Just. Write.

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The other day on Twitter, a writer tweeted a snippet of awesome advice: the first draft is for your (the writer’s) eyes only. The writer, whose name escapes me thanks to mom brain, repeated it several times, too.

I certainly wasn’t planning on having any of my writer friends or anyone else read my first draft I’m plugging away on right now. But it was still a nice, gentle reminder that your first draft is just for you. And also a more subtle read-between-the-lines reminder that that first draft you have there — no matter how much you love your idea, no matter how much potential you think it has — is a big ol’ pile of poop.

I don’t mean anything by that — just stating the facts. Real, not alternative, if anyone was wondering. Your first draft is just the beginning — it’s the time to bang those computer keys and get your idea out of your brain and on to your Word document. Pour it all out. Then, when it’s done? Get ready to take a jackhammer to it and edit the crap out of it — pun intended.

But even though your first draft will suck (I promise, it will), there is something beautiful about this messy time in your WIP’s young life. It’s the exciting phase of just writing. Not editing, not revising, not taking notes on what you need to add, delete, or change. It’s the only time that you really are Just Writing.

So, if you’re like me and in the midst of finishing up your first draft, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself. Enjoy this time.

Just.

Write.

Feelin’ the Writing Burn!

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Several months ago, my husband and I bought a Lance Armstrong exercise bike. Those that know me know I’m not exactly big on exercising – I never have been – so it won’t come as a shock that after the newness of the bike wore off, so did my desire to use it. My husband, on the other hand, works out on a very regular basis and encourages me to do the same. “Your doctor said you’d feel better,” he often says. And even though I know he’s right and I want to get in shape anyway for summer, every time I walk by the room where we keep the bike, I just keep walking. Even though I know once I do I’ll be happy with the results, I can’t seem to find the drive to actually get started.

Which was the exact same problem that, up until a little over a month ago, I was having with writing. Though I had what I consider to be a stellar story idea and had even mapped out a really rough outline for a potential trilogy of said idea, I still had trouble taking that first step into my office and getting started. I think a big reason for that now is the same one keeping me from exercising: I knew it would take a lot of time and effort to get up that metaphorical hill, and I just couldn’t talk myself into climbing it. But a few weeks ago, that finally changed. One day out of nowhere, I was in the mood to write. Not only in the mood, but the old feeling I used to get when crafting together my thesis manuscript bubbled back up, making me realize that the only way this book would ever come to be is if I started writing it. And that desire – that impossibly strong need to finish it – hasn’t gone away since. Even on days when I don’t have time to write, I’m constantly working out in my mind what should happen next in my story. And to beat it all, I’m actually really, truly excited about it! I haven’t been able to say that in a while. Case in point: yesterday I wrote more than 5,000 words. Granted, they were pretty rough and I’m already thinking of scenes I need to alter or scrap all-together, but that still makes me really happy. Because I’m writing again. And that, in and of itself, is something I’m pretty damn proud of!

So to all you other aspiring authors out there, if you hit a rough patch and can’t write for a while, I’m living proof that writing droughts can end. You just have to make up your mind to let them.

Dear Fellow Frustrated Writer: You’re Awesome!

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This week I had a mini panic attack. Without meaning to (or trying to), I’d become really pessimistic about my chances of making it as a writer. Doubtful thoughts – such as what’s the point of trying? I’m not that good at this anyway – tumbled through my mind over and over again until I’d started to fully believe them. And as my friends from my MFA program know, I didn’t used to feel that way. I’ve prided myself as being an optimistic writer. As I started querying my first manuscript, even with rejections coming in on a regular basis, I kept the faith. I convinced myself that I would succeed – that all I needed to do was have patience.

Well, I hate to admit that my patience basically evaporated. Every time I would write, I let the pesky little Debbie Downer voice completely take over. Fellow writers, you know just who I mean. That little voice that repeatedly says, “you really suck at this! Wow, you call this writing? You’re never gonna get this published! Might as well cut your losses now and find something else to fill this time with. Have you considered taking up knitting? Hmm. Nevermind. You’d probably suck at that, too.”

But this week someone whose opinion I really respect and trust shook me out of it. She reminded me that, while that voice is needed sometimes, it must be ignored while you’re writing and completing a first draft. Instead, you have to make room for your opposite, probably overconfident voice I’ll just call Spunky Sally that says things like, “Oh my God! You are so brilliant! Wow. Don’t stop! You are destined to become the next great American author. Hemingway who?!” Before you say anything, I realize this is a little over the top. But you have to think these things in order to finish up. THEN, once you complete that first brilliant first draft, you can unplug your ears and let the Debbie Downer voice speak up again to let you know that, quite frankly, this first draft is utter garbage. BUT, as Spunky Sally will pipe in, don’t despair! With some serious revising, it’ll get better! Send it to one or more of your critique buddies that will help you see its potential. It will be amazing. You know why?

Because you, fellow frustrated writer, are awesome. And you can do this!

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

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A few weeks ago, I was writing like crazy – if not every day, at least every other. Well, all of a sudden, I stopped. And not for lack of trying either! It was like my characters had all decided to go on some awesome vacation…and I wasn’t invited.

My usual writers’ block tricks weren’t cutting it either (i.e., listening to my WIP’s playlist, making notes, even trying to steal some mojo from Jess…) and I was stumped trying to come up with witty tweets! You know when you can’t even write 140 characters, something’s really wrong. I’ve been through a writing drought before, but I guess I was naive enough to believe it wouldn’t happen to me again – that I was to the point now where my creative juices would endlessly flow.

But yesterday I realized I may be down but I’m not out. After talking with Jess about my upcoming trip to KY (my husband’s cousin is getting married & we’re visiting some family), she made a good point: that I should try to use the trip for inspiration. In other words, I should take pictures and lay the groundwork of the setting of a story (either one of my current WIP’s or a new one altogether) first and let it inspire the details of the plot later. As a writer who constantly struggles with the in’s and out’s of setting (where to set a story, when to mention setting, etc.), I’m looking forward to the challenge! And who knows, maybe that’s exactly where my characters are waiting for me. Hey, a girl can hope, right?