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Monday, September 7, 2009

It's Not You, It's Me

After weathering my annual Birthday Review with a brave grin I thought I was safe. Surely hearing about a friend's new book deal wouldn't kill me. Well, I was right. I'm not dead.

But it did give me several days of grief and angst as I tried to figure out what was wrong.

My list of possible issues:
- the plot is wrong
- my MC is too common
- my MC is too eccentric
- editing is awfully hard
- agents are very demanding
- publishers just don't understand an artist with vision! (well... okay. Maybe that doesn't apply)
- someone stole my story line! I was really going to write about teen witches. Doesn't everyone?
- the economy is bad
- readers just don't exist anymore

Yes, I admit, it's a horrible and pathetic list. And none of those reasons are what's holding me back.

The real problem is: ME.

I'm my own worst enemy.

I'm the one whose keeping myself from posting about my fabulous new agent, my debut novel, and all the editing in between. I'm the one coming up with excuses every day for not writing. I'm the one who gives myself permission to call it a day after a measly 200 words have been written. I'm the one who says that editing three pages is really enough, I can leave it for now.

I'm also the only one who can write the stories in my imagination. No one else is going to rush to my rescue and type the stories while I slack off. If I want to see my books in print I've got to do the work.

So why am I not pushing myself?

There are several factors. Most of the reasons that come easily to mind are actually excuses: I'm tired, I don't have the time, the kids need me, I have to cook dinner, I need to clean house...

The real reason, I suspect, is fear.

What if I do all this work and I fail?

What if I get together a great debut novel and no one likes my second novel?

What happens to the life I planned on having if I succeed?

That last one is a dozy. I never planned on being a writer. If you asked me a few years ago what I would be doing today, writing wasn't on the list. Fiction writing was never in the top ten. It's something I've always done, doodling on random papers, flirting with plots, but never committing to being a fiction writer. That goal came out of a need for sanity. Writing is a completely selfish endeavor for me. It's something that is wholly mine, unconnected in any way to the rest of my life.

That fear couples with the fact that I am a lazy person. I don't like hard work. Writing is fun. I can write new stories every day. But editing is work. Editing is a nasty, smelly, horrendous chore. Kind of like how I love cooking, but I hate cleaning the kitchen after I'm done.

I feel like someone standing on the shore in Spain pointed out over the Atlantic with someone at my shoulder saying, "Look, if you just swim straight you'll hit land. No problem. Just keep going."

Sure, frolicking on the beach was fun. Yes, I like swimming around for light excercise. But swim the Atlantic Ocean? Are you crazy?

And that, dear reader, is why I am not published. I have to jump in and start swimming until I hit the point where turning back is the same as going forward. Until I sink or survive.

It means that I need to get a better handle on my time. Less slacking (I love slacking) and more working. Fewer excuses. And fewer nights where I accept the minimal effort from myself.

I know I can do better. I know I could edit 10 or 20 pages in an hour. Or write a few thousand words if need be.

Now I need to that.

So... what's holding you back?


  1. excellent post, liana. we so often are our worst enemy. i know i am. the only things holding me back right now is the ACFW conference in denver next week. as soon as it's over, i'm submitting this bad-boy proposal i'm working on! :)

    Where Romance Meets Therapy

  2. Fear is a wonderful, terrible thing. Sometimes it holds you back, and sometimes it's what pushes you forward. I've been through the exact same list in my own head, and in the end it always comes back to me.

    Thanks for this post. I know exactly how you feel.

  3. You expressed my thoughts most eloquently. Ditto on all you said. Well, minus the part about planning on being a writer.

  4. We're here to push each other, never forget that :)

    Keeping me back = legitimate reasons, but then beyond that I am single, no kidlets, so I don't have that type of attachment ;)

  5. Liana, as usual we are our own worst enemy's! We can mortally wound ourselves and bleed out before we ever even notice.

  6. That's my list too.

    For me, the rewriting and revising part is awfully hard - especially if you fall into that rut of worrying how some agently person will read your work. Add to that a fear of wasting precious writing time on a project that the dratted agently people will shrug off as something they don't want or something that's too cliche, or something they'd rather see somebody else write. *weeps*

    But hearing about other people's book deals kinda does an encouraging thing for me. Especially if I KNOW that person personally, and I know they went through the same doubts or lack of time.

    @edits - I hate edits too. What I do is break it down to one chapter at a time. And break it down further to one scene at a time. If you are sick of your story, take a break and work on something else.

    You want to be able to read/edit each chapter at a time as a stranger would. If the story is good enough, you'll find yourself really getting into the story itself while cutting or rewording things as necessary.

  7. Great post, L. I agree with you 100%. The point is, I'm lazy too. But the other point is that I also have a life, and I don't want publishing to BE my life, if that makes sense. I will get to where I need to be at the right time.

    Keep moving forward, L. It's the only way. And a good resolve is fantastic. Please be easier on yourself. You've got a lot on your plate!

  8. Very nice post.

    Fear is part of it--mostly, that it's never, ever, going to be good and read-worthy. That as much work as I DO put into it, it'll fall apart and I won't be able to meet the standards I have (and that publishing demands)...

    Also, laziness. O:) I'm fundamentally lazy, lol.

    I think we can push ourselves to face the fears though--is this your new resolution for the coming year?

  9. wow that was a wonderful post. It's so true I feel the same way. the writing is fun but the editing I can't make myself just sit down and do it. I'm lazy and it's the first time I can remember that something to do with writing isn't fun.

  10. <3 ?Thank you all for the encouragement! I'm so glad I'm not alone in this!

  11. Fear and laziness, absolutely. Fear-inspired laziness; that strange, strange brand of laziness that can only smite those who are usually the epitome of the opposite of lazy; the paralysis that comes of 'knowing' you can't do it perfectly - so why bother trying?

    Perfectionism, URG! *stab stab*

    No, you are not in this alone.

    And thank you for reminding me that I'm not, either.