(day 29): coming back to what really matters

Revisiting the purpose of the writing challenge at the almost one month mark

(day 29): coming back to what really matters
Photo by Ember Navarro on Unsplash

Tomorrow is Sunday, which means I'll be emailing Dean my word count for this week and also my total word count since the challenge began on the first of April.

Except for one week, April 10–16, my non-fiction word count (primarily from my blog posts on this site) has far exceeded my fiction word count.

On days I haven't written fiction, I've still been coming to the site and posting an update to ensure I can enter a word count in my daily tracker.

At the end of one month, I'm looking at these numbers and thinking that this is entirely defeating the purpose of the challenge.

I joined the challenge because I wanted to write more fiction words. That I could use blog posts to add to my word count was a safety net that is now turning out to be a prison wall!

I want to practice storytelling and become a better fiction writer, not a better blogger. If I'm only typing words here so that they can add up to a respectable total, then I'm only fooling myself.

It is a quick short-term win, no doubt, but I want the long-term benefits of having put together words of fiction into a novel or a short story. And by giving into these short-term temptations, I'm completely sabotaging my long-term goal of building a career writing fiction.

A couple of things I've learned this month though.

  • No matter what, I've been coming to the computer and typing at least a few words. Perhaps I could do the same with my manuscripts?
  • Throughout the day, my mind is often filled with the thoughts I wish to share on the website. Perhaps I could do the same with my manuscripts?
  • It is said, "Where your attention goes, there your energy flows." Can I pay more attention to the stories I'm telling, my body of fiction, instead of the stories I'm trying to tell about writing and storytelling?

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I realized 'I've been doing it all wrong.' What I meant by that was exactly this: I've been thinking and writing about writing, instead of diving into simply writing fiction and seeing where it leads.

If I have to toss out what I've written, so be it. If at the end of it, my story doesn't feel very exciting to me, so be it. Why am I so afraid of doing that?

It often feels as if I am my own sole saboteur when it comes to writing fiction.

Last evening, I picked up a fight with KrA at bedtime. I knew what I was doing. I had fallen behind on creating my monthly newsletter, which is all set to go out tomorrow morning. And I was feeling overwhelmed.

  • I was sharing something vulnerable in the newsletter, and I was anxious about how it would be received.
  • I didn't like that what I was writing was dark and bleak at times, although everything ends on an optimistic and hopeful note, you can be rest assured. But still, I couldn't bring myself to write down those dark words or keep them on the screen once I had written them.
  • I didn't like that I was judging my writings and my efforts thus.
  • I didn't like that there was still a whole bunch left to put together when I went to bed, coughing and shivering from chills, having caught whatever bug D is fighting too.

Instead of feeling this discomfort and setting out to do the smallest task to make some progress, I got into an argument with KrA about how I was unable to write because he wasn't pulling his weight when it came to parenting and running the household.

It's a lie that my mind has concocted and cemented over the years just so that it won't have to face the anxiety of creating.

Sad, but true! And I am so sorry, KrA!

I don't know how to explain it, but this is probably the very definition of self-sabotage.

This reminded me of a comment I had read over on one of Dean Wesley Smith's posts a few days ago. Dean wrote about the various myths writers tend to buy into, which keeps them from writing fiction and making a living from it.

Dean has always been against beta readers; typically, these are first readers who get to read your manuscript before you've published it and give you feedback and suggestions on how to improve it.

I had two beta readers too for my first book, In Search of Leo. I roped in two of my well-read friends and asked them to look at my draft. They came back showering heaps of praise on me, which left me wondering if they were just being too nice to say what a load of tosh that story was.

I found Dean's blogs and opinions on the self-publishing industry soon after, and I've been following much of his advice on the matter.

In response to his blog post on myths, someone by the name of Philip wrote a very insightful comment:

"Funny thing I’ve noticed in the indie world since I first got involved about 8 years ago: in the beginning, everyone raved about the fact indie meant no more gatekeepers, yet over the years the indie gurus have added more and more of their own gatekeepers (beta readers, editors, street team, various creative coaches, etc)."
~ Philip in a comment on Dean Wesley Smith's blog post titled Myth Believer

I had never looked at it this way, but this perspective reminded me of how all too often, we think we want freedom. But the instant we get it, it terrifies us and we come up with ways to imprison ourselves even more.

It's the same with money. Same with success. Same with love.

Our internal saboteurs seem to scream the loudest when we have all the freedom and time on earth to do the work we claim we desperately want to do.

So, seing as I've spent every day in April writing a blog post, I'll spend the month of May writing fiction every day. No more excuses!

Which means I'm not going to keep up with these daily posts on the blog. But because I enjoy them so much, I'll reward myself by allowing myself a maximum of one blog post a week on matters close to my heart. That too, at the end of the week.

So on a Sunday night perhaps, when the world is asleep and I ought to be in bed too, I'll come over here to write about the week and what I learnt, instead of keeping up with it as a daily affair.

May will also be the last full month of school for D before summer break begins in mid-June. I best use this time to get some fiction words down, because the summer holidays typically end up being zero productivity months for me.

There are only so many summer breaks I'll have with my little one, and I certainly wish to be with him instead of worrying about deadlines and rigorous publishing schedules.

So I'll make the most of the month of May!

Of course, my monthly newsletters will go out without any interruption.

I'll come back here tomorrow for one last 'April is coming to an end' daily blog post, and then I'll put in an appearance here only on Sundays, if at all.

That should be impetus enough for me to write more stories.

I have all the freedom. Let me not create my own gatekeepers!