Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On Fear

This post originally comes from Eventide Unmasked, where I've been tracking the progress of my current writing goals.

Since I'm in the midst of trying to remedy said fear and get myself on track, I thought I'd share something different from the calm and collected I usually post with, as I simply can't spare the time to write my planned post for this week.

Consider this my extended answer to Janet's discussion on fear.

On Fear

I promised myself I'd log the progress of this word count grind, and post both the ups and the downs as I went along. So often we only see the final outcome of writers at work, and as Lilith Saintcrow said in a recent post on the cost of writing, there's an illusion of grace expected with the craft, and no one wants to see the bloody cotton inside the pointe shoes (Lili's analogy, not mine).

I've enjoyed this process, I've found new stamina in myself to meet and exceed these words counts, and I've stopped fretting so much over what will get cut as I'm in the act of laying it down. Unfortunately I've also found (which I already knew), that I can be complacent, lazy. I won't throw a half-assed story out in the world, but if I can just hit that word goal and go do something else, I often stop there, 'meaning to come back later' and never write more that day when I could push further.

The problem, alongside a lack of fretting over paragraphs that may be cut but will help me move from one scene to another right now, is I'm beginning to look at that looming deadline and worry.

I'm afraid. I've passed the halfway point and I'm heading into the final stretch, and yet I feel like I still have so much to do. And the further I go, the more comfortable I get in just writing out a scene, wandering a bit in things I think are valuable now but look back on and know I'll cut, and not just clipping through scene after scene at a sleek, efficient pace. It's fine for a first draft, but not on a deadline.

I'm afraid that while, yes, I'm writing a 100k novel, I may actually need to toss down 120k to get to the end before I go back and hack and slash, and I haven't budgeted time for those extra words. I can see that deadline looming and I'm worried about reaching it, overshooting it, losing my revision time.

I'm getting into blank territory as well, places where I don't have a clear idea of subsequent scenes, just points to reach across a gap of undeveloped story. I'm worried about the time, the lack of available time, it might take to figure those things out, make false starts and go back to try again. If I write an entire page and it's going in the wrong direction, and I know I just need to cross it out and take things another way, does that still count toward word count? Do I even have time for it to count?

And it's not enough just to get the draft written and move on to revisions. I've conference prep to do, a pitch to prepare, little things like business cards that will get put off for not being pressing until it's suddenly too late and they won't arrive in time. I'm afraid I've been stupid and not allowed enough time for all this, or worse, that I have enough time but I lack the discipline to just damn well do it. To stop shunting things aside and accepting the required minimum, and start working my ass off until it's done.

I know the answers to all this. Write more, work harder, get it done. I know I have to do it, and that eventually I will. Or I think I will. It doesn't make things any better right now. I think this stage is inevitable, in fact I recall thinking when I started this how I would be sure to blog when I got overwhelmed by things rather than pretending everything was peachy. Until I get pissed off, however, and get my ass moving, I will continue to worry. I just hope giving voice to these things will help me put them aside.

And I hope I get pissed off in time to still meet my goals.


Karyn Good said...

If you weren't somewhat fearful of meeting deadlines and not keeping to a schedule or working towards a certain goal it would mean you didnt' care. Apathy would be worse.

So here's to getting pissed off enough to meet those goals!

Helena said...

You almost make me feel good, Hayley. But not really, tho I do get what you're going through. I only feel good to the extent that "misery loves company."

Just so you know, there's lots of this particular fear to go around.

And I echo Karyn's toast!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Hayley,
Karyn and Helena are right; a certain amount of fear is healthly. It pushes you toward your goals. Just don't let the fear get out of hand or it will paralyze you.

Keep working hard (this spoken by the woman who sometimes cleans toilets to avoid writing)but remember a first draft doesn't have to be perfect. It'll get there.