Don’t Neglect to Write: A Cautionary Tale

​A few months ago I cleaned up the files in my computer. During the process, I peeked at my files of unfinished novels. There are some books I’ve been writing bit by bit for 5 or more years. I read some of them. They were painful to read.

I normally just leave it at that, but this time I was curious about them. They were good ideas, just executed poorly. How did such great ideas transition into horrible writing?

I flipped through my notes. I made detailed preparations for each project: created settings and characters, did prior research and made scene-by-scene outlines in advance so I wouldn’t get stuck, etc. Yet each and every time I found myself sputtering out of steam after 10,000 words or so. What was the problem?

I was the problem.

Not that I didn’t allocate enough writing time (although that is a symptom of the cause) or that I hit a wall of writer’s block. Looking back on previous work, I realized that at the time I just wasn’t good enough of a writer. My talent level was inadequate to the scope of my ideas.

And my mind somehow knew this. It knew I was not ready to give life to my ideas. My writing brain shut down in order to save myself from myself.

How did this happen? Perhaps I spent too much time and effort chasing mentors, reading every book and blog on how to write I could find, going to conferences believing that if I networked with the right people I’d become a better writer through osmosis.

Studying, networking and learning from experienced writers are important for a writer’s growth. When I was out doing that I forgot the most critical path to writing better. I neglected to write.

Similar to a seldom used muscle, my writing brain was weak and limp. I had sought knowledge but didn’t put it to use. I wasn’t being wise with my gift.

I used to take long writing hiatuses and then jump straight into a lengthy project. I’ll pursue other interests, mostly catching up on streaming TV or playing video games, occasionally some light reading. When I’d take up writing again, my flabby writing muscles couldn’t handle the strain.

I still don’t write everyday. I will write something here and there; snippets of prose here, snatches of poems there. A lot of them will never see the light of day. This keeps me in decent writing shape.

When I began working on The Demonic Dozen, my body and mind were ready for the long haul. I was ready to persevere.

My talent is catching up to my visions of my work. My writing is better for it.

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