Friday, October 10, 2008

Fearless Writing

In the last few weeks, I've been suffering from a gnarly crisis of faith in my ability to write. It's been terrible. I write, I read what I wrote, and I sob at my complete lack of skill and finesse.

I have critique partners at school, so I e-mailed them about my schlock of a submission for this month. They wrote me back with lots of encouragement to shuck the fear. I got an e-mail from a crit partner from last term, who reminded me of what I told him a few months ago about giving yourself permission to let loose in your writing. And then I continued to write schlock, pine, and whine. Until I found a quote in Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer.
The greatest talent in writing is nerve: You bet your ego that your unconscious has something in it beside dinner.
The free association neurons in my brain zipped over to a comment one of my professors - Dr. Mike Arnzen - made during a workshop at the last residency. You're writers, he told us. You are obligated to stretch your creativity.

Tonight, all those free association neurons went into overdrive, and I realized that my crit partners, my professor, and Dwight Swain have given me the key to get over this hump. I must be fearless. Be creative. Be fearless in my creativity because it's my job. How else can I hope to entertain readers if I'm not willing to stretch the bounds of fiction*? What good is a writer who isn't willing to set aside reservation and plunge into the deep black pool of Story? How can I hope to make my readers sit up straight, gasp, cry, laugh, or get up to turn on all the lights in the house if I insist on staying in the shallows?

It's time to let go of the reservations. If I dive too deep and get lost in the dark, I've got that magical delete button to rescue me. But if I hit on something amazing in those depths, won't it have been worth the exploration?

* Within reason, of course, according to the laws of the universe and the motivations of the characters in the story.


Donnell said...

KL. your post gave me goose bumps. There's nothing more insecure than a writer, or more powerful when her words work. Your writing professor sounds so wise! Thanks for posting this today.

Ann said...

Great post KL. :)

Glad you got your writing mojo back! Be fearless. Push the edges.

KL Grady said...

Donnell - The prof is definitely wise. And also a little weird. But in a totally good way. LOL

Ann - Thanks for the wise words to help with the missing mojo!

Leslie Ann said...

Hey KL,
Where was that quote and your professor when I was having my crisis a couple of months ago.

I love the concept of the black pool of story. LOVE IT.

You dive deep, come up for air, then go again. There's treasure down there.

Love you fellow scriber,

KL Grady said...

LA - Right?! I had an ah-ha moment when Arnzen told us it was our job to flex our creativity.

It took my crit partners and Swain to make me realize that if it's my job, I'm obligated. If I hold back, I'm shirking my duty. :)

Leslie Ann said...

I'm so impressed with that. Holey moley, now I feel like I have to rewrite everything :) And I'm only half kidding.

I think I need to have that quote to put on my computer.


KL Grady said...

LA - No need to rewrite everything. One project at a time. :) I'm reconsidering both of my current WIPs to see if I truly stretched my creativity as far as I could have. On the romance, I'm thinking not. I could have gone crazy with a few elements but pulled back out of fear.

Love ya, girl. You're an awesome writer.

Audra Harders said...

KL, your post hit my nerve center right on the head. How can we write fearlessly when we're scared ourselves? Gotta break through. I've had to do it many, many times. What about writing makes it so difficult? It's just words, right?

It's just words when it's an English paper. It's your soul when you write fiction that touch others.

Don't be afraid to reach and touch someone : )

Great post!

Leslie Ann said...

Wow, Audra, well said. I know I've pulled back many times because I was afraid to write the story in my gut, or the story was written and I was afraid to revise, uncertain whether it would be better or worse.

I agree, story is so much more than words on paper.

You guys are inspiring me.

Kathleen said...

Wow! Thank you for sharing your inspiration. I am new to the idea of writing for readers other than myself. It helps to be "fearless."

Beth Fehlbaum, Author said...

I agree with what you're saying-- you just have to let loose and write.

Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
Ch. 1 & Book Trailer are online!