Killing The Writer’s Self-Myths

14 Apr

      So many writers begin (and sometimes unfortunately even continue) their writing career with the myth that they can only write at a certain time of the day. Some of the best advice I’ve held onto while I work through tough spots, tired days, revisions and just plain I-don’t-wannas is this: If you’re a writer, writing is a job. Get the hours in. You couldn’t call the boss in any other job and say “I just don’t feel like coming in today. See you tomorrow.”

      As a writer, YOU’RE the boss of you. Do you really feel comfortable hitting the beach when you promised you’d write? I *DARE* you to send yourself an email before you go justifying that to the boss-of-you for when you get home. Make that *DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU*

      What happens if you miss that part of the day? What if your RL job interfere or your kid gets sick or your car breaks down or you’re too tired that night because of a crazy day? Do you just not write? Do you call it in to the-boss-of-you and tell them, “Yeah, sorry. No pages today?”

      Part of the problem is we don’t understand they why of this myth. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself that why question. It will solve so much of your writing woes.

      My why: Why do I feel like I can only write late at night?

      This was my concern. I was convinced I was only creative late at night. Then came the time when that wasn’t an option and I had to delve into where this self-myth began.

      When I began writing, I wrote 3 to 5 hours a day. After work. This would bring me into the late night. I also was (I’m sure you’ll all be shocked to hear this) really big on goals. I could go to bed when the goal was met. Yes, more than once I woke up on my couch with my laptop perched on my lap. When I lost my job, I found myself waiting til late in the day to start… Sometimes even later than I would have if I was still working. This was all fine, until everything got switched around and I couldn’t write at night.

      So, I asked myself where my myth came from.

  1. Tradition – I’d always written at night, so I write at night
  2. Success – I wrote my first book this way
  3. Focus – With only a couple hours left in the day, I had to block everything else out and get it done
  4. Urgency – If I was going to meet those goals, I needed to use the Focus to reach the Success and I did this through my Tradition

      Urgency. That was the key for me. If I didn’t feel like I needed to do it RIGHT!NOW! then I could do it later. Much later. And then it was tomorrow and I’d missed my goal. And so, the self-myth for me grew out of control and I needed to tame it. I created my own little Myth Buster. If urgency is what I needed to push myself to get pages done, then I had to look at my day differently. Not in straight hours any more.

      I used to be able to say, Oh, but it’s only 1pm. I have 11 hours left in the day. I’ll get it done. Only, I wouldn’t because 9 of those hours were full… the hours “later.”

      By changing that statement to: I have 2 more WRITING hours today…and they’re now. I created the urgency I needed, to get my focus to work to success. Who cares about tradition, I only care about getting it done.

      But that isn’t the only self-myth we fall into as writers. How about:

  • I can only write at <fill in the location. Home, Starbucks, etc>
  • I can only write in my <PJs, sweats, etc>
  • I can only write with <laptop, desktop, journal, notebook>
  • I can only write when with <quiet, music, background noise, etc>

      There are so many. But we need to focus on what they are: MYTHS.

What are your myths and how will you / have you knocked them down and overcome them?

12 Responses to “Killing The Writer’s Self-Myths”

  1. Linda G. April 14, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    My myth is that I can only write when I’m alone in the house. I’m easily distracted, and like it quiet when I write, so it’s just easier if my guys (hubs & son) are elsewhere.

    I AM trying to learn to tune out the distractions, though–I’m limiting myself too much.

    Good post! 🙂

  2. Alexia Reed April 14, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    Great post. I admit to being stuck in that myth. Was, am… that line is a blur. I will say though that before I thought I could only write at night. Then I started to write during the day. I think the key you pointed out is urgency. If I have deadlines, like during nano, then the blurred lines disappear. LOL.

    Mine… I can only write with music or some kind of background noise (tv, radio…etc). I’ve always concentrated better with it (yes, persistent little myth… I know that’s probably not true but it FEELS like it). :p

  3. briaq April 14, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    Thanks ladies!

    Distraction Myths are so hard b/c I feel like they have the most validity. But we do everything else while distracted, I think we can learn to create while distracted too


  4. Cambria Dillon April 14, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    What a great post Bria! Your self-myth is my self-myth too.

    I thought I could only write at night because I work all day, come home and make dinner, play with the baby and then only after I put her to sleep could I start writing. By the time I hit the sack it was usually midnight or later and I was always so exhausted the next day. My brain never shut off.

    Until one night when I literally fell asleep at 8pm without meeting any of my writing goals. So I set my alarm for 5AM to get in the words I didn’t the night before. In the 2 hours I wrote before getting ready for work, I managed to write twice as much as I normally do at night. Maybe it was the stillness of the house. Maybe because my brain was fresh and not crabby. Whatever it was, it’s allowed me not to stress so much if I don’t get all my words in at night because I know I CAN write in the morning and still kick butt.

  5. michaeleriksson April 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm #

    There is much truth in the above, but there is another perspective:

    Writing for fun vs. writing as work.

    (Where I use “fun” in a very wide sense—a better word escapes me at the moment—and where “writing” can be replaced by any number of other activities.)

    In my own non-employed work, I have found that I get the same amount of work done when I work when feel like it, as when I set myself schedules or quotas—and I do so with a feeling of fun, not work.

    This can include not working at all on one day (or even, very rarely, one week) and then doing twice the average dosis the following day. It can include working in the morning, the day, the evening, or the night. It can include doing work well in advance or doing it when fear of a deadline hits. (You get the point.)

    As an added benefit, because I usually have several concurrent projects, I often end up with what amounts to a very solid working week—while very rarely feeling that I am working. (If I do not feel like doing X, chances are that Y or Z still appeals.) Also note that “a change is as good as rest”.

    Disclaimer: I stress that this need not work for everyone, nor need it be appropriate in every situation (e.g. a formal employment, many “work for hire” situations, or in highly important projects). Further, it should not be used as an excuse to do nothing, but more to select which activity to engage in—if there is no alternate activity, a forced start is often the better choice, seeing that the feeling of “resistance” sometimes disappears five minutes in.

  6. briaq April 14, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    CamBria (name twin moment… no chat *beep* tho) – that’s great. I’m not a morning person in general, but I did learn that if I just got up and got going (including a lovely hot shower) I could get some stuff done definitely!

    Michael – Great points. I guess I needed to be more clear. I wasn’t talking about creating a strict, uncomfortable writing life (although, yes. Sometimes it will be that when deadlines draw near) – but more not letting lies we tell ourselves keep us from success. Not everyone tells themselves the same lies. If only it were that easy! We all have struggles and (you sound lucky) that this isn’t one of them! Oh, how I envy you 🙂

  7. Jess April 14, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    You know, I have to say, this is one style of myth I don’t struggle with. I wrote my first two novels in the computer lab at college. The next at least two were written in snatches of time at my desk jobs, emailing my writing home every day. So after that there’s no sense of a room of one’s own. I DO write better during the day than at night, but if I haven’t gotten my words done during the day, after dinner I tell my hubs I have to write and I go do it. My output isn’t as much as during the day, but I can do it. In fact, I’d love to traipse all around, writing wherever and whenever, but my laptop is so old and dying, I fear removing it from the apartment (not to mention heavy). 😀

  8. briaq April 14, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    Jess you lucky girl! The other ones are pretty darn easy for me. But breaking that “write at night” thing almost killed me. So glad I learned not to do that now instead of in 4 or 5 more books 🙂

  9. Kwana April 14, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    Great post. I get stuck in the I can only write when inspired myth or I need to see the full story before I can write. Sometimes you have to just write through it.

  10. briaq April 14, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    So, so true. I think I do that sometimes too. If I can’t see the whole thing, then I might fail. Who wants to fail, right? BUT, if I never start… there’s the failure too… Arg 🙂

  11. Katrina Williams April 14, 2010 at 11:43 pm #

    The only one I recognize on your list is •I can only write with . I really CAN’T write longhand anymore. I’ve tried like a bazillion times and I spend the entire time complaining about the pen hurts my hand and how crappy my handwriting is. The words don’t flow and nothing is accomplished. So for me, I wouldn’t call that a myth, but more of a limitation. Or am I missing the point of the question? 🙂

    As for everything else, I have no problems writing under any other circumstances. That comes from having a full house all the time…

  12. briaq April 15, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    So, if it’s not a myth, if it’s a limitation… you’d be saying if all typing thing-a-ma-bobs were gone tomorrow, you’d never write again? That would be the difference.

    A lot of myths are so ingrained that they feel like limitations. My myth (the write a night one) was a limitation to me… until I had no choice and then after a lot of hemming and hawing I realized it was a myth… The problem with myths is that the longer we have them, the more strongly they root themselves into us…the more we see them as truths.

    So, when looking at your myths (everyone) ask yourself: If I had no choice would I stop writing?

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