Why David Tennant you ask? Really? Oh, you were just kidding. Never mind then, you may stay and read on. Because of course the answer is, because David freaking Tennant makes everything better, of course. Anyway, this post has been years in the making. Yes, it's been that long that I could just, you know, write and have fun and not feel, utterly paralyzed by crippling self-doubt and basically like this:
The ideas were there, but basically, like...
At first I had a convenient excuse. Really, I had a massive list of convenient excuses. I was too busy, between work, studying, and getting into teaching, all that while writing, something had to give and writing didn't make me any money or better my chances at a teaching career, so down the figurative drain my writing went.
And then there's teaching itself: my first year was as crazy and demanding as any first year teacher's, with the second and third only seeming to top each other in added responsibilities and rapidly dwindling brain space.
Meanwhile, depression did the rest, basically rendering me incapable to write as much as a single sentence without experiencing utter crippling self doubt.
And we're not just talking months here, we're talking years. I started to feel like my best writing was behind me and if looked at critically even that had no chance of holding up. Anyone who told me different clearly was only being nice. Including agents at conferences and query requests after I did finally girl up and send that sucker of a novel out. Because of course it was totally impossible that my writing was actually worthwhile or could ever go anywhere.
Thus continued the love-hate relationship with writing bouncing back and forth between the spark of cool ideas and the ultimate let down of feeling utterly inadequate.
Yes, Impostor Syndrome is a bitch like that and we're still engaged in daily spars. I'm not sure it'll ever go away, but I'm finally better able to manage it, at least on most days.
Anyway, as months turned into years and I honestly started coming up with more and more excuses not to write while feeling like I could call myself a writer less and less, which in itself was bad enough, but the worst part was feeling like being less and less a part of a community of brilliant, talented writers whose talent, company, and sheer bloody talent I loved and admired.
Anyway, enough of the sads. I knew that I had to change something if I wanted back what I felt I had lost and one of the many suggestions writer friends made over and over was to find the fun in it again. To just write. Without worrying how good or let alone marketable its was.
It's so simple, right?
Yeah, if only.
Sadly my brain on Impostor Syndrome is a resilient self-doubting fucker and it took more than a few attempts and too many coffee and tea cups to count to make writing just for the fun of it a reality.
Fast-forward another few months and here's where I am and what's working for me, at least right now:
1. I know what I'm writing. I have a solid outline. I know where this book is going.
I think this one is huge. In the past, I, like many first-time writers struggled with endings. I had cool ideas, but I had no idea how to wrap them up. Today I figure out the ending before I start writing the first chapter. Even with a solid outline, I'm finding the element of discovery isn't lost on me though. Despite a good deal of front-loaded plotting, there's still enough pantsing going on to make this fun and at times totally unpredictable.
2. I set myself clear time limits.
More importantly, I set myself time limits and word count goals that I can actually stick to. Right now my time limit is 30 minutes a day, my word count goal is 500 words. That's it. I realized that one of my problems before was that I would set aside hours and hours to do my writing, which result in a whole lot of procrastination and not a whole lot of actual writing.
So now I'm reversing it. 30 minutes of writing are doable even on a busy teaching day with after-school commitments. Yes, there are those days where that doesn't happen, but usually things have to get really crazy for that and the productive days make up for the less productive ones.
Most importantly, my time limit and word goal are manageable. They aren't daunting and hey, I rediscovered my love for Write or Die, which means I am actually dedicating the full 30 minutes to just writing. That's all I do for those 30 minutes, hoping Write or Die won't start screaming at me. And yes, it works.
Most of the time, I can easily hit 600 words in the time I've allotted myself. One trick that helps me get excited for my next session is to try to leave off on a note of excitement. No boredom allowed. It makes for much better--and more fun--writing.
The number one rule though is: just write. Don't stop. Don't hesitate or you might lose momentum.
3. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I resist the urge to edit.
Okay, that one is definitely the hardest part, but I have come to the conclusion that once I start editing this admittedly "splat" draft, I won't stop, because no, the writing isn't perfect, but that isn't the point, at least not right now. Right now I'm just getting the story out and that's what I need to allow myself to do, because if I don't we're right back at Impostor Syndrome-fuelled self doubt and the why bothers?
Yeah. No. Noooo.
No, brain, we're not doing that right now. Right now we write. We'll worry about this mess later.
And you know what? Yes, it's messy, but it's fun, and ultimately that's the point. Writers write and have fun while they're at it. Because if they don't, what's the bloody point?
Anyway, I can't express how much I've missed the ability to "just write" and I'm loving it. So I'll leave you with one more Tennant...
And yes, obviously this is just my single perspective. This is what works for me right now and I'm planning to ride that wave as long as I can. I'll try to add to this as I go. What I'm saying is that it's good to be back, truly feeling back in the game, working on something entirely new. Yes, I hope it lasts. Yes, I'm worried that it won't, but the fun is outweighing the stress, at least for the moment and damn, it feels good.
That said, got any other tips and tricks for some serious Impostor Syndrome-bashing? Share it in the comments!
As always, happy writing! Be brilliant. Beat that Impostor Syndrome one writing session at a time!