Can I Just Get the Writing Done?

So, if you could change one thing about your writing life, what would it be? I mean, if YOU could change it. That kind of knocks out the answer, “I’d sell my book to (insert publisher’s name here) for (insert a huge amount of money here).”

What I’m wondering is, what is it that’s holding you back, what is it that’s keeping you from being a success as a writer? Now, we all know there are different definitions of success. Today, I’m going to talk about a sliver of what I think is success. To answer this question, you’ll have to change up the definition to match you. Make sense?

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I am The Whiner between Ann Dee and me. (Tomorrow, Ann Dee can tell you what she is. And Kyra–she may be following in my shoes!) There are several things that I let get in the way of my writing and my business of being a writer.  A few months ago I got a strong feeling that I was going to have to figure out a way to support the girls and me. It was an uncomfortable feeling–a warning really. I had thought our finances might be a little different by this time in my career. But we cannot control other people–which is why I asked you what YOU could change about yourself as a writer.  The deal is, I’ve had this feeling more than once–that I am responsible. And that means I need to take action.

My profession? I’m a writer. It’s what I’ve always wanted to be. I’m proud of the work I do and I’m pleased that I have the opportunity to publish. There’s nothing like typing “THE END,” nothing like positive words from an editor who loves your books, nothing like holding that first hardcover copy in your hands. There are so many sighs of satisfaction related to writing.

But there are some drawbacks. We are our own boss–even when working under a deadline. We spend a lot of time alone. We can’t control the outcome even when we have a terrific product.

So I’m asking this question of myself–the what-is-holding-you-(meaning-me)-back question. And I see some problems. Like, every time I sit down to write, I seem to freeze. Is it because in the olden days I could get away with writing a chapter a day? My book money helped support us, yes. But we never depended on it. Did I get used to writing an hour a day, and that’s it, and so now when I write about a thousand words, I have something in my brain that clicks and I just stop?

I think of Dean Hughes who wrote at least eight hours every day. Dean (who’s on an LDS mission with his wife right now) worked as a writer. He went into his office and wrote. He put down hours of notes. He connected the writing dots and he is a successful writer of all kinds of fiction and non-fiction, too. Like close to a hundred novels–some of them as thick as five of my own novels put together.

And what about Stephen King? King writes every day. He writes to a specific number of words and he sits at his desk till he’s done. At least, that’s what his excellent craft book ON WRITING says. King treats himself like a writer and expects himself to write.

I haven’t quite gotten there yet.

We can’t leave out Ann Dee Ellis (you all know her, right?). For three weeks straight she plans to write 2,000 words every day. I’m betting she has hit pretty close to her mark at the close of each evening. She’s a mother to two young boys, she teaches classes at the college level, she’s a wife, she helps care for her mom, she works with me on this blog, she’s a great friend–the list goes on and on.

What else might it be that stays my hand? Is it the fear of the blank page? The truth is, writers look at that blank page in different ways. Some see it as a challenge. Others see it as a threat. I LOVE a new book–a fresh start–a discovery of characters and where these characters might go. However, right now, the blank pages I have to fill feel more like an enemy. “Just get to 200,” I think. “You’re fifteen pages away.” Does this number scare me because I know I really have more than 200 pages to finish the book?

The truth is, I could go on and on why I’m not doing what I should do. The fact is, excuses or not, I’m NOT working like a real writer (who needs to support her family) would. I’m letting my emotions control me. And instead of pushing past those fears, well, I’m giving up.

Last week, Ann Dee issued a challenge to herself and encouraged anyone to join her. Today I am trying to figure out, a bit, where I am as a writer. I think I’m beginning to uncover, a little, what I am up against–the Me that is holding Me back. Today, I can’t tell you exactly what I will do to change these problems, but this exploration should, hopefully, leave me where I want to be–really writing as a full-time writer like Dean Hughes, Stephen King and Ann Dee Ellis.

So I ask again, what is it that’s holding you back from becoming the writer you want to be?


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16 responses to “Can I Just Get the Writing Done?

  1. Kyra

    What’s holding me back?
    I’m a terrible writer . . . that’s what’s holding me back.

  2. Beautiful post, Carol.

    So, to your question, what is holding me back? Lot’s of things, and those things change all the time. Sometimes it’s my body that doesn’t want to cooperate with the writing life. Sometimes is worry about the future. Sometimes it’s reading blogs instead of writing 🙂 🙂 🙂 but whatever it is I try to tell myself that I am right where I need to be. For me, accepting the struggles, i.e. making friends with them, takes away some of their perceived power and allows me to focus on the writing. At least that is the ideal I shoot for. And, just reading some of the books you’ve written, I’ve got to say, you are doing something right, very right!!

    • Carol

      Thank you for your insight, Paul. I think you’re right about how our setback causers change. Life is fluid so that makes sense.

      Hope you are getting closer to a contract! I need to hold one of your books in my hands!!!

  3. Guilt. I feel like there are so many things I should be doing.
    I’m afraid I’m only good at writing little bits and not a whole novel.
    I’m not very good at sitting still.
    My health and medication side effects.
    I worry I’m not picking the right scene.
    Going the right direction.
    Most good things are not addictive.
    So I have to choose to do it every day.

    • Carol

      And can you see what you need to do so you can get the writing done?
      Are you still drinking those green smoothies?

      • Yesterday I had a friend come over. She had to write a paper. I had to WRITE. So we sat at my table. Snacked on peppers and celery and carrots and such. I couldn’t get up a hundred times. I couldn’t all of a sudden decide to do something else.
        It was very productive. I wrote dialogue skeletons for 3 new scenes.

        Still eating spinach, eating a lot of raw foods and exercising. It hasnt’ stopped my pain. And to numb my nerves means to numb my brain. And blah blah blah. The real truth of it is, you can’t know the joy without the pain.

  4. rbs

    One word: insecurity. 😦

    • Carol

      Then you are part of the crowd. I think every good writer thinks she can’t get the words on the paper properly. But then, you just have to do it.

      Insecurity is one for me, too. You’ve listened to me whine all this time about the DD. I’m insecure because this book is DIFFERENT for me.

      Argh! And argh again!
      We can do it, right????

  5. I’m with rbs — insecurity. See, as long as I just talk about writing and only write enough for my writing group, I’ll never have to submit and find out if I have what it takes to succeed! Which is ridiculous and Walt Disney would be ashamed of me. “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” That’s what he said. So really, I just need to do it. Probably by not worrying if I’ll ever get published and just do it because I love doing it.

    • Carol

      The only way to be published, I have found, is to actually get the writing done. And I know you can do this because I saw your writing long ago and thought you very talented.

      Don’t be afraid to do this, Melissa. It’s hard work. Hard, hard work. Something you know all about.

  6. Ditto on the insecurity thing. I just read Mockingjay and I felt so small and insignificant compared to her writing. I kept asking myself, can I ever write something that has this much power, this much meaning? (Because for me it was very powerful and meaningful.) I desperately want to, but I can’t figure out how. I’m working on revisions of my novel now, and I think I’ve realized just how difficult it is to make a story that feels real. Sure, I have a good plot and good voice…but the things just below the surface–the feeling, the intricate details, everything that makes the writing go from good to great. That’s the hard part. So maybe I’m held back by fear too. Because where I want to be is just difficult to get to.

    • rbs

      A good plot and good voice are H.U.G.E. – HUGE! And 2 steps beyond many of us, KuteKaren!

      • Carol

        Plot and voice. See there. Plot and voice. I have voice (until this book) and usually little plot. And now (with this book) I feel like I have a silly plot and no voice.

        But last night I watched Intolerable Cruelty and guess what? George Clooney looks best when he is not smiling.

        So there. I think I might have found a new plot.


  7. mine is time and distraction. figuring out when to write, and then not allowing anything else to interrupt when i do make that time. but maybe my distraction is hiding something else. a fear i have in writing is that i can’t accurately portray someone’s experiences when i haven’t experienced what they’re going through. i feel like everyone will read it and think, “this writer is a fool. that’s not how you feel when you’re in that situation.” in your last writing exercise, i found a character i’d really like to get to know. but i’m scared of her because i wouldn’t want to show her wrong. but i’m nothing like her personality-wise, nor have i experienced the things i think she has. how do you get past that?


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