Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Insecure Writers: Trust Isn't Just a Group-Bonding Exercise

NOTE: It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for The Insecure Writers! For those who don't remember, it's an online group created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers. Most of whom are insecure. So we support each other from the safety and comfort of our desks. 

I usually spend IWSG Wednesdays indulging my neurotic brain, and cataloging with loving detail all the ways that I'm feeling insecure about writing, which a) satisfies my detail-oriented (read: anal-retentive) personality, and b) helps me feel a little less crazy.

Much as I enjoy and appreciate this electronic therapy, I'm going to do something a little bit different today.

First, a confession: I may, from time to time, just slightly exaggerate things on this blog for the sake of humor. You know, just every single post every once in a while. In reality, I work pretty hard - and sometimes even (gasp) successfully!! - to stay calm and positive and focused.

I have a number of tools that help me do this. Running (the best stress relief known to mankind), music, and deep breathing all help. Meditation would probably help even more, but since I cannot get my monkey mind to settle down and stop flinging poop at me for longer than three seconds, I wouldn't know.

There's one other thing that helps, maybe more than anything else: trust.

Some people might call it faith. Others might call it confidence. I'm a writer, so I get reeeeaally anal about choosing the exact right word. For me, it's trust.

I didn't come up with this on my own; I had some help (which is so essential for writers). About a year and a half ago, I was knee-deep in Cloudland, still trying to finish a first draft. At the time, I was in the process of banging my head repeatedly and with great futility on a plot wall, and was feeling stuck. Very, very stuck. I confessed this to one of my clients (yes, people do talk to me during massages. A lot of people, actually), and she told me something I've never forgotten. She's a composer, so she talks in terms of music, but the idea is universal.

She said that whenever she's having trouble composing, she reminds herself to trust that the finished piece exists inside her, already. Her only job is to discover it.

What an amazing thought.

This is what I remind myself now, whenever I get really afraid, or stuck. The story exists inside me, complete and perfect. I'm not so much creating a plot as I am uncovering it.

Let me tell you, when I can manage to remember this, and believe it, it takes so much pressure off of the process. I don't have to tear my hair out over making the right decisions or solving gnarly plot problems, because I already know what to do. All I have to do is trust myself, and the story will come out.

Maybe this sounds nuts, or New Age-y, or naive. That's OK by me, because it works. Not just for writing, either. It works in so many areas of life.

And that's pretty amazing, if you ask me.

53 comments:

  1. LOL! Composers are amazing like that. *rubbing knuckles across shirt*

    But seriously, I think that's a message most people don't seem to understand--that these things do come from deep inside and we just have to free our minds enough to let it out.

    Awesome post.

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    1. Oh, that's right! I forgot that you're a musician, too. Yes, kudos to you guys :) Thanks so much!

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  2. I love that! You really do have to trust yourself as a writer, which is something I often forget. Thanks for the reminder :)

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    1. It's HARD to remember. I partially wrote this post to remind myself, too. Thanks for coming by!

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  3. That is an amazing thought. I'm going to have to remember that because uncovering this particular plot has been a real struggle.

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    1. Oh man, I know. Plot is the hardest thing, isn't it? The thought doesn't take away the work, but it DOES take away the anxiety and frustration, and that helps. A whole lot. Good luck - you'll uncover it!!

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  4. The story will come out and when it does, the world will celebrate it. I will be among the first to do so.

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  5. Love it. Trust is so important in most anything. Best to you!

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  6. That's good advice, especially for new writers. Once we've been doing it a while, we know from experience things usually work themselves out with time. :)

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    1. Gee, that sounds lovely. I hope that happens, although after four plays and a novel, I don't seem to be feeling more confident...!

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  7. I use running as a head chemistry stabilizer as well. If I don't run it shows in my writing, or lack there of. ;)

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    1. I so hear you! I skipped my run today, and there was a noticeable dip in my productivity :)

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  8. I guess that means I have a lot of digging to do...

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    1. Somehow, I'm guessing you'll be OK :)

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  9. I use running to defeat my stress too and also to work on plot walls. Tomorrow I have to mow the grass and I always work on my books during that mindless job.

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    1. Yes! Good point. Menial tasks, especially physical ones, are great for working through plot problems. Thanks for coming by!

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  10. Ooh, I love that idea. My novel exists in a perfect state inside me somewhere. I only need to dig through the monkey poop to find it :)

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    1. Yes, exactly! Damn those monkeys... ;)

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  11. That is so beautiful. I need to tell myself that. Like, everyday. Great post!

    -Ilima Todd (IWSG co-host)

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    1. Thanks so much! And thank you for co-hosting this month!

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  12. Love this! I'm going to keep reminding myself of this post.

    I also had to laugh about your monkey mind because I am just the same when it comes to meditation. :D

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    1. It's a shame, isn't it? Damn that monkey mind... meditation seems like it would be so useful, too.

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  13. You are so wise, oh wise one. I needed to read this as I get read for a job interview. I have to trust that there is a place that wants to hire me as I am without me trying too hard. Thanks!

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    1. Oh man, yes! It counts for interviews, too. You've got everything you need already; don't doubt that. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!

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  14. Liz-

    Loved your post, especially the conversation with the client. And it's true...that's what I mean when I let the story go where it want to go. The latch is unlocked and the story escapes to the pages.

    Michelangelo made similar statements that we as writers can apply toward our own work:

    "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free,"
    and
    "Every block of stone has a statue inside and it is the job of the sculptor to discover it."

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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    1. Oh Mike, I love those quotes. I feel like I've heard them before - they're familiar somehow - but I so appreciate reading them again. Wise man, that Michaelangelo. Kind of talented, too ;)

      Thank you!

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  15. Surfing in late from IWSG (darned schedule!) and am sitting back and nodding. What a way to put it - such a way to hold on to the hope (certainty?) that I'm not fighting my way through a cloud. Now that I think of it, didn't Michelangelo once say that the statue was within the block of marble, and all he did was to cut away the material that imprisoned it? Hm. I prefer your composer client's way of putting it.


    Diana at About Myself By Myself

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  16. Ack! I didn't see the Michelangelo quote above mine till now! Now I feel like a doofus! (Well, have the laugh on me!)


    Diana at About Myself By Myself

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    1. Haha! No worries :) I was just going to point that out...

      No, you're not fighting your way through a cloud - unless the conscious brain counts as one? In which case, that's what we're all doing, so at least the company is good.

      Thanks for coming by!

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  17. Beautiful!

    Even the poo flinging monkey mind part, which might have been my favorite.

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    1. It might be mine, too. Shh, don't tell.

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  18. That is a good thought to remember... that when the things we do don't seem to work, it's such a comfort to know that it's already in our head. Thanks for the great idea!

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    1. My pleasure! I need the reminder sometimes, too :)

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  19. I have a musician friend who says the same thing about uncovering his songs. He says that it's already there--he just needs to get into the zone to find it. I like the idea that the story will just flow from us (although I do like using outlines, too!).

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    1. Oh yes. I love my outlines. I like to think of them as a way of structuring what we uncover, for easier use :)

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  20. Good post, Liz. Good thoughts to stop the monkey from ripping your brain apart. It's in there and it will come out.

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    1. That monkey is fierce, isn't it? Thanks for the encouragement!

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  21. Trust is very important. If we don't trust our writing, we should not be writing. However, keeping the trust and confidence can be difficult when we think we want to give up. Don't give up because the story WILL come to you. I think the inspiration should come natural, not forced. Believe in yourself, Liz.

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    1. Thanks, Livia. I appreciate that! It's hard work, but well worth it.

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  22. The whole story is in there somewhere, we just have to dig it out -- I like that. Then our editors can help us make sense out of it all!

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    1. True! Ha. Good point. Thank goodness for editors...

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  23. I know exactly how you feel - I think I've banged my head on enough plot walls to build a house. @_@ But I'll remember what you've said here. I have stories I've been trying to find for years, maybe reminding myself of this will help. Thanks. ^_^

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    1. I would love it if all that plot frustration resulted in an actual building. We'd all be so real-estate-rich... ;)

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  24. That is an amazing thought! Wow. You can definitely meditate on that, too. It takes a lot of stress away.

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    1. If only I could meditate! Thanks, Ashley. I'm glad it helps!

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  25. I love love love that. The finished piece already exists inside me. Thank you for sharing :)

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  26. I love that! It's so true, though. When we take the pressure off, the story can come out.

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