Monthly Archives: September 2015

Listen to the cat poster. Listen to Yoda.

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“…the only thing anyone needs to be special is to believe that you can be. I know that sounds like a cat poster, but it’s true.”

– Vitruvius (The Lego Movie)

“Believe.”

It’s a small word, relatively speaking, just seven little letters stacked neatly side by side. But what power it has–what implication, what possibility!! As a writer, it’s a word I clutch gratefully to my heart, because without it, there can be no success. That’s what I believe, anyway.

Let me back up a bit. I want to talk for a second about something I’m sure you’ve already spent plenty of time considering: crippling self-doubt. If you’re a writer (and not some kind of mutant narcissist variety who worships at the altar of her own work), you know exactly what I’m talking about. Writing is a journey, and although it sometimes includes a bit of  “YES! This is AWESOME!” it also features its fair share of “EVERYTHING I WRITE IS CRAP, I AM FOOLING MYSELF, NO ONE WOULD READ THIS, WHY HAVE I DONE THIS TO MYSELF, I SHOULD GIVE UP, MY PANTS ARE TOO TIGHT” (that last one may just be me, as I tend to eat when I’m stressed).

The self-doubt of a writer is not to be taken lightly. It comes out of nowhere: at the start of a revision, on the heels of an exhilarating and productive writing sprint, in the middle of the night, off and on during the ENTIRE query process, and, I assume, whether or not you’ve sold a book (or three). This rattling insecurity is dangerous. Why? Because if you don’t believe (more on that in a moment), an intense run of self-doubt can utterly derail you.

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When I write…

I like to manage things. To organize, to plan, to make lists. I feel happy when everything is in order—truly happy, like all is well with the world! But here’s the thing: in real life, control is an illusion. I strive for structure; I am often foiled. It’s a beautiful truth, I think, that life is often what you make it, and yet you must also expect the unexpected.

As writers, we are dosed with an intoxicating measure of control, a heady mixture of intention and creative discovery that serves to feed the thing inside us that needs to write. I talk a lot about the creative process on this blog, mostly because I think it’s one of the most fascinating aspects of writing. What drives us? How do we organize a story–how do we revise an absolute mess into something clear and cohesive and powerful? How much do we plan, and how much do we find out along the way? What is going on?

When I write, something happens inside me. There is a shift in awareness—I often come out of a scene to almost see the world I’ve created disappear around me, and realize that I am, in fact, sitting at my desk with my laptop. I go somewhere else for a while. And it’s amazing.

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