Dean Wesley Smith gives frequent advice on his blog to writers. And, the advice may sometimes seem repetitive. The same words of wisdom may be seen again and again on his blog, not because they’ve been heeded, but because the advice is often touching on traps that all writers can fall into. Even Dean.
Last week, he wrote about finding himself making his next writing project important. Despite frequent admonishments not to let a novel or story become an event, his excitement for the project let him slip into that writer trap and be frozen at the keyboard.
Since I’m taking a class this fall, I got to thinking about how school trains us not only to revise, revise, revise our writing, but also to treat writing assignments as events. When a paper is due on a specific date, it becomes an event. When a paper can make or break your grade, it becomes important (more or less so depending on your temperament and whether that grade impacts scholarship dollars).
All through school, writers are trained to look at each piece of writing, be it fiction or non, a lab report or a poem, as an important event. Personally, I think that attitude is behind a lot of procrastination and last minute writing. Those deadlines made me want to avoid writing until I absolutely had to start, the night before, or, with luck, two nights before.
I’ve definitely carried that attitude with me into fiction writing. Without a deadline, I often find myself staring at the blank screen, or avoiding the keyboard entirely. And each rejection ends up feeling like getting an F, a horrible blow to my self-confidence.
The writing myths that Dean points out on his blog are like boulders. And I’m carrying them, dragging them behind me, clinging to them even as they slow me down. Maybe it’s because I was good at school from a young age, and letting go of what validated much of my life is scary. Maybe, as a writer, I can come up with any number of excuses to hold onto them. And maybe I can dig them up by the roots and let them go.