Time for a confession:
I have a writing problem.
I can’t make decisions. It’s a problem of choices. There are so many choices…
This shouldn’t seem like a serious problem; choices are good, right?
Let me explain the why of this problem…
As part of a sponsor’s duties, one writes a inspirational post. Thing is… there are SO very many things out there that could be defined as “inspirational”. I never know if what I’m saying will help my fellow writers. Even limiting the topics to “writing inspiration” doesn’t narrow the field. Picking a solitary topic for me is akin to the authorial version of scaling Mt. Everest in a swimsuit. Terrified by the overwhelming odds, often I give up before I make that first step.
This post was due weeks ago (it’s February 23rd, and Kait wanted it by January 6th) but nothing I picked felt good enough to be The One. The ideas flowed fast and furious. Should I write about Insecurity as a Writer? How about that Nagging Inner Voice–the Fickle Muse?
Oh, the choices… I feel exhausted just thinking about the options. It really looked like Mt. Everest. And yet I was foundering in the dirt and Base Camp 1. (Huh! That’s a ways up—how’d I get here?) Getting started… Getting started always stops me.
Getting Started! Oh, now that would be a great post too. (See how hard is it to just start sometimes?)
There’s more to this confession.
A few months back I asked for help gathering ideas for this post. Thing was, I didn’t need more ideas. It’s not hard to come up with ideas… I already had a ton. I was looking for help in narrowing down my choices. If anyone mentioned an idea… then it was probably good, a bit of consensus that meant it would resonate with others.
I didn’t get much feedback, and the bit I got confused the issue–something new I hadn’t though of. Oh, no, more choices loomed! Did this mean all my original ideas were terrible? Should I abandon those and try these? And how did I deal?
Well, I didn’t stop dead. I researched the choices (another great sponsor post idea… the Problem with Research); I gathered webpage after webpage on the Inner Voice, or Writer’s Block, on Time Management…
I did all sorts of things that weren’t writing.
The delay in writing this sponsor post had other effects. Because no one was “waiting” for my fiction writing, it felt wrong to spend mental energy there, and now glacial winds have nearly stripped that landscape barren. I began to wonder if a post on Choosing Priorities might be in order, or perhaps a post on knowing when to just stop and say “Maybe I’m Not a Writer“ (as I hinted I might write in a previous sponsor post).
Thing is… I like writing, even the frustrating bits like editing and critiquing and planning. I love reading (not only other people’s work but my own once it’s been edited and proofed). And… there really is only one thing that can happen. I have to write. I have to be a writer. Writers write. Writers also submit stuff, make mistakes, choose the wrong words or ideas for the piece they need to do. Writers make mistakes. They don’t try to do it all. They make a choice and write. And if that doesn’t work, they make another choice and write and then another and then another…
They take steps up that mountain. Sometimes they slide down on their rump, and sometimes they lay in their tent a few extra days nursing wounds. But they climb on because they’ve chosen to be writers.
If you’re interested in more about this phenomena… (Research is good, right?) here are some TED talks about how choice can be as much of a curse as a blessing:
Sheena Iyengar explains how deliberate attempts to limit choice might be cultural or protective, and in a second TEDxSalon talk (industry funded) she gives specifics on why some of us might not “buy” the next idea we get…