Dragon slaying

I’m struggling again with writing, as you may have surmised from my absent blog posts this week. I’ve started second guessing my ideas: Who would want to read that? I’m worried about my tone: Sheesh! You sound like Pollyanna, always turning things into glib sunshine and rainbows. I lose my grasp on fleeting ideas: I just can’t think of anything interesting to write about. This old insecurities (explained in I am not a-mused) have flared up again.

I can’t let that happen.

So here I am, writing about the insecurities themselves. By giving them voice and then countering with the truth, I intend to put them to rest. I know I’ll likely have to do this many times and they may never be permanently defeated. Hopefully, though, each time will get easier and the process of cutting them down will become second nature.

It just takes practice, and to show I’m serious about slaying my dragons, I’m going to do it publicly.

  1. Who would want to read that? C’mon, T. You’ve said since Day One that you’re not writing for anyone else. Remember how you said that writing every day jumpstarted your creativity and helped you organize your thoughts? Yeah, you really said that. Why don’t you own it now? Write like you mean it.
  2. Sheesh! You sound like Pollyanna, always turning things into glib sunshine and rainbows. Life isn’t sunshine and rainbows, but there’s nothing wrong with trying to find the nuggets of wisdom in everyday situations. It doesn’t mean your life is perfect, T. Actually, you need to find those nuggets for yourself. (See item 1 in case you forgot your audience.) There are days when you feel like buckling under the weight of all that’s going on; it’s perfectly normal to look for ways to make sense of it. In fact, this exercise is vastly healthier than wallowing (at which you’re also quite accomplished).
  3. I just can’t think of anything interesting to write about. Jeez, T, you’ve always prided yourself on being able to make something out of nothing. How many times have you told people that’s what your blog posts reflect? After all, you just wrote a whole post on how you couldn’t write. Talk about turning nothing into something!

I doubt that I’ve slain the dragon of self-doubt, but hopefully I’ve beaten him back for a while so my body of work–my armaments–can grow.

So friends, here’s my formula for dealing with fear/self-doubt/whatever is holding you back: bring it into the light. Call it out; share it with someone else. Then present your counterarguments. If it helps, do it in third person. Pretend you’re counseling a friend or your daughter or someone important to you. Write them down, point by point, so you can SEE them. Then go do the thing that scares you. Your legs may be wobbly, but they’ll get stronger as you go. I promise.

En-titled

As a side gig, I write articles for a local magazine. As much as I enjoy it, it’s like exercise: the hardest part is getting started. I’ll sometimes spend hours–yes, hours–agonizing over the title. The computer screen never looks blanker than when I stare at it waiting for inspiration.

It isn’t that I don’t know what the article will be about. By the time I sit down to write, I’ve already done my research, interviewed the subject, and loosely outlined the content. Piece of cake, right?

Wrong-o, at least in my case.

Even if I know all the pieces and roughly how they’ll fit together, I still need a hook. I need to nail the title and the subhead because that’s what sets up everything else for me. When I serve up a wimpy title, the article that follows fights hard for its rightful place in mediocrity. But when I create a strong lead, it becomes my jumping off point for what comes next. That’s why I’ll spend hours looking at a blank screen while I turn over possibilities in my mind. I have to start strong.

Life’s like that. I need to pick a direction, set a goal so I can take off. I need to know where to go so I can get there. For a long time, I simply followed “the” formula: go to college, get a job, work hard, get married, start a family, keep working hard, hopefully get somewhere. But where? It isn’t enough to just work; you need to work toward something. If you don’t pick your own goal, you’ll just follow the tide of your circumstances. You’ll likely end up somewhere far from where you had imagined yourself or simply adrift.

As I write, occasionally I find that the title I’ve chosen has taken me in the wrong direction. Maybe I’ve uncovered information and nuances along the way that I hadn’t considered. Maybe I stumble on a better story. Maybe I didn’t fully understand my subject at first. Maybe I just got it wrong. 

You know what I do then? I change the title and set off on a new path. It’s never too late.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.

Yogi Berra