I’ve talked before about all the different problems that can pop up for a writer and cause writer’s block. There are probably a million different reasons why a writer might show up to their writing time, feeling ready to get to work, yet when it’s time to put fingers to keys they just can’t seem to get any words out. Lately, though, there’s one reason that’s been plaguing me more than any other:
Having too-high expectations.
Don’t get me wrong, I think having semi-high expectations is a good way to keep improving. If you’re not bothered by low-quality work, then what motivation do you have for learning and doing better?
There is a dark side to high expectations, however, and it is when your expectations are unrealistic.
Look, I’m still very much learning as a writer. Often, the ideas in my head are better than my ability to actually flesh them out on paper. This discrepancy causes a lot of lamentation from me and probably quite a few of you. The story we write is never quite as good as what we have in our head, is it?
The novel that I’m currently working on for Camp NaNoWriMo is one that I’ve actually written before. Back in 2018, I wrote the first draft of “Mila” for, you guessed it, Camp NaNoWriMo. The end result was disappointing. I just couldn’t get the plot right, even though I loved the world and characters. And since then, I just haven’t been able to let the idea go entirely.
Two years on, and I’d like to think I’m a better writer. I’d like to think that I’m more able to tackle this novel which is, admittedly, a more difficult plot to pull off than most of the others I’ve tried.
But…I’m not sure that’s true. I struggled over the past few months to get my outline ready for Camp NaNo. I’m still not sure it’s where it needs to be, despite working on it every day for three months. Now that I’ve started drafting it, I find that the words just don’t want to come. And I have this mental block where every time I think about sitting down to write it, I think of some other more important thing I need to be doing instead.
That’s not totally abnormal for me, but I can say that through the whole of my Milwordy challenge—going all the way back to September—I don’t think I’ve been quite this avoidant of a project. And this is a story I’m more excited for than most that I’ve done before.
But I just can’t seem to get into it.
I think I figured it out though. I think that I’m scared. Scared to get this one wrong again. After all, I’ve already tried this once before and failed miserably. Now I’m expecting this draft to be so much better than the first one and I think it’s putting too much pressure on me to write it perfectly. I don’t want to fail again at the same project.
One of the reasons that challenges like Milwordy and NaNoWriMo work is that they allow you to turn off your inner editor for long enough to actually write something. With my inner editor hissing doubtful thoughts in my head every day, I’m finding it hard to create.
Maybe the truth is that this isn’t a good project for NaNoWriMo-style writing. Maybe I need to really take my time with it. Or maybe I need to stop myself from feeling like it has to be perfect.
Or maybe, as far as I’ve come, I am still not a good enough writer to pull off a more complex plot.
I don’t know what the answer is, but if my writing doesn’t start to pick up in the next few days, I’m going to have to abandon the Camp NaNo goal because it’s stalling me on Milwordy and I’ve come way too far to let that happen.
Do you ever hit stumbling blocks like this? What do you do to get back into the writing groove?
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