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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tricks & Props


Years ago I wrote an elaborate description of the perfect writing room. I decided that I needed an antique oak writing desk placed strategically in front of a large naked window with a scenic view. I also had to have an over-stuffed chair so I could relax while conjuring breathtaking prose. I envisioned rich mahogany bookshelves bulging with volumes from all of my favorite authors. And of course I could only use a state of the art laptop (with the best music apps) to write with.

I really believed that I needed all of the above mentioned props…and that I couldn’t possibly write without them. What I didn’t realize was that this was just a clever way for my subconscious to trick me into putting my writing off. I’m assuming the reason for such self-deception was to divert my fragile ego from the real issue…which was that I lacked confidence in my ability to actually write an amazing novel and I was terrified of failure.

Procrastination distracted me from facing my fears with his reassuring stories about how I not only deserved a wonderful writing space, but I NEEDED one in order to make contact with my muse. Procrastination is clever. He knows how to pitch a story… and provide an alibi. I’m guessing he used to be a politician or a lawyer.

I put off writing anything serious for years; carrying my novel within me, like the fertile seeds of motherhood, waiting in crimson silence for conception.

Then one day, while cruising some yard sales, I purchased a book entitled Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. She spoke about writing in an authentic way by ignoring the rules; thus allowing the uniqueness of the writer’s voice to reveal itself. Reading this little paperback literally changed my life…and it only cost me twenty five cents!

Soon my desire to write shadowed my desire for my imaginary room and I began jotting down thoughts. I wrote while waiting in the doctor’s office, and at red lights; scribbling on used McDonald’s napkins. I wrote at the grocery store using the back of my shopping list, and on bumpy paper towels at the dinner table; pushing aside my food in order to satisfy an even deeper hunger. I was driven… and I loved every electrical thought provoking minute of it.


With Natalie’s help, my muse had wrestled procrastination to the ground. A year later I completed my very first novel. It’s a beautiful work of fiction entitled Cosette’s Tribe, and I’m as proud of it as a new mother is of her first child.


If you’re procrastinating about a dream, chances are it’s the flimsy efforts of an overly sensitive ego trying to save face. Stop waiting for unnecessary props and do what you love now. Don’t save for dancing lessons before stepping onto the dance floor, for it’s in doing that we learn and in living that we live… get out there and do something!

16 comments:

Christine said...

Excellent! I, too, have suffered from lack of confidence when it comes to my writing. I am afraid of failure. I took a writing workshop last year and the author/instructor encouraged us to do exactly what you are doing: jotting down things as you go along your daily life. Good for you for breaking through!

Leah Griffith said...

Hi Christine! Yeah, confidence is a slippery thing...very tough to hold onto. I just keep pushing through all the nonsense. I've never been to a writer's conference but I have done a few workshops and they were very helpful.

Cheryl said...

Hi Leah, Good for you for breaking through. I think it would be fun just to form a group/club for people that enjoy writing. A group that share their feelings ie what they want to "get" from writing and what they actually "get" from writing. I was reading a post recently where someone said she picks the blogs she reads from the first couple of sentances that are written (in that post). She wants sentance structure and content to capture her. Yikes, she isn't going to be reading mine. I think we all have different reasons we write and that leads to how and what we write.
I think collaberating about our processes would be fun. Support for those times that we are totally devoid of inspiration.

Leah Griffith said...

Hi Cheryl, I believe there are many groups like you described online and probably at least one in your community. You just have to fish them out and make certain it’s the right group for you. I’ve visited a few online sites and a couple of writing groups within my community. They’re fun to explore, but I’m so noncommittal…and busy, that people end up getting pissed at me for not showing up enough. LOL! We do need each other though…and it’s wonderful being able to share.

Anonymous said...

Leah,

Another great article...I love reading your blog. It always make me think. Thanks for being there for me.

Linda

Leah Griffith said...

Hello Linda,
Thank you for being there for me too. Your comment was sweet and it made me feel as though my words matter. Nice.

Chris said...

I left a comment on your previous post that got lost as Blogger went down, but I said that your tone there reminded me of V. Woolf and _A Room of One's Own_. Here you are again, asking what kind of space we need to let our thoughts run freely. In 1928, Woolf had to insist on financial security and physical space. It feels comforting to know we've advanced at least to recognize that sometimes it's the mental space we need...

Leah Griffith said...

Hi Chris, I remember that post. I definately have to read some V. Woolf...she sounds like my kind of writer. I would love to have the financial security, plus the room, but I'm just grateful for the mental space...and that's hard to find at times.
I just got a Kindle as a Mother's Day gift and I have a long train ride in my future...looks like an opportunity to download some of her words. Thanks;)

Jayne said...

Leah! My goooodness you just gave me the little kick in the derriere I've been needing. Procrastination and self-doubt is my nemeses. Funny, I've written quite a bit about the "room of my own" and read a lot of Woolf, but I'm still working on the discipline part. I just have to stay out of the kitchen... it is not the best workspace for me! ;)
Now I want a copy of your book. How come I don't see it on your sidebar? Please let me know how I can get a copy!

Leah Griffith said...

Hi Jayne, It seems like we have a lot in common. Most writers I meet have issues with self-doubt and procrastination even though their work is fantastic and they love to write. Btw Jayne…your writing is fantastic.
I still secretly want my room though…at least the part with the window looking out onto a picturesque landscape ;)
The reason you don’t see my book on my sidebar is because it has not been published yet. I’ve been querying since January and so far not one agent has requested to read it. The rejections can’t possibly be taken personally because they’ve never read the book. I’m revising my query in hopes of “dazzling” some bored agent. Part of me resents this process, and the self appointed gate keepers who believe they hold the key to my future, but Ma used to say “cream always rises to the top Leah.” Thanks for asking about it Jayne, I’ll be sure to let you know when it comes on the market.

Jayne said...

Oh Leah, I hope it happens for you! It's so much about fit and timing and contacts... scary process, but good for you for hanging in there. We know you have a little hidden gem, so it'll happen. Have those publishers look at this blog to see for themselves how much we love you and your writing! :)

Leah Griffith said...

Jayne, your generous words were like an injection of inspiration. Thank you for that.
My novel was written from an authentic, and vulnerable place, yet with the bravery of a warrior, and I believe it will deliver something substantial for my readers to take away with them. I am determined to put my book out there...one way or another ;)

Anna L. Walls said...

Awesome, course, I wish I had a nice desk to sit at, in a nice quiet office where I could close the door on the noisy world. Until then, I'll make do with the kitchen table in front of the TV where I sit strategically between my husband and the coffeepot. haha Happy writing.

pixielui said...

I have been thinking about maybe asking to read your book again...I am just a bit afraid. Some publisher got to realize that he/she is about to slide down the rainbow but of course he/she needs to get off his/her duff. :)

Leah Griffith said...

Hi Anna, you do a lot of writing too! I like a quiet place...usually in my room at my desk or in my recliner. I don't need a lot of props but quiet is nice to have ;) Keep up the great writing...you're fantastic!

Leah Griffith said...

Hey Miss Pixielui! Of course you can re-read my book. We'll load it to your Nook this weekend. Don't be afraid...at least you know what to expect this time, and you can always skip around. ;)

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