When Writing Comes Easy, Don’t Make These Mistakes

540426_pensWhen the writing comes fast and furious, we authors should feel exited and make the most of the good times, the freely pouring words. However, if you’re anything at all like little INFJ me–I do enjoy Myers-Briggs testing and the insight it gave me about myself, even if it’s got some problems and isn’t any be-all, end-all kind of system–you can still find yourself making mistakes.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes when the writing came easy. I’m one of those people who find it hard to be satisfied, or I get caught in the trend of what I’m doing and so forget about other things. But that brings us to the mistakes:

1. WORRYING ABOUT WHEN THE FLOW WILL DRY UP

I’m big on this one. I like to feel in control of things, I like to plan ahead, and I tend to think catastrophically and hone in on worst-case scenarios. While in a general sense, it’s good to think ahead to some extent and be prepared for the future, we also need to live in the moment, because the moment is all we have. When the words DO dry up, there are ways to evaluate our next steps. (Having a writing routine is a good way to work through those times, if you hold yourself to it.)

The flow drying up IS a “when” issue, not an “if.” But let that comfort you…. When it hits, you can know it’s not something you did, not something unusual, and therefore not a sign that you shouldn’t or can’t be a writer. It comes with the territory.

Unnecessary anxiety, like fearing the words will stop coming, only messes up the present, distracts us, distresses us, and may very well contribute TO the phenomenon of “being unable to write.”

2. WRITING TOO MUCH: LEADING TO BURNOUT.

We are meant to lead balanced, healthy lives, and that means not putting too much emphasis on any aspect of our worldly existence: including our hobbies or our careers. Doing so leads to burnout. There are times when deadlines are approaching, and we have to make a push to get the work done. But the stress and the strain on our bodies and minds that kind of a push entails should not be a standard, self-imposed state of being.

Even if writing is your legitimate career and pays the bills, you have to make time to disconnect and let work GO. I read recently in an article on teacher burnout on Edutopia  how critical it is to remember we’re human beings, not human doings. Sometimes, we just have to let ourselves be.

3. GETTING SO FOCUSED ON WRITING THAT WE FORGET OTHER THINGS.

Writing is good, and it can be fun. It can teach us TONS about human nature, about life and the world, and about ourselves: what our strengths and weaknesses are, what changes we should make, what we can do differently next time or what areas of our life and our personality need our attention.

BUT, writing is still a secondary thing in life. For me personally, God comes first. Then there are my personal relationships; the need to journal (which is one way I connect with God); the need make a living; the need to consider others and their suffering; the need to just rest,  do nothing, and enjoy a beautiful day sitting on the front porch. There’s the need to care for our bodies through exercises and healthy eating. Do I do these things all the time? Not nearly enough, and not necessarily because I’m focusing too much on fiction. But  I do try to remind myself of what really matters in life…. Writing and fiction are not among the first tier of things.

4. THINKING ABOUT ALL THE EDITS AND CHANGES YOU WILL HAVE TO MAKE. 

When writing comes easy, the surest way I tend to stop the words in their tracks is to start thinking about how bad the story or my style is, and all the changes I’ll have to work at some point down the road. This problem will need attention, and that scene I can tell doesn’t work quite rightly, and….

I usually stop writing at that point, either because I’m feeling unsettled or because I go back to edit what I’ve written: material I very well may end up cutting anyway, once the whole story is there and I have a clearer idea of what really contributes to its development and makes it interesting.

I try to remind myself that for everything there truly is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. For me, and personal writing style, the time to edit is NOT mixed up with the time to write. That doesn’t work for me. And I personally don’t think it works best for the vast majority of writers.

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23 responses to “When Writing Comes Easy, Don’t Make These Mistakes

  1. This was an interesting post, thanks. I just a few hours ago cut 600 words out of a post I’d queued when I reread it as a disinterested critic. Writing is easy for me, but what about my readers, they don’t have all day. I realised that most of the content was not necessary to make the point and that I needed to make fewer irrelevant statements and more definitive points. It’s the reason I try never to publish anything just after writing. I’ll end up making every mistake. Have a great weekend.

    • Love this! It’s important to cut the unnecessary stuff, like you say. Othewise the deep and important and meaningful stuff gets lost in the clutter.

      • Exactly right. I think it’s hard to say this to people because you don’t want people accidentally editing out the important points. I do enjoy a rambling post but I don’t assume that everyone does. My English literature teacher in high school used to chide me for not making my point. This is the place to get ignored a lot if I don’t so it’s very good advice that has always stayed with me and that mysteriously, I now understand. x

  2. I, too, am very fond of personality typing. I use 16personalities.com as my vehicle, and I liked so much the information that it gave me about myself (INTJ), that personality typing is now a key part of the development of my main characters. Interestingly, there has so far only been one that shares my type, and she was the assertive variant, not turbulent like me.

  3. When I was drafting my series, the ideas flowed so fast and beautifully that I never wanted to stop.
    However, I felt I had priorities, just like you. As a wife and mom of nine, I knew I had to put them first. I actually prayed asking for direction and balance.
    Interestingly, nearly every afternoon at about 4pm my ideas dried up. That’s when the thought, “What are you making for dinner?” would pop into my head, and I knew God was reminding me that my family needed to eat, and that the flow would begin again sometime after 9pm when the house was quiet again.
    It CAN all be done, probably not as quickly as we like, but balance can be achieved if priorities are set in line first. I have less time now than I wished, and I’m about six months behind my self-imposed schedule for publishing my next in the series, but that’s ok. My family’s happy, so I am too.

  4. I have a tendency to home in on #4. When I’m revising/editing for long periods of time, then I get caught in #s 2 & 3. I wish that my writing flowed more smoothly. Like you, I’m not easily satisfied with my work!

  5. I’ve been lucky to avoid true burnout. There’s always enough of a spark to work on one of the ideas even if it’s just an outline or toying with a passing thought. I do fear that I’ll work too hard on the current series and get bored with the characters. This is why I’m only editing over the summer. I’m guilty of #3 a lot. Still need to master that when working on a first draft.

  6. Thanks for the post, Victoria.

    I like personality typing too. Do I recall correctly that you don’t use outlines for your writing? That seems rather anti-J to me. 🙂

    Personally, I’m an INTP, and have often worked in settings full of ISTJ types. It’s not easy for ISTJ types to work with an INTP. 😉 I’m seen as unorthodox at best, and wrong at worst. I prefer to think of myself as unique.

    The INP parts are high on the scale for me. The T part is borderline, which helps me not get worried so much. I tend not to over think things–and make alterations when they become necessary, accepting that alterations are just a part of the process. So #1 and #4 don’t affect me a lot. #3 gets me some, but the really bad one for me is #2. When I get burned out, then I have to just step away. Sometimes I end up stepping away for too long. But if I try to come back too soon, I get burned out too quickly again.

  7. I like this. Advice I do know, but sometimes it is easy to forget. 🙂 I also like how much you have included making time for God and faith in this. I sometimes catch myself less inclined to, say, pray or read because I say to myself “I need this time for writing”. But it’s easily done. I’m an INFJ, too, by the way. 🙂

  8. Thank you! I was ambling through Facebook this morning, reading all the “writing is SO hard, ALL the time” whining, then this post came up. It’s good to hear both sides of the story.

    The world needs to remember, we write because we like it!

  9. Yes, we should all remember the important simple things in life that keeps us healthy.

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