it is exactly the right advice) is to just write. It doesn’t matter what is written, only that writing happens. Writing begets more writing.

Funny enough, I am a person of big plans and grand goals when I am not writing regularly. Or during an early spurt of writing after a long bout of not doing so. Then when I am actually writing, those big plans and goals take a back-seat (rightfully) to the effort of writing. In other words, I am more apt to make grand plans when I am not writing than when I am. This last time, there were three grand plans. One was actually completed in my re-release of Remember the Yorktown, one is delayed in my next collection of poetry, and then there’s the last one… I found myself reconsidering what I am doing with it.

The Colton Skyward Chronicles is that project, and it is a saga that I wish to continue. The problem is that I started publishing it through Kindle Vella before I was certain that it was ready. I am nearly out of material on what (when I started) was supposed to be several months of material to have in conjunction with routine writing. See that “routine” word again?

Needless to say, that routine wasn’t very routine, and it fell off like the rest of my writing. Rather than buckle down get to it, the option to drop it completely crossed my mind.

And it hit me: quitting too soon. Regarding writing, there are scores of stories, ideas, projects, etc. that have fallen to the side, never to be picked up again. Each time, I determine the proper excuse to allow them to no longer bother me, and I move on. Here, the same idea has occurred to me a few times. Why am I continuing to write this when it’s clearly not ready? Why am I stressing myself out over this? Too close did I come on a few occasions to deciding to cancel the project on Vella, and to shove it into the proverbial drawer where it would never again see the light of day. Even up to its original release day, right when I put up that episode 4 would be pushed back to August 15th, I debated on simply canceling the whole endeavor. I mean, even the 1st 3 episodes continue to have 0 reads; what does it matter if I just quit… again?

Therein lies one of my biggest issues: giving up too easily. I can blame part of it on impostor syndrome. Part can be blamed on fear. Blame gets me nowhere though — unless I am willing to deal with whatever I am blaming, then there is absolutely no sense in even discussing it. Write or don’t write, right?

Were it only that simple.

Simply put, I have several hang-ups, fears, and such that love to slide in. The proverbial devil sits continually on my shoulder — only he is dressed like the angel and whispers things that make me think more that he is more interested in my well-being as a writer than that other one… you know, the actual angel.

Quitting is an easy road out of the dilemma of whatever project I am working on. As soon as the plot becomes a little sticky, or boring, or hectic, or whatever — better to quit. Whenever there is the need to do a little marketing (ah! A way to turn those 0 reads into something?) — better to quit. Have trouble managing my time? Well, just quit the writing project! All writing solutions, according to that sly devil-in-disguise on my shoulder, are to not allow the pains of writing hold me back! Those projects that don’t flow easily from my fingertips — well, they need to be shoved in a drawer and forgotten. After all, they are only holding back the true creative process! How wrong that is.

In a way, we are often taught that creativity is either the results of complete spontaneity, or it is randomly gifted by some higher being — be it gods or the muses or angels. That and people are creative or they are not. Neither case is entirely true or false, but it is far more nuanced and yet simpler, too.

Everyone is creative in some capacity. Each person’s overall creativity likely rests somewhere on a spectrum. Then how easily one can tap into that creative energy is yet another piece of that. Some can easily; others struggle. Then there’re the times where the roles can (and do) reverse, where a person who once struggles can burst forth with creative potential turned into energy, and then another, who normally has no problem being creative, ends up struggling to even turn one creative thought. Simply put, everyone is creative. The question is how creative and when.

Then there is the idea of whether spontaneity is the true essence of creation or if again, there’s more to it. Like Steven Pressfield says in his masterpiece, The War of Art, those muses need to know that you are going to show up at the same time every day and be ready to put in the work. Spontaneous creation is great, but by sitting down and grinding through a creative, artistic work, you are allowing more opportunities for the muses to gift upon you something worth chasing.

Then look at some of those artists (musicians, painters, writers, etc) who are considered masters. They all have volumes upon volumes of work that no one even knows about, or have been forgotten, or are rarely considered. The master works are a part of an extensive library of other works that didn’t land as effectively.

By no means am I believing that I am a master, by any sense of the word. But what I believe is that in order to ever maybe get close to that designation, I have a LOT more effort to put in.

And there is a need to ignore this thing on my shoulder that is telling me to abandon work because it got too hard.

There are both legitimate and illegitimate reasons that things are hard. Each of those also has a scale of how much effort I will need to overcome. For instance, selling my books is something that is really tough for someone that scored in the 7th percentile for extroversion. Fuck, just putting writing out there to read can be an emotionally draining event — although much easier than talking to a stranger.

The last decade (at least) has been a huge lesson in what it takes to be a professional writer. While putting out a small pittance of writing, and most times doing it poorly, it has challenged me to learn what efforts need to be placed where. I am learning where my weak points are, places where I will avoid effort, what my hangups are, and how I err towards quitting when something gets tough. 

That last lesson has been the most difficult and is the latest.

Often, the idea of quitting writing altogether has crossed my mind. Each time it ends up being dismissed because I can’t not write. Somehow, someway, this need to write ends up pushing itself into the forefront. It appears then that instead of quitting being a total goal; I instead accomplished it through quitting minor tasks.

There’s also an element of fear involved — a simultaneous fear of failure and fear of success.

One might be inclined to think it strange that there are two competing fears, such as the ridiculousness that is being afraid of both failure and success. Hell, many would undoubtedly wonder how anyone could be afraid of success. Isn’t success what we all want?

Explaining the fear of failure is easy — easy enough to not bother doing it here. But then again, it is the more ridiculous of the two if you think about it. I’ll come back to it.

Fear of success can be described both as a fear of the unknown and a powerful manifestation of impostor syndrome. What happens if the success comes? Then what? How does one then hold on to success? If I were to suddenly become a successful writer, then what will I do? How will I earn money without a job?

Setting aside the big “if” in all that, it’s a bit putting the cart before the horse worrying about any of that. I don’t know what I am going to do as a successful writer right now precisely because I am not currently a successful writer. Nor am I close to being one. Even so, the idea of suddenly having to do the work and figure it all out becomes daunting. Easier to quit and not try. I don’t tell myself that I can do it in small steps, building towards a level of expertise. Skills can be learned. Nope — not with my writing. If I can’t do it now, I’ll never be able to. At least that’s what I tell myself to justify being a moron.

So let’s go back to failure. No one enjoys failing. It sucks. There’s many I am sure that thrive on failure in the manner that they seek lessons to refine their methods to improve what they do. Failure is a sure way to help guide one towards the correct way — by learning the ways that are not correct. However, the whole ridiculousness that a fear of failure is exists in that by not trying, one guarantees failure… the very thing the fear of failure is trying to avoid. Then again, better to not try to be a failure through not trying than to try and be proved the failure, right? At least that’s how my ego sees it.

Much better to run up as close as I can and then turn and quit the project before anyone sees what a fraud I am. Quitting projects allows for that cognitive dissonance. It allows for the brain to work in the twisted reality to let me not commit too much to myself. “Well, this didn’t turn out right”, or “well this isn’t really working out”, or even “no one will want to read this”. Excuses pour out more easily than words on the page.

As much as I have known for some time that I operate with those competing fears, I usually try to ignore them rather than actually dealing with them. Then, like I said above, it was only recently that I even discovered that a) I have a habit of quitting projects and b) that it is tied to these fears. They found a workaround. It’s one of the many sneaky ways that Steven Pressfield described was capable for the Resistance to derail creative pursuits. Oh joy.

The time has come to start figuring out a way to deal with these fears, to face them and figure out why they are there to begin with. While I do that, I need to push forward with these writings, to bring them to fruition, because when it comes down to it, I enjoy writing too much to let the worries of no one reading anything, everyone reading it and hating it, or everyone reading everything and loving it all bother me. And when the projects get a little difficult or frustrating, I need to lean into it and see those as writing challenges as a test of my mettle. Does it mean that sometimes I will write terribly? Yep. Does it mean that sometimes I’ll write beautifully? Yes. Both are always possible. Does it mean that sometimes no one will know, much less even care, that I have something available to read? Absolutely. Or readers will think it is bad, even if I am happy with it. All these and more should not be there to cloud the vision of what I am trying to do: write. And who am I writing for? Me and whoever might wish to read what I write. So why quit?

Because it is easier to quit than it is to try. And even though I love writing, the act itself is difficult and fear inducing — without all the other crap piled on. 

Writing is what I want to do more than anything else, though, even if I do it poorly. It is my primary creative outlet. I love drawing too, but the drive to draw isn’t the same as with writing. And I want to make it into something I can do as a career. I just don’t know how to… yet. To that point, a career will never happen if I don’t figure out how not to quit at each little stumble of a project. Even if one of my books were to suddenly become a mega seller, I don’t have the skill sets to carry it forward. I can learn them. First, I have to push through all these little hiccups and learn ways to navigate through and around my fears.

I am going to sputter through The Colton Skyward Chronicles. Episode 4 is ready (and was ready when I panicked and delayed it to Aug 15th), and episode 5 is nearly ready. Then there are those other projects that I’ve let slide off… book 2 of Agnes Pyle among many others that I need to find ways to push through and get them out. Yes, they deserve the best effort I can give them, so I don’t run into that other thing I do when I get through and don’t quit: rushing projects out the door. But that’s for another rant.

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