I think this might be because I feel pressure now when I sit down to write. Maybe because I’ve seen reviews. Did you know that if you’re published, people can actually READ WHAT YOU WROTE? In an abstract way, I did too, but it was something I really needed to consider better. Even happy-dance-inducing good reviews give me that zing that something I made is out there in the world…all alone. For me, this brings on the panicky feelings of my college creative writing class where I sat across from that boy, THE boy, the cool one with the tie dye and deep, dark eyes as he read and then critiqued my poem. Did he know it was mine? No. Did I want to slink from the room anyway? Yes. But that might have given me away so I suffered through the panic.
And that was a really good lesson. Critique sometimes takes the form of reviews now and those I can handle (she says with a nervous laugh), but I feel a shade of that while I stare at the blank page. What if this idea doesn’t work? What if this idea is just stupid? What if I can’t figure out what happens next? What if I go the wrong direction? What if spell-check mysteriously disappears from the world and I’m left on my own to figure out how to spell lable? Label. That one gets me every single time.
Even if it isn’t easy now, I’ve practiced enough to know that while that cursor is blinking, there’s hope. So the first scene I wrote is actually the middle of the book? Cut and paste. So the first scene I wrote doesn’t even go in this book? Delete and celebrate the remainder. What if I don’t know what happens next? Time to play Candy Crush. I'm learning all the tools.
And what if the words stop coming? Even through form rejections, revise-and-resubmit-and-then-rejection letters, rounds of revision, try and try again, and Word’s blessed red spell-check lines, the words have kept coming. While the cursor blinks and the words keep coming, I can rearrange them, and if I’m really lucky, a wonderful editor will point me in the right direction and help fix the things that blessed spell-check can’t. Trusting that this is true is something I’m still learning, and I need to look up my notes every time I start a new story. Also, I buy motivational coasters like the one in the picture. A reminder is always a good thing.
What about you? How do you feel about starting a new story?
PS. That boy? The artsy, good-looking, way too cool guy who read my poem? His critique: I would have chosen a different title. His title was better. I’ve always been terrible with titles.
The scariest moment is always just before you start. Stephen King, On Writing