This wasn’t the blog post I intended to write. But it’s something that has been plaguing me enough that it just came out. So, here it is:
I can’t finish any writing that I start.
Yup, it’s true. I have 8 novels and 4 short stories in various stages, but I can’t finish any of them.
So, I had to ask myself, why?
Because the truth is, I’ve finished stories before.
I have a story in an anthology, a flash fiction story on my blog, and I’ve completed several stories in a creative writing class I took in college a few years ago. Clearly, it is possible for me to finish a story. So, what has gone wrong that I can’t finish anything now?
I think the answer is that ugly, evil creature known as doubt. I don’t necessarily doubt that I can finish a story so much as I doubt that I can finish anything that’s worth reading. I doubt my ability to write. My writing starts off well, everything flows and I can pound out the words. Then, somewhere around a third of the way into a story, I begin to doubt. I doubt my plot, I doubt my characters, I doubt my words. I’m certain the story isn’t worth reading.
Doubt is a killer. It will cripple. Our minds are pretty incredible that way. If we believe we can do something, we have a much better shot at being able to do it. Conversely, if we doubt we can do something, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to accomplish. I am basically sabotaging myself by becoming so caught up in my doubts that I become blocked.
One of the good things to come from this problem is that I’ve paid close attention to my own writing process and played around with different techniques. I know more about myself and what works for my writing than I did before. I know that I need absolute silence in order to begin writing. Once I’m in the zone, people will be ignored. I can’t write to music because I find it distracts me from what my characters are saying and doing, but I do like to listen to inspirational music before I write to help get me in the correct frame of mind.
The most important thing I’ve learned about myself: I write best when I trust myself. I think this is probably a universal truth for writers. When I trust that the words will come and the characters will keep talking, not only do the words flow better but I also find that my subconscious will help tie all the plot points together, even if I can’t see consciously how they should all fit. (Yes, I do make a rough outline, but the characters never seem to stick to it!)
So, my goal is to keep writing and to trust that I can finish these stories without letting myself get mired in doubt. I also need to remember that first drafts are usually terrible and editing is what makes the story shine. I don’t have to have a perfect story in the first draft! I have so many characters that I love, and I want to tell all of their stories. I just have to trust that I can do it.
Has anyone had a problem like this and have any insights? I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts.