Friday, June 7, 2013

The Noise In Your Head: A Different Kind of Writer's Block

#DailyWings: "It's all right to do things the way you want. There is no map to life, no blueprints to survival, you can create your world day by day if you have a clear vision and an unwillingness to give up." -John O'Callaghan

The first time I drove a car, I was seven years old. My back was propped up against the seat of an arcade racing game at one of the pizza joints in Boston. My two best friends at the time, twin sisters wearing ponytails and matching choker necklaces, watched and waited eagerly for their turns to play. I clutched the plastic wheel in front of me, eyes fixed on the screen. But the whole time, all I could focus on were my friends' cheers in the background and the shadow of our mothers hovering above my head. 

I ended up maneuvering around like an old grandma  I was either too fast or too slow, and kept bumping into trees and the vehicles in front of me. After a few moments, my friends looked away, bored with my game. The race ended as all the cars braked to a screeching halt, and two pixelated words showed up on the screen: Game over!

It took a few tosses for me to realize no matter how many silver coins I slipped into the slot, I wasn't going to get any better at the game so long as I kept getting distracted. I couldn't help it, though. Embarrassed, I hopped off the seat to let one of the twins try next. My seven-year-old pride dug in: How could something that looked so simple end up in disaster? 

I'd been driving for that checkered flag at the end of the race, but what I had really been going for was that grownup pat on the shoulder, the rumple of my mushroom-cut hair and the half-impressed, half-envious looks on my friends' faces. 

Now, I'm nearly 21 and my driver's license was issued to me just barely a few months ago. Unlike the faded student identification card hiding in the back of my wallet, the newness of my driver's license is evident in the shiny exterior and blue airplane signifying the mark of North Carolina. With this barely-larger-than-my-palm card of plastic, I officially have permission to be on the road – the real one this time. 

This is what I must get through every day on my way to work...
Nowadays, the commute between my apartment and the location of my summer internship lasts about forty-five minutes, so my license comes quite handy these days. Luckily, I don't drive the way I did back when I was seven years old. It was, however, difficult to focus when I first started practicing: I kept getting nervous with my parents sitting in the backseat ("just in case"), and I worried what the other drivers thought about me, this slow beginner. But after a while, I learned to drown out these distracting thoughts and instead pay attention to what was in front of me. I learned how to be a better driver. 

Lately, I've been struggling with my writing for similar reasons. Whenever I try to get the words down, there seems to be so much traffic in my head: I'm not good enough. My writing sucks. This blog post is going nowhere. I'm nothing but a starving artist. Everyone else writes better than me. Look at these cool indie authors and accomplished people – I'm certainly not one of them! 

Unsurprisingly, this self-deprecation leads to writer's block. Literally, there's a block in my mind. Not because I don't have any good ideas, but because reminding myself of all the things I'm not fills my head so there's no room left for actual creative work. Then, something that's supposed to be fun, something that I supposedly love to do, becomes a source of fear and pressure. 

Similarly, those daydreams we all have from time to time, featuring Bestseller Lists and wide-eyed admirers, also poison my writing so it no longer seems genuine. I end up only writing what I think people want from me. Don't let any sort of glimmering prospect of fame and glory keep you from writing quality work  quality, meaning it comes from your heart.

About a month ago, my dad told me something that I still think about every day. He said, "Wendy, just ignore all the noise around you. Don't pay attention to what other people are doing or what paths they're taking – everyone's looking for something different. If writing is what you really love to do, then just do it." 

Whenever my mind starts to fill with self-doubt and other mental distractions, rendering myself incapable of writing any further, those are the words I remember. And it's worked (so far, at least; I wrote a blog post, didn't I?). 

That being said, the real world/real life isn't always quite that easy (if ever). There will always be people watching your moves, either waiting for you to make a mistake or building up expectations or comparing themselves to you. Ignore them. 


Wendy Lu


Do you ever get this kind of writer's block, and if so, how do you banish these distracting thoughts? What are some other obstacles or challenges you face while writing? 

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15 comments:

Wendy Luane Barber said...

Oh my gosh! How did you know? How did you get into my head? I've been going through the same thing. I'm too old to publish, no one will read my work, no one likes my dolls, I can't quite get anything new... We hit the same wave length at the same time. I love your dad's quote. I really needed to read this today. Thank you so much Wendy Lu 2.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Ignore the voices and everything that tells you to write a certain way and write what YOU want. Everything I heard when writing my first book said science fiction was dead. I wrote it anyway. Two Amazon Best Sellers later, I'm glad I did. Believe in yourself and write to your heart.

Vanessa Morgan said...

Those voices in your head are the worst kind of writers block indeed. I believe that it's only by staying true to yourself and your passions that you can really touch people with your writing.

Jai said...

Wow your dad is such a smart man.

This was a great blog post and a good reminder to believe in yourself.

Found you from the Followers Blog Hop and I look forward to reading your blog.

Jai @And then...

shayla kwiatkowski said...

"Too much traffic in my head" = GOOD ONE! You obviously are a creative writer & have a way with words, no worries! :) My writer's block takes the form of an exhaustion that falls over & around me like a dark cloud. When I write, it is like lighting a small candle in the big darkness. I enjoy it, but I have to fight thru the exhaustion first. Visiting on the bloghop.

Jyoti Mishra said...

hey Wendy..
thanks for stopping by and giving me the opportunity to land here :)
lovely space you have..
hoping that we'll see each other more..

as far as writer's block is concerned.. I think reading and lots of reading works for me all the time..

Crystal Collier said...

Priceless advice from your dad. It's easy to get distracted by our insecurities, but no one is you, and you are amazing all on your own. Best wishes in your writing!

P.S. Stopping in from the blog hop.

Lydia Kang said...

Oh that traffic! I hear it too and it can be deafening. I think I honestly have writer's block anytime my fingers are not actually typing. So I say, just type. Type some crappy sentences knowing they're crappy, just to get it out. And then better stuff will flow soon after!

Tanya Reimer said...

This is an incredible post, Wendy. The distractions. OMG. How do I cope? I give in. If editing isn't working tonight and I really really feel like writing some scene from some book I haven't yet finished plotting. I just do. Tomorrow night, I try again. That scene needs to be written anyway, right? Why not do it while I "feel" it?

Sania Heba said...

Way to go Wendy Lu!! Block out the voices and WRITE. I hope u reach ur goals and never stop writing. :)

Beverly Fox said...

Hi Wendy! Thank you SO MUCH for connecting with me!

I was about two paragraphs in to this post before I fell absolutely in love with your voice and once you started talking about the insecurities you have to fight I knew I'd found a kindred spirit. Not that we all can't relate, but the particular quality of your fears are very, very familiar to me.

Do you participate in Alex’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group? If not, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s one thing knowing that other bloggers like yourself, as yet unpublished and unknown, are struggling. But it’s another thing altogether to know that published, successful authors come from exactly the same place. It’s one of the reasons I love NaNoWriMo so much- all those e-mails from amazingly talented published authors letting me know that every single horrible panic-inducing moment of pause is something that they too know. It helps.

I see that Alex has already connected with you, so go ahead and check it out. It’s one of the best things I do for myself every month. The best thing overall, of course, is connecting with other writers like you!

Much love!
Bev

Vanessa Morgan said...

Thank you for the follow and sweet comments :)

Laura Farag said...

Wendy that was beautiful. I may not be a writer, but I identified other areas in my life where I too let the noise take over. I need to think differently, and this post has made me think just that. Have a great weekend. xxx

Lynda R Young said...

ah yes, those daydreams and traffic in our heads can be a killer to the creative self.

Good to hear you aren't driving the way you did back when you were seven years old ;)

Wendy Lu said...

Wendy - It seems a lot of these fears are applicable to many people. The thought that we aren't alone in feeling this way is at least somewhat comforting. :)

Alex - You and your writing journey have been such an inspiration to many writers, including myself. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Vanessa - Exactly. And I think ultimately that's one of the things we want most...to touch people with our words, our writing. Sadly, wishing this too much the wrong way can sometimes be a hindrance rather than a motivator.

Jai, Crystal, Sania, Laura - Thank you so, so much! I'm stoked we got to connect through the blog hop. :)

Shayla - Ahh, I totally know what you mean about the exhaustion. Even before I start writing, I feel mentally and physically tired - it's like a defense mechanism to prevent me from using the brain power necessary to write. But yes, we must power through!

Jyoti - This is true! I've been reading a lot more lately and have found myself inspired to write more now than before.

Lydia - "Just type." Probably one of the best pieces of writing advice I've ever heard! (Well, read, to be accurate haha)

Tanya - Indeed, sometimes giving in is the only way to go. XD After all, working on a different project can spur some new ideas for the piece we were originally stuck on!

Beverly - Thank you very much for your wonderful and sweet comment. That tidbit about NaNoWriMo is so true - the authors' pep talks are definitely one of my favorite parts of the challenge! And I've heard so many good things about IWSG! :) I've thought about joining before, as it seems like such a great community. I appreciate the recommendation, and will definitely think about it!

Vanessa - You're most welcome! Ditto. :)

Lynda - Hahaha I know, right?

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