I get asked this question frequently. Usually it’s after a couple of drinks have been downed. Half the time it’s from someone who surprises me by admitting they would like to write a book. Every time, I’m not really sure how to answer. I think I struggle for words and then usually spit out something like, “I just sit down and…write.” Honest, I’m not trying to be a smart ass, but I don’t know what else to say.
Because, honestly? The absolute hardest part of writing is sitting down to do it. Why? Well, the discipline is tough. No one else gives a rat’s behind whether you write or not. It’s all YOU and deciding you’re going to do it. Putting it above some of your other priorities and responsibilities. Doing it regularly, preferably every day.
So you work at the discipline thing and you schedule a regular time each day or each week and you’re doing the sitting part. Obstacle #1: conquered (for now.)
On to obstacle #2: anxiety.
Yeah, no one warns you about that one before you start.
And I never really thought about it until I went to a workshop a few years ago given by Eric Maisel, who, according to his website, is the founder of creativity coaching. I was sleepy when I wandered into his workshop, not really willing, but following a friend who had guilted me into attending more workshops at the writing conference we were at. I knew this guy was well-known, one of the big names at the conference, so what the heck? As long as we sat in the back in case I dozed off.
I didn’t doze off.
I learned a ton but what I want to mention today is Maisel’s point that writing is anxiety. (Paraphrasing completely…it’s been three years.) Basically, when you write, especially fiction, you have to make decision after decision after decision. Character’s name. Setting. Genre. Hair color. Character’s background. Main and secondary characters’ roles, relationships, personalities, ways of dressing, manner of speaking, etc etc etc. What happens at every single turn of the story, and in between every single turn of the story. Making decisions, he reminded us, can cause anxiety. (Ha! Understatement much?)
You get to play God to your story, and as it turns out, it’s kind of stressful being God.
Why am I rambling about this now?
Heh. Because rambling about the anxiety of writing a book is a heck of a lot easier than facing that anxiety and actually writing the book. (Remember that part about conquering the discipline? Learning to sit in the chair to write? Yeah, it becomes nearly impossible again at this stage, at least for me.)
I turned in the first three chapters and a 10-page synopsis of this book to my editor a few weeks ago. I took a break to work on other things, travel, haul my kids all over the universe to their summer activities. I spent last week plotting in a little more detail (I know a 10-page synopsis sounds like I’ve plotted it to death, but honestly, I don’t have a clue what happens in this book beyond boy meets girl, boy and girl have conflict, other stuff happens, and boy and girl live happily ever after.)
Now it’s time to face the music, and it’s not a peaceful pretty song. It’s more like the hardest, most discordant acid rock you’ve ever heard played at full volume at the same time as a John Phillips Sousa march, equally cranked to 10.
First decision: Line 1 of chapter 4.
And then every other line afterward in the 75,000-word book.
So yeah. I guess I’m off, because you can only blog for so long….