Sunday, November 15, 2009

Eluding the Writing Police

Just a reminder to enter a comment if you'd like to be entered in this month's drawing for a copy of Hot Apple Cider, an anthology containing Bonnie's short story, The Stuckville Cafe. And "welcome" if you're stopping by for the first time!

There is a stretch of highway between Reno/Lake Tahoe and Sacramento where you can find the California Highway Patrol out in force on any given afternoon - especially on Sundays. Locals know that you're more likely to be ticketed when speeding westbound than eastbound, and which highway exits offer the best spots for patrol cars to hide. Four cars were pulled over today on a mere half-mile stretch of road. Just knowing they are being observed is enough to make the most cautious driver keep the speedometer down a few miles below the speed limit.

It reminded me of how I used to feel the 'writing police' were watching me when I first started writing. Feeling as though you're being watched or that someone is looking over your shoulder as you write is enough to slow your progress and put the brakes on your creative processes. It can stifle the way you write, the topics you write about and undermine your confidence. It can pull you over and make you explain yourself.

While I was working on my first novel, my husband was a senior pastor at our church. I struggled with my writing because I imagined the entire church crowded in the room looking over my shoulder. In truth, I can't think of anyone who would have had a problem with my writing. It was a good story without any offensiveness, but I couldn't shake the feeling of disapproval. I didn't finish it until a year after we'd moved away, at which time I felt such relief - such a sense of freedom - to know that I didn't have to meet their expectations. Maybe I had been afraid of disappointing them.

I think that simply completing that manuscript bolstered my confidence. And even after completing two more, I sometimes still remind myself that our God does not give us a spirit of timidity. He will equip us for whatever ministry He has called us.

Have you encountered the 'writing police'? Perhaps you have and you've learned to cope. They could be close or extended family, a husband or wife, your parents or even a member of your critique group. Short of moving away from the real or imagined critics, what helped you the most to overcome? We'd love to hear from you.

10 comments:

Sara said...

my biggest help in ignoring the critics (and especially my own internal one) is listening to the encouragers instead. My husband, especially, offers steady, reliable assurance that I'm going to finish, that it's going to be good, that he wants me to write. We all need our own cheerleading section. :)

Carla Gade said...

Although my family and friends are very supportive of my writing, since they don't understand all that is involved in learning the craft and business, being truly ready, they are always wondering why I just don't send in one of my stories. I tend to feel a bit of pressure that way, that others are waiting for me to get it done. It doesn't put a fire under me, but instead I freeze. I have to keep the blinders on and just focus on the One who matters the most. I need to be diligent and follow His timing.

Nichole Osborn said...

Thanks for sharing Debbie. I think my "writing police" are my own doubts and fears. I just have to ignore them and keep writing. My husband is a super "cheerleader".

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Sara, you reminded me that I used to keep a 'Warm Fuzzies' file where I'd put any encouraging comments I'd received about my writing. It helped me over some discouraging places.

Carla, I agree with you. It's nice that people have confidence in your ability, but even the most well-meaning comments can add unnecessary pressure.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Nichole, I think the internal writing police are the most insidious. They know us too well! Sometimes I'd like a switch to turn the volume down on them.

Connie Brzowski said...

Writing police equals my mother the pastor's wife. Oh boy. . .

Eventually I just had to let her read a manuscript and take cover.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Connie - that brings up an interesting point. Sometimes our significant others (extended version) are concerned that what we write will somehow be a reflection on them. They may have expectations that are not fulfilled. Hmmm...

Nikole Hahn said...

Yes. For a long time, my writing suffered. My family's eyes were always trying to read in between the lines and getting offended if they thought there was anything, even the tiniest resemblence to their family, to any situation, to anything. This made me paranoid. It also caused my writing to suffer for a few years. Not much came from my computer because I was too busy pleasing "The Writing Police." What only writers realize is the little bits of pieces of our lives that go into every word like pieces of shattered glass. There's a little reflection of something in my life here and there, but nothing concrete. It takes courage to write because you are baring your soul to the cold world, but if you lack this courage, your writing is lackluster.

Patti Hill said...

I'm very thankful for a certain set of writing "police" in my life. I quit teaching to write. The teachers from the elementary school asked me what page I was on every time I saw one of them. I hated it. Didn't they realize I had research and outlining to do, that novels aren't pulled from the air? Novels are constructed, for heaven's sake.

My angst diminished considerably when I ran through the halls with 100 pages of manuscript flapping in the breeze. I love those ladies for nagging me toward completion.

Still, the most discouraging writing police live in my head. Sometimes I just have to tell them to shut up. Yep, it's not nice to talk that way, but that's what works.

fzelda said...

I am find writing with literary abandonment during this year's NaNoWriMo experience has helped free me from that miserable policeman and write courageously

to keep the cop away during the editing process ... will take focus and determination ...

To publish it ... ahhhh ... that will take tremendous courage ...