Running away from the page

The deadline for submissions for my writing group is today, for the meeting next week. Last time I insisted that I couldn’t write a short story, and used that as an excuse for not writing anything new, but submitting something I’d written a short while ago. Since then I tried forcing myself back to the page, and writing 1000 words a day, regardless of quality.

This resulted in the bones of a short story, so the intention this time is to polish and edit that story and submit it.

So far today I’ve cleaned the oven and done the ironing, watered my seeds and caught up on facebook – several times. I’ve had my story open, and tried to edit it, but every few minutes I find myself surfing the web on the other screen and have to drag my focus back.

How ridiculous, I’ve been thinking. In fact this is a concentrated form of what I’ve noticed myself doing a lot lately – constantly avoiding writing, by any means available. I’ll catch up on blogs, check forums, read the news, watch TV, bake a cake, dig the garden… some useful activities, some that are pure time-fillers, and at the end of each day I’ll berate myself for not having written anything and declare that tomorrow – tomorrow I’m going to get working.

So what’s the problem with this particular piece? I’m not happy with it. That’s okay, it’s writing group. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It has to be submitted so I can get feedback to help me with it. If someone tells me it’s rubbish? Well, I know they’re not going to be that harsh, and anyway they wouldn’t be telling me anything I don’t already know. What they might tell me is something that helps me improve it.

All I do know is that if I don’t get my brain into gear and really get going properly some time very soon I’m going to regret it. I know this because I regret it every day that I retire to bed not having done something towards my goal. I could just not submit this time round; I could say that I don’t have anything ready, and just read work submitted by others. But wasn’t the point of joining a writing group to force myself to actually write and edit?

I’ve seen in a couple of places recently that it’s people who do well at school – and particularly girls – who can struggle later. That those who struggle at school learn that they can improve through effort, while those who find things easy never really learn that lesson, and think their ability is fixed rather than able to grow, and so have a problem with things that don’t come as easily as they’d like.

The other side of this is the feeling that I don’t deserve to be creative, that I don’t deserve to learn how to write well. That my role in life is to fail, and that to try to fight against that is to try to deny my destiny. I’m working on that, honest. The thrill I get in a stationery or art shop tells me that I need to be creative. The stories I hear in my head tell me I need to hone my craft and learn how to get them out for others to hear.

So what did I do? I allowed myself a lunchbreak, then forced myself back to the screen and edited my story. I played with it, re-read it several times, and then eventually saved it again and emailed it off. Then, and only then, did I allow myself to come here and write this post. Because all this running away from the page isn’t universal – I love writing, and I’m often happy to write. Just not necessarily fiction.

Why is that? Because it’s not so easy for me? Because it doesn’t feel natural? Because my strengths lie elsewhere? Because I’m scared of the idea of pouring my heart into something that turns out to be no good? Because I’m waiting for inspiration to strike?

This is where I’m constantly going back to nano: strive for quantity and the quality will gradually come. And to The Artist’s Way: we were all born to be creative, and to deny that creativity is to deny my inner self.


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  1. You are not alone, my worst fault is I am never happy with anything but I am learning to let go a little at a time and accept that I am not always the best judge of my work where I see imperfection others just read a really good story (that’s what they tell me not my saying they are good). Take a deep breath and just hit send and trust that they will be constructive and help you get even better.

    • So true! It’s the difference between your inside and everyone else’s outside. Once I figured out there’s a difference it made a lot of sense to me. It used to drive me mad when I was envious of other people’s ability to draw horses and they used to say their drawings were rubbish.


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