Shoulder surgery stopped me in my tracks. I was on a roll, nearly 10,000 words into my third manuscript. My first two? Written in less than three months. Not polished in three months, but the first draft, the heavy outline of the story (over 85,000 words heavy outline) completed in three months. But my current work in progress? Not even close. I’ve started and stopped numerous times. Once because I wanted to revise a different manuscript and query for an agent. Another is because I wanted to change this story’s tone. And now, it’s because of my shoulder.
Can I Do It Again?
The worst part of taking a break, whether by choice or forced, like having surgery, is getting back into it. The longer I go without writing, the less I think I can do it. My mind races day in and day out, especially while lying awake in the heart of the dark nights, that when I’m ready to start writing again, I’ll be incapable. I’ll have forgotten how to bring characters to life. I’ll have forgotten how to create tension. I’ll have forgotten how to engage the reader. Make the story exciting. Interesting. Fun. All of it. And that voice, the one creating fear, creating anxiety, creating uneasiness, makes it harder to start writing again. Because it screams, “Can I do it?”
Although I am not 100% recovered, I’m recovered enough to start writing again. But my mind is at war with itself. Part of me is ready to get back to it, jump right in, put pen to paper. But the other part of my brain shouts negative thoughts, filling me with doubts. So here’s the plan:
- Replace those negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, when I feel like I can’t do it, reassure myself, of course I can. I’ve done it twice before.
- Talk to myself the same way I’d talk to a friend. I’d tell my friend she’s got this. She’s talented. Talent doesn’t disappear. She’s got this 100%!
- Even if fear whispers or shouts, I’m going to dive in and start. Why? Because I’ve experienced this apprehension before. Every time I stop writing, take a break, for whatever reason, for any amount of time, this pesky voice rears its ugly head.
Reminders to Myself
When I get back to it, I need to remind myself that the first draft is just that. The first draft. Not the final product. Not the polished version that it will become one day. It’s messy. It’s disorganized. It’s rough. It takes a ton of work after it’s completed to make it shine. And as I read other books and think, “Wow, this author is so much better than me. S/he writes so eloquently. The story is amazing. Not a single solitary flaw it, I wish I could write that well,” I have to remind myself, said author’s first draft didn’t look like what I’m reading. There have been a plethora of revisions along the way. A lot of hours, possibly more than writing the first draft, have gone into polishing it into what it is today. Just like mine.
So although writing can be challenging, the mental game is more challenging. I need to get out of my headspace, for the anxiety about writing is more exhausting than the task itself. Just as it was the past two times. But despite my apprehension, I forged forward then, completing two polished manuscripts, all the while having fun. And I can and will do it again.
4 thoughts on “The Mental Game”
Of course you can do this! It’s like picking a particular thread out of a tangled ball of yarn and pulling on it and following it and untangling and hoping it’s the right thread for the story you want to tell. It’s daunting, looking at it, but, you’ve unraveled balls of tangled yarn before. Come up with wonderful books.
I’ve found I don’t need to find the end if it’s hidden somewhere, just writing an idea and looking for the story that starts to tell itself.
Looking forward to hearing more about this journey!
Such a great analogy! And the funny thing is I’m at my happiest writing. I love creating a world that didn’t exist before. I love discovering who the characters are along their journey.
My goodness, you are your own worse critic! Stop beating yourself up! Listen, your dream will come true of being an author. Dreams can be hard work, but when you achieve it, all the doubts about yourself will disappear. Keep plunging forward, and don’t let a broken shoulder be your excuse. Use a recorder, or something. You’ve got this! You definitely are not a quitter. Hugs❤️
You hit the nail on the head: I am my own worst critic! Thanks for all your support and encouragement. Definitely NOT giving up, just scary to start again after a break!