making changes

5265632247_0e61b78e3a_zI’ve been complaining for the past few months that everything I’ve written recently is absolute shit. I am not exaggerating. It is horrible.

But yesterday, someone said this to me:

“So what? Shitty writing is better than no writing at all. You’ve always been good at making your life more difficult for yourself, Erin. You seriously need to knock it off.”

My first thought was Well, excuseeeee me!!!!, but then  my second thought was You know what? You are absolutely correct.

I sabotage myself. I set myself up for failure, but because I can’t stand to fail at anything, I fight like hell to make sure I don’t drop the ball. In essence, I create triple the work necessary and then struggle to accomplish anything.

I read the books for my craft essays immediately, yet I don’t write the essays until the week the packet is due. I get these great ideas for my stories, but I don’t write them down, assuming I will remember them later. I lay down with my laptop and decide a 30 minute power nap will be a good idea, only to wake up 3 hours later. I write three pages and then instead of putting in the effort to make serious revisions, I trash them. I stare at my computer screen thinking insecure, mean thoughts for two hours, and then get frustrated that I didn’t write anything during that time. I sit in the car on the way to work (I’m the passenger) worrying that I’m going to fail out of school (always the worst case scenario) instead of taking out a notebook and jotting down ideas.

The deal? I create my own problems and anxiety. If I have no “good” writing to show for this semester so far, then it is simply because I have stunted my own creativity.

I’ve never been the type of writer who can sit down every single day and crank out a page or two or three. I’m more of a binger. I might write 10 pages one night and then not sit down at the computer for another week. Or I might write like a madwoman for 10 days straight and then not think of it for another 10 days. This has worked for me in the past.

It is obviously not working for me now.

Change is a hot word in my life this week. A few important people that I love with my whole heart are making some changes with their lives, and they’ve inspired me. Obviously the old way isn’t working, and something needs to be done. I need to create better habits, which include writing more words. I don’t care if the sentences suck and my story reads like a 4th graders diary entry. I just want quantity right now. If it is bad, I can fix it later.

My goal right now is to write one page per day at a minimum. I’ll be flexible with myself to start. It can be in a notebook, in my diary, double spaced on the computer, single spaced, whatever. But when push comes to shove, I want an entire page to be written before I go to sleep at night. I refuse to cut myself any slack with this new habit I’m creating. A page must be written. Even if all I can possibly do is complain about why I hate writing every day. Its going to happen. Once I get comfortable with this, I’ll up the page limit. Or change it all together. I just want more from myself. I deserve more from myself.

Do you guys have any suggestions for me?


  1. Reuben says:

    Some suggestions:
    -if you can, find a way to turn off the screen on your laptop, or place something over it so you can’t see. At Georgia Southern, we called this “writing blind” and it works amazingly well. You can’t edit while you writing if you can’t actually see what you’re writing and, for some reason, you feel freer (if that’s a word) to write more authentically. It’s like a confessional booth.

    -Free write at the same time and place every day. This really helps in building the habit of daily writing.

    -Mozart’s Sonata for two pianos in D major. Not too loud, just enough to drown out the room noise. Don’t ask me why but it helps.

    -Dream journal. It’s not creative writing but it gets you writing as soon as your conscious thereby shortening the time between your thoughts and the page.

    -set up writing stations so that if you’re drafting and you get stuck after a page or so you can pick up and move to a different physical place. Sometimes getting the body moving, even just a little bit, can help jog the brain along.

    Hope these help!

  2. Elizabeth Hilts says:

    A very wise friend of mine (who is a composer) once told me that he makes a date with his muse, Music, every day. “If she doesn’t show up, that’s on her.” I adopted that idea right away.

    One of the things I learned by doing the MFA program was discipline, real discipline. I stopped deleting writing just because it wasn’t perfect; my backup drive is full of this shitty writing. And I’d go back to it, look at it as dispassionately as I possibly could, read it out loud so maybe I might hear what was wrong with it, and revise.

    I also made a deal with a fellow writer to share everything I wrote once a week. No matter how bad it was. Some times I’d have to make little mini-deals:
    “I’m going to write from 7 to 9. I’ll email you when I start and when I stop.”
    “500 words today, minimum. Even if it’s shitty.”

    After a while, I didn’t have to make deals with anyone but myself. There is one thing I do to put myself in the zone: I listen to one particular piece of music before I start. Eyes closed. If the phone rings, too bad (that’s what answering machines are for). If I have a sudden urge to do laundry, too bad. I listen and I remind myself that art takes work and it’s time for work. I’ve had plenty of jobs where the first pass at a project was not quite right; I didn’t quit those jobs, I just worked on whatever it was until it was as right as possible.

    Hope that helps.

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