When 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.