A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend about my writing and I came to a horrifying realization. I was no longer having fun. The change was slow and insidious. I had stories I enjoyed, ideas I liked, and characters I loved. But the balance was off. I was focusing too heavily on some aspects of the story to make it fit into a specific sub-genre. In the editing stage, maybe I could get away with some of that, but not while creating a rough draft, when my muse wants free rein to do whatever she pleases. And she was not pleased. It took that conversation for me to hear what my writing-heart had been telling me for weeks. “This is not the right story.”
I put this to you fellow writers. The next time you pause in the middle of writing a sentence, pay attention to what your mind is saying. If your block is coupled with thoughts like, “I don’t like this,” or “This isn’t fun,” those are some serious red flags. This doesn’t apply to those incredibly intense scenes that turn us inside-out. I’m talking about the basic scenes that make up the bulk of your story. If you don’t like what you’re writing, why are you spending time with it? Do you really think your readers are going to like it any more than you do? As writers, our emotions come through in the works we create. If we aren’t having fun or wanting something desperately for the characters in our story, our readers won’t be, either.
Then there are those times when we’re blocked by self-doubt. The words flowing out of our fingers and the scenes coming up in our minds are too raw, too intense, too authentic. The emotion we’re creating is so deep, we shy away from it. Those are the green flag moments, when you need to rein in your critic and keep riding through the story, getting it down as fast as you can, outrunning the doubts at your heels. My shield is this: I can always edit it out later, or tone it down, or whatever I think it will need. And most often? It doesn’t need to be cut or tamed. Those wild creative times are when my writing is at its best, and more often than not, when I’m at my best as a person.
When things become too real, too authentic, it can be frightening. What we’ve created seems to have a life unto itself. But those are the moments, the scenes, the characters that are most powerful. Those are the stories we need to tell.