10 Chapters In

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Tea and JournalI hit a writing milestone this week with my current book, Destination Happiness – I am officially 10 chapters into writing this bad boy!!! As of now, that equates to just under 29,000 words. My goal is the 80-90K words range, which I think is definitely doable with my rough outline of 23 chapters.

I’m doing something I’ve never done before in writing fiction, and that’s to really focus more on characters, dialogue, and driving the plot, and less on the settings and details for the first go ‘round. As a control freak plagued by perfectionism, it’s tough to just gloss over parts, but it’s also kind of liberating. I feel like I am trusting myself to write what needs to come out now, knowing that I will be able to go back and beef up the minutia when it’s time to get in the every-little-detail-counts head space.

As a refresher, the synopsis of my story is:

Prompted by the death of a loved one and general discontent in her life, a woman leaves behind everything she knows and sets out on a road trip of self-discovery.

Basically, it’s Eat, Pray, Love meets Wild 🙂

When I first started brainstorming on this book, I began to map out my character’s road trip. There’s a slew of destinations and sites throughout the story, and although it was initially fun to plan this fictional trip, when I actually started to write, I was getting caught up in the “travel logistics” and all of the details of places I’ve never been before. Well, most of them, there are some destinations in the story where I’ve personally visited. Still, I kept interrupting my writing flow to stop and do research on places, and it was stressing me out to the point of not wanting to work on this project.

Luckily, I gave myself a creative intervention and realized that my main priority is just to write the damn story, and I can worry about prettying it up later.

Which is exactly what I’m doing. And, here I am, 10 chapters later! I’ve never written this quickly on one of my own stories (although I’ve already completed quite a few writing projects with my screenwriting partner). It feels really good to know that I can focus on my own book and actually make progress on it.

Here’s to another 13 chapters!

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I Lost Faith in My Writing

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Be You BeachConfession time: I’ve been super depressed lately. As in considering medication because I’ve been vibing so low, feeling terrible, and couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I put a lot of the blame on my job, because it’s been a really tough year at my workplace, and although I’m great at what I do, I don’t love it. It doesn’t light me up. It’s unfulfilling. And that’s a hard pill to swallow every day. I’ve even blamed some of my depression on the amazing group coaching program that I’ve been in since November (which sadly ends in a few weeks). Although I love it, have made amazing friends, and had some transformational breakthroughs, much of the work has been really deep, painful, and hard to face (Sidenote: Still, this program and work has still been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. Period.). Naturally, with all of this going on in my life, I blamed my depression and never-ending misery on those things. But–and here’s the kicker of a realization that I just had a few minutes ago–it’s not work or personal growth that have fueled my depression.

It’s me.

Over the last few months, somewhere along the line, I completely lost faith in the one thing that I hold most dear.

I lost faith in my writing.

At first, I made excuse after excuse on why I couldn’t write: I’m too tired after working all day. I’ll write on the weekend. And then the weekend would come, and I’d fill my days in other non-writing ways. The work week would start all over again, and while I’d hide away on a lunch break here and there to write a scene in my current novel-in-progress, anything I produced just seemed lackluster and like utter shit. Not exactly how you want to feel about your own work. So I blamed perfectionism, and although there is some truth to that, I knew that it wasn’t the entire story. 

Earlier today, I felt like I needed to journal. And not just normal journaling, but soul journaling (or channeling), because yes that’s a thing that I do. It may be too woo woo for some folks, but I consider myself a pretty intuitive person, and I’ve done a lot of work and experimentation over the past five years to really build a bond with my intuition and soul. Lately, however, as my depression has seeped in, I was beginning to get resentful toward spirit. All the time and prayer I put into begging for some sort of light at the end of the tunnel or clear-cut steps to take to improve my situation resulted in nothing. I just kept getting the same generic wisdom: my purpose revolves around writing and connecting with others through my words, but how I decided to actually execute that was my choice. Divine guidance, yet completely useless.

Or so I thought.

After today’s soul journaling session, I had yet another page of the aforementioned type of guidance. At first I was annoyed and disappointed, but then I set my notebook aside and really began to think about it and everything really. Me. Life. Purpose. Depression. Direction. My dreams and aspirations. All of those big questions that are at once empowering and absolutely terrifying.

What do I really want to do? If I could wake up tomorrow and my life and my career revolved around my work–work that made me happy and comfortably self-sufficient–what would that work be?

“Creative writing,” flooded my mind. It gave me chills and made all my hair stand on end. Because duh, I’ve wanted that since I was a kid. And when I started to think back on all of the things and moments and habits and stuff that people noticed about me or commented on or led me to experience really awesome soul-shaking moments throughout my life, all of it–literally all of it–related to some form of creative writing. 

  • When I was in first grade, the kids in my class called me “the dictionary” because I always knew what the hard words meant and could easily help others with spelling and writing assignments.
  • In middle school, I became notorious for having a new book to read every few days. Literally. I’d be excused at the beginning of Sustained Silent Reading a few days a week to go to the library to pick out a new book. In fact, the school librarian was one of my favorite people all throughout elementary and middle school.
  • My favorite book, to this day, remains the only book that I remember my parents reading and talking about and then later recommending to me. When I tweeted to the author last year to rave about said book, he responded, and I died (in a good way). 
  • When I was younger, think single digits, I used to write to my gram, because I dubbed us pen pals. And once I hit about 11-years-old, I began to keep daily journals. I still keep daily journals, and I still have all of the journals and notebooks from over the years.
  • My favorite college class was a Lord of the Rings independent study that I took with the head of the English department. I needed to keep asking for an extension on the detailed journal of analysis I was assigned to keep, because I didn’t realize that reading one of my favorite series would go so much slower when I was reading critically instead of for fun. I got an A in that class, by the way 🙂
  • It was around my college years that I started to write fanfiction. And I know that fanfiction gets a bad rap and elicits a lot of eye rolls, but speaking from experience – fanfiction was the thing that first gave me the confidence to share my stories with other people.
  • I’ve been a “nerd” slash “fangirl” my entire life. But what this really translates to is that I’ve been obsessed with stories–in the form of movies, TV shows, and books–since I was a kid. And when I say obsessed, I mean it, because these stories touched me, impacted me, left an impression, and inspired me to try my own hand at storytelling so that I could make others feel the way that I felt when I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer and read the Harry Potter series. (Sidenote: I’m not just a pop culture addict, I also love the classics, like Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and Edgar Allan Poe. I have layers.)
  • Teaming up with my friend Jess five years ago to try this writing thing as a duo remains one of the best experiences of my life. We wrote a book! We eventually realized that our true niche lies in screenwriting and have since completed two screenplays. The ideas just keep coming, and working together feels like literal magic.

Still, for some reason, I lost my faith in my writing. And it’s sucked. It completely zapped me of all happiness and energy over the past few months. Which makes total sense, because I was hiding from the one thing that truly lights me up and makes me feel vibrant. And you know why? Fear. The hiding and the suppression and the faithlessness – it’s all fear-based.

What if I’m not good enough? But what if I am?

What if nothing ever comes of this? I’ll never know until I actually, genuinely 100% try.

If it was meant to be, wouldn’t it have happened by now? I haven’t actually completed enough projects to pull the trigger on legit pitching to make anything happen.

It’s too hard. All of the best journeys are – that’s what makes a good story.

So, in this moment, I now dub my faith all sorts of restored. No more hiding. I’m going to temper my fear. I’m going to stop running from the unknown and my potential. I’m going to stop making excuses. I’m going to really, truly pour all of my heart and soul into my writing and stop phoning it in just so I can just check “writing” off of my to do list.

TLDR: I’m going to write until the day I die, and even then, you’ll need to pry my words from my cold, dead hands.

Perfectionism: Every Writer’s Archenemy

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chalkboardI’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 12-years-old, and at this point, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that I have many, many story ideas. Some are novels and some are screenplays. The genres are varied – general fiction, young adult supernatural, comedy, drama, romance, young adult fantasy. Over the years, I’ve started to write at least half a dozen of these stories, but I’ve only ever completed a thriller novel and two screenplays (one drama, one comedy), all three of which were co-written with my writing partner. I always thought that accountability was the biggest block to actually finishing (and pitching!) my own books, but I’ve come to realize that the real problem–and my true archenemy–is perfectionism.

This isn’t a light-bulb revelation for me. Perfectionism is something that I’ve always struggled with in numerous facets of my life. But woo boy, it’s most definitely held me back the most when it comes to writing. To me, writing is like visiting another plane of existence. When I am in my creative zone, everything is so much more vivid. Time is fluid and meaningless. The only thing that matters is a steady flow of words that breathe life and soul into my characters and plot. The day that I finished writing the aforementioned thriller novel, I wrote the final six chapters in an uninterrupted 8-hour stretch. It actually kind of scared me, that the day got away from me so easily, but man was I pumped and feeling so accomplished afterwards.

Writers battling perfectionism is nothing new. I’ve read many articles on it. I’ve chatted with fellow writers about it. I’ve bemoaned it in my own journal more times than I can count. So, how does one overcome perfectionism in writing? I think the strategy depends on the writer. Some people may join a writing group or class to hold them accountable and provide daily support and encouragement. Others may embark on some sort of writing challenge. For me, there are a few things that come to mind so that I can conquer this annoying writing block once and for all:

  • Trust: I’m a new age woo woo type of spiritual person. I believe in the Universe as a divine source, I love soul searching, and I’m constantly trying to connect to my higher self for wisdom and guidance. So, all of that being said, I need to actually trust that these story ideas have come to me for a reason, and that reason is that I am meant to write them. And, ya know, finish them.
  • Focus and commit: I constantly lose momentum in whichever writing project I’m currently working on and then switch to a different project. I tell myself it’s because I’m just not aligned with that story at that moment, so I should move on to something else that excites me more. Besides, that way I’m at least writing, right? Wrong. I need to actually focus and commit to ONE story idea, start to finish. A few blog posts ago, I wrote about a new story idea that I had, and I went a good six weeks with writing on it daily. Then I started to harshly judge everything I was writing as complete and total shit (hello, perfectionism!), which of course made me lose motivation. So I switched to a young adult story I started (and never finished) years ago. And the same thing happened all over again – I was gung ho writing daily on it for a few weeks, then started to hate what I was producing, and now I don’t want to work on that story any more. So, I now commit to focus on my newest novel idea, Destination Happiness, and pour everything I have into it.
  • Just write already: Like, for real, Pam. Just write already. Stop making up excuses. Yes, it is super challenging to find the time and energy to write when I have a high stress and all-consuming day job. That is my reality. BUT, I can get back into the habit of reserving my Saturday or Sunday for writing. In fact, I can look forward to that date with my imagination, because I know that once I actually sit down and surrender to story, I feel good. It makes me happy.

Writing is the thing that lights me up. It’s part of who I am. So no more allowing perfectionism to take my muse hostage. I have tons of story ideas–fun, relatable story ideas–that I want to share with others. So I will write, and I will write often. I will finish my latest book. And if that book is then pitched and published and results in loads of cash and my gleeful escape from the harrowing 9-to-5 grind, then all the better.

Take that, perfectionism.