The Daily Torment
I called this blog ‘The Honest Writer’ for a reason. My intention is never to make myself look good, or to present a falsehood about how I create. My sole intention is to reveal the gory details of writing novels, and that includes all the self-doubt and flip-flopping.
If you read even a few of these posts, you’ll see I’m the world’s greatest flip-flopper. I come up with one solution, only to ditch it a few days later and try something else. I should stick with something, I know. But this is the real face of someone struggling to create. This indecision is self-doubt and anxiety at work. It’s why I post in real-time; I don’t wait a few months then write a nice little summary about what happened, leaving out details that make me look clueless. I’m not here to give anyone any answers. I’m simply here to share my experience.
The truth is, this blog is mostly for me. I look back at old posts and see patterns. It helps me understand what’s going on in my brain. I see the same arguments coming up then going away again. ‘I like to plot, I like to pants; I like word counts, I hate word counts’. Round and round it goes in a never-ending circle.
Well, I’ve circled around again. I watched a video from Susan Dennard about brainstorming and planning via index cards, and it got me excited. It made me want to write (and it made me want to write on a day where I thought many times that I wanted to quit). That’s got to mean something, right? Because here’s the thing: I genuinely don’t know if I’m a pantser or a planner. In recent years I’ve veered towards the former because my outlines have failed, but, it’s also possible that because I’m so much of a planner my outlines have failed because they haven’t been detailed enough.
I am a highly organised person in real life. I’m logical. My brain is more maths-y than artsy. I see patterns quite easily. I’m never late. I plan my meals out in advance. I have a high measure of fluid intelligence – high enough to put me in the top 2% of the population. I’m not saying this to brag – there’s so much more to a person than their IQ score – but it tells me about the type of person I am, and the type of brain I’ve been given.
Now, this goes against the romantic image of an author. A ‘true writer’ enters flow state and loses track of all time. A ‘real writer’ is chaotic and disorganised. And I want to be like that. I want to be the romantic artist. But the truth is, I almost never lose track of time, and I enter flow state for a few seconds – if I’m lucky. Mental and physical chaos stress me out. Social chaos in the name of change, however, does not. But there’s a big difference between these two types of chaos. One relates to personal organisation and structure, and the other relates to social justice. So they’re not comparable. I can fight against the Machine and still maintain orderly to-do lists.
Which leads me back to writing. I think I need to accept who I am, and my own methods of creativity. I’ll never be the disordered genius with scruffy hair who hasn’t showered in days (because bleurgh, that’s nasty). At heart, I’ll always be more Monica Geller than Phoebe Buffay. One is not better than the other. They’re just different.
So, long story short, I’m stepping back from drafting again. I pantsed 1000 words yesterday and I was miserable throughout. I felt out of control, and stressed. I was flying, but not in a good way. Instead, I’m going to sit with my notebook and index cards and give myself some REAL SPACE to brainstorm The Forest King. I’m not going to draft until I’m dying to write. This is going to be really hard for me. I’ll probably start drafting too early, burn out, then have to read this post and realise I started too soon. But it’s okay. I’m giving myself permission to keep messing up, so long as I never stop trying. But most of all, I’m giving myself permission to create however the hell I want.