Monday, January 14, 2013

It's Not Butt In Chair, It's Hands On Keyboard

Gothic Goddess, here.

There's been a lot of talk lately about your word count and producing words and so on, and this is understandable. It's a new year, which means new beginnings and new goals and so on, and productivity/changing your habits is usually one on a lot of people's New Year's Resolutions list.

I'm okay with this. BUT!

Here's the thing. Like any new routine or goal, the enthusiasm and drive behind it can fizzle out about a week or so into it. They say it takes about three weeks to make or break a habit (some sources say six, but we'll go with three for argument's sake), so sticking with it (what’s called "discipline" for you free spirit hippy types) can be a challenge. This is where wanting it badly enough comes in, but I've covered that topic before.

What I'm going to talk about today is not desire, but fear.

See, I share our Bad Horse's opinion on the subject of writer's block. There's no such thing as writer's block. (I'm not talking about writer's angst or writer's apathy. These are two different animals I'll discuss here another time.) There's only fear.

And if you're going to be a writer, you have to stop being afraid.

That right there is the real goal. Anyone can produce words. It takes courage (guts, huevos, brass balls, a pair, cojones, a set, a backbone, a spine – you get it) to write, and I've met more than a few people who should really step back and admit to themselves that they're not brave enough to be a writer.

And you know what? That's okay.

It's okay to be afraid. It is. What makes the difference between a writer and someone who writes is what they do with that fear.

Someone who writes cries "writer's block" or whines about how they have no time to write or how they wish they could write or that they "should/want to get back to their writing" (that they haven't touched in months or years).

A writer sits down and puts their hands on the fucking keyboard and lets it happen, and THAT is terrifying. Every damned time.

Just because you accustom yourself to something doesn't mean it's less scary. It just means you're less afraid. Writing, like anything else you want to become proficient at, is scary as hell the first time you do it, but unlike firearms training or driver's education, every time you touch the keyboard, something different happens. There is no "getting used to" writing.

There's only letting yourself be okay with the fear.

Writing is about surrender, every time, and that can be tremendously frightening for control freaks.

But it's also insanely addictive and seductive. You create your own worlds, can control them (sometimes – more often than not they do what they want/control YOU), are familiar to the inhabitants of that world, you know the rules, on and on. It can be intoxicating, and sometimes you never want to leave. (Other times you can't wait to get the hell out, but that's another topic.)

When you put your hands on the keyboard, you're taking a risk of losing yourself, and that's what the majority of people who "want to write" don't understand and never will. They still think they're in control and don't want to give any of it up, when that's exactly what you absolutely must do if you're going to be a writer. (I'm smirking evilly at you,"indie" authors.)

So many of those who "want to write" think that because they blog about their various personal issues and oh-by-the-way-throw-in-something-wordsmithy-here they're a writer.

This is not so.

Being a writer is about more than production. More than being paid to make words. More than "wanting."

Being a writer is about putting your hands on the keyboard and surrendering yourself to whatever may happen. It's about losing control and letting go and not knowing where you're going or what's going to happen to you when you get there (thank you, Starman, I just totally nicked that quote).

Writing is about fear and the courage to face it.

P.S. For those writers who are committed to their wordcount/goal and want a nice way to keep track and have a good visual record of their progress, may I recommend this excellent word tracker shown to me by our beloved Bitchstress Dreamkiller, available free from the wonderful Svenja Liv.


  1. Excellent post! To be a writer, you really do need to put in the work, which, as you say, means hands to keyboard (or, in the case of some of us, pen to paper). And I hear you on that fear issue - it still strike more often than not. Get through it, put in the work, and you can legitimately call yourself a writer.

  2. "addictive and seductive" I think you're hitting the nail on the head here. This is what I suspect people refer to when they say they "have" to write.
    You create a world, stories, events, and there is a responsibility to them, to get their story out and see them unfold. Somewhere along the way they take hold of you, and then the process becomes this can't-stop-codependent ride to the end.
    Which probably means we all need therapy, but I usually think everyone does anyway. :)
    Great post.

    1. I get really grumpy if I haven't written in awhile. Usually about two days is enough. Wait...isn't writing our therapy?


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