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5 for Friday: How NOT to get discouraged with writing projects

Categories: MFA Confidential Blog.

When you become a
writer, when you choose this life for yourself, you choose the long road.
Writing is a process and as writers we are constantly evolving. We don’t get
good overnight. There are a lot of road bumps along the way and many times
(perhaps even once a day?) you may want to throw the towel in. Here are 5
things to remember when you hit those bumps. Discouragement may be inevitable,
but we can at least control our reaction to it. Not allow it to close us down
for good. Here’s how not to let
discouragement get the best of you:

1.     
Assume that what you’re working on will
take longer than you think it should
.
The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop
suggests that “the schedule for any project you undertake should probably be
expanded by 50 percent over what you think is right.” By allowing yourself more
time to work than you may need, you’ll reduce stress, enjoy the process more,
and you won’t get overwhelmed by last minute details.

 

2.     
Allow yourself a shitty first draft. I’ve talked about this before–Anne
Lamott coined the term in her book Bird by Bird. “All good writers write them,” Lamott says of shitty
first drafts. “This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific
third drafts.” Get out that shitty draft and don’t judge it harshly, if at all.
The talented writers, Lamott says, “Take a few deep breaths, push back their
sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in….”

 

3.     
Write a fast draft. Get it down. You
can always go back later.
This
is similar to the shitty first draft method, but it focuses on speed. Sometimes
we need to just write quickly, tapping into the unconscious, not worrying about
each word, each line. Speed also gets us to the other side: the end. Finishing
a project is half the battle. It also instills confidence to keep going. When I
interviewed YA author Siobhan Vivian she offered this advice to writers: “Finish something. It will put you leaps and
bounds ahead of other aspiring writers….”

 

4.     
Get
some air, peek your head out into the world, show your work to a friend.
Basically, don’t
allow yourself to get trapped in both your house and your story. Sometimes what
we need most is perspective. And after writing for days straight and reading the
same words over and over again, things can begin to look and feel a little
funny. We need new eyes on our work. We need fresh air, too! It’s good to reach
out when the work is ready. Take a walk, meet a friend for coffee, attend a
writing workshop and allow others to cheer you on.

 

5.     
Put
the work away
. You don’t have to put it away forever. Just for a
week, even a day or two. Sometimes the best thing is to allow your story to
breathe a little. I once asked a professor what my story needed and he said: “Time.”
Coming back to a story with fresh eyes is one of the most productive things you
can do. We all know the writer is constantly writing, and you will continue to “write” your story even
when it’s in the drawer. You will see things, hear things, and feel things that
will inspire you to move forward when your story and you are ready.

*

 

 

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3 Responses to 5 for Friday: How NOT to get discouraged with writing projects

  1. Kate says:

    Kristan– Me too. Sometimes when I put too much pressure on myself time-wise it doesn’t get done at all! The ticking clock becomes counter productive. That, or I end up freaking out.

    Zachary–That’s great news! And you’re very welcome! Supporters rock– we really need them as writers. Keep those people close.

  2. Zachary Grimm says:

    Thanks as always for the great advice, Kate! I just got asked by a fellow writer who is in the initial planning stages of her project what advice I could give her, and it felt pretty darn good to have things that I’ve learned from OTHER writers like you to pass on to her. I also had a very good friend of mine say (several times) that she was REALLY excited to read my first draft. (My FIRST draft! You know, the "sh*tty" one? haha) I love my supporters! Thank you for all you have passed onto me thus far!

  3. Kristan says:

    Great advice! I don’t think I’ve seen #1 on the writing blogs before, but I’m definitely finding it to be true.

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