Almost two years ago I started my 6th novel. Plotting and planning, then writing like mad. Research, plot adjustments, pondering, and more writing like mad.
Somewhere along the way, it crashed.
More precisely, I crashed.
Flashback to Success
On November 11th of 2011 I released 6 books simultaneously. (11/11/11, get it?) In the previous 6 months I’d written (or compiled) 4 books and co-authored 2 more, all books about business philosophy and process.
I switched to fiction. Finally followed up my first Irish adventure novel with a second, then started another series, and a third.
It was like driving a Lamborghini steamroller.
Then, I got some professional advice.
Flashback to the Opposite of Success
A respected writing coach volunteered to read some of my stuff. After finishing the first straight-from-my-fingers unedited draft of my 5th novel, they praised my ability to write, but closed with “This story is beneath you.”
It still hurts to think about it.
Crash and Aftermath
I reconsidered my abilities.
I looked into different genres I could be better at.
I considered giving up novels and sticking to songwriting.
I talked myself into finishing the book and published it.
I tried to talk myself into finishing the time travel fantasy I’d already started. Made progress in fits and starts, then ground to a halt.
I read every motivational book for writers I owned and a bunch more from the library.
I got feedback (universally overwhelmingly positive) about the half-draft of the time travel fantasy (“Don’t you DARE not finish this book!” was one comment.)
I got feedback on my fiction writing in general, again, universally positive (either my fans are a bunch of liars, or they already love what I write.)
I sat staring out the window a lot.
But I didn’t write.
The Odd Couple: Stephen King and Mark McGuinness
Mark is a poet. He also uses his training in psychiatry to help artists overcome their challenges to creativity.
King is an author. You knew that. You might not know that his best book is a memoir called On Writing which, far from being instructional, is purely anecdotal. Also the most inspiring giving-myself-permission book I’ve ever read.
Here’s the man himself on feeling exactly the way I felt:
“. . . in my heart I stayed ashamed. I kept hearing Miss Hisler asking why I wanted to waste my talent, why I wanted to waste my time, why I wanted to write junk.”—from Stephen King’s On Writing, p50
Poor sap. If only he’d known he was wasting his time. He could have gotten a job at the filling station instead of whatever it is he’s done with his life.
I mulled that for a week, all day, every day.
If Stephen King can be, not only told his work was “beneath him” but even, to this day, feel shame about the whole thing, and still write, so could I.
In a coaching session with Mark, we talked about why the comment hit me so hard (see Handbook of Psychiatry under “family”) and some practical ways to talk back to Resistance when it rears its ugly head.
I Can Do This. So Can You.
It’s not going to be easy. It’s never going to be easy.
It is doable.
I write what I write. It’s what I love. Every book is better than the last. None are perfect. Neither am I. My fans seem to love my books anyway.
Writing takes effort, emotional work, every single time you sit down.
After 2 years I’m ready to put in the work, face down Resistance every single day, and get back to creating art I love, art I love sharing.
What’s In This for You?
I’ll be writing regularly about what Resistance is, why it affects us, and how to make it irrelevant. I’ll answer any questions you have, and offer specific advice about any challenges you’re facing.
After all, once I’ve blazed this trail, it’d be silly not to make it available to others.