Monday, May 21, 2012

Fear that Kills Creativity


Fear That Kills Creativity

By Missy Tippens

Missy, here. And I, like many writers, battle fear—fear that can sometimes hamper my creativity.

A few months ago, my sister, an elementary art teacher, sent me a link to a video by Sir Ken Robinson that I found interesting and inspiring. In it, he asks Are Schools Killing Creativity? He contends that creativity is as important in schools as literacy.

He tells the story of a little girl who hardly ever paid attention in class. But during a drawing lesson, she did. The teacher asked her what she was drawing, and she said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” The teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the little girl said, “They will in a minute.”

Don’t you love that certainty? Robinson says that kids take a chance. That if they don’t know something, they’ll have a go at it. They’re not afraid of being wrong.

Let me say that again, kids are not afraid of being wrong.

That’s the creative spirit you and I had when we were kids, too.

Robinson says he doesn’t mean that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. But he means that if we’re not prepared to be wrong, we won’t ever come up with anything original.

Let me say that again too! If we’re not prepared to be wrong, we won’t ever come up with anything original.

As we grow up, we become frightened of being wrong. In schools and business, we learn to be frightened because being wrong is stigmatized.

Robinson quotes Picasso, who said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.



So as adults, we need to battle that fear of making mistakes or failing. I think the problem for us as writers (published and unpublished) is to keep our creativity when we face criticism, writing rules, deadlines, self-defeating thoughts, lack of support, money woes, days jobs, and the list can go on and on.

We need to re-train ourselves to work on a different model than we learned in school or in the business world. Of course, most of us are in this as a business, so what I’m talking about here is re-training ourselves for the creating phase of writing—the putting down that first draft.

So I have an exercise for you to do today. Quick and easy! (So please don't run away.) :) I want you to think back to how it was when you first started writing. Before your teacher marked your paper with red ink. Before your mother said she would read your story and promptly set it aside and forgot it. Before anyone critiqued your work. Before you took any writing classes and learned all the “rules.” Before you entered contests.




Okay, so do you remember how it felt to write then? Back then, I wrote a book in two months while nursing a baby (typing with one hand!). That story flew onto the paper. And it was FUN.

It was terrible! LOL But it was fun. And I didn’t worry about every word I wrote. I didn’t worry about goal or conflict or story arc. I didn’t worry about sympathetic characters or pacing or POV (heck, I didn’t even know what POV was!).

Of course, all the things we learn about good writing are important. We do have to write a good story and edit ourselves and get outside edits. We do have to learn and improve and worry about the rules.

But sometimes when all that overwhelms us, we can lose our creativity. We feel stifled. We feel like the words we put down are boring and awful. We think our story is a pathetic.

If you ever hit that point, then I’d like to suggest you go back to the beginning. Think about writing as if you don’t know anything other than the feeling of a story that’s burning to be written down.

Let the passion return. Don’t fear failure. Don’t fear saying the wrong thing or being “punished” for writing poorly.

What we have to do is learn to write first (some of us planning at that time, some not doing any planning beforehand). Then go into a different mode for editing and polishing.

Here are some tips I’ve come up with to help:

--If you like to plan/plot beforehand, then do so! But when you first start, treat it more like brainstorming. Jot down every little idea that comes to you. Don’t censor. Don’t make fun of yourself or criticize anything.

--If staring at a blank screen is freaking you out, then go work with a pen and paper. Jot notes until some idea hits you that will work. Then either go with it on paper or come back to the screen.

--If negative feedback (or any feedback) stops the flow, then set it aside and deal with it later during edits.

--If critique freezes you up, then don’t get critique until you’ve finished the whole manuscript. Or instead, get brainstorming help from your cp’s ahead of time.

--Same thing with contests. You know how much we love contests around here. But if they throw you off track, then don’t enter them until you have your book finished and where you love it.

--Feed your creative well. Do what works for you. Examples: Read, go to movies, do something else creative (I sometimes make jewelry), spend time with friends or your family, cook, take a class…

--Be aware of what you’re afraid of. Figure it out. And then fight it.
Fear of failure? Think about what’s the worst thing that could happen and tell yourself you’ll survive.

Fear of success? Then look at all the other people who’ve handled it, and know that you have others around you willing to help show the way.

Fear of embarrassment/humiliation? Then come up with a graceful way to handle it if it were to happen (most likely, it won’t!).

Fear of having those closest to you thinking success will go to your head? Then share with them all the struggles you’ve had along the way.

Fear of having to become an extrovert to promote yourself and your books? Then figure out a plan that you can work with, doing only what’s comfortable for you, not what you think everyone is expecting of you.

Fear of your bad grammar or spelling? Then hire someone to proof it for you.

Fear of messing up that one big chance you have (editor or agent request, etc)? Then say to yourself: I may blow it, but if I don’t take the chance, I’ll never know what could have happened.

Fear that you’re not qualified? Then remember that God will provide and will equip you to do His work (studying the story of Moses is what got me over this hurdle).



Don’t let all the fears that we learn into adulthood overcome our inborn creativity. Learn, through trial and error, what your self-defeating patterns are and come up with a plan to battle them.

Think back to when you were little, and the joy you had in writing or telling a story. Try to recapture that feeling. And enjoy this writing journey!

I’d love to hear your remembrances of your first writing joys that you came up with during your exercise!

********

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103 comments:

Tina Radcliffe said...

I love this. I am going to go out on a limb and tell you a secret. I have a little notebook and in the front I write myself reminders. One says...


"When you were unpublished you wrote all the time."

What that means is I just kept writing and writing fearlessly. Now I have a hard time with fearless.

This is a good reminder, Missy!!

Missy Tippens said...

"Fearless" is a great mantra, Tina!! Thanks for sharing.

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

Super Missy. Or is that Super, Missy... ???

:)

This so resonated: re-training ourselves for the creating phase of writing—the putting down that first draft.

This was the most difficult thing for me, having to write the first draft after a published book was out.

Had to FORCE myself to give myself permission to write badly. Turning off that editor was hard, but when I did, the writing was fun and easier. Admittedly I like to edit, so that was the carrot.

Get it on paper, you can edit tomorrow.
And chocolate.

SMILE!

Thanks.

And Tina - love that line! But I'm not buying the hard time with fearless line...

Good encouragement, both of you. What we expect here in Seekerville!

Have a great week!

Carol Moncado said...

Hmm... there's fear - that's for sure, but it's not in the writing.

I have permission to write horrid rough drafts.

I *do* write horrid rough drafts!!!!

[Remember? I won't let a blind, illiterate elephant read them.]

They're AWFUL!

And I'm okay with that. For me the *fun* is fingers flying, words pouring out - even if every. single. one. ends in ly or is a that, just, had, etc.

I don't have to duct tape my inner editor when I start something new - she runs screaming for the hills. She comes back when that first draft is done.

I'm not near as crazy about editing. That's where my fear comes in. At least sort of. Or rather, fear keeps me from editing. Kind of.

If I get the manuscript edited, then I have to start /gasp/ submitting it to editors and agents and contests etc.

But at the same time, I love *having edited*. I love being done with it.

I still fear the submissions, but I love having a [relatively] finished project.

I think there was a point in there. I'm not sure what it was.

I'm making a bazillion cookies [quadruple batch - never made one that big before] and I would have been asleep a long time ago if not for that.

I'm rereading my Speedbo project and loving it again [still?]. Remember I told y'all the manager from my Panera who insisted I name a character after him died? Leaving behind the love of his life and two kids? Well, she works at my Panera now and I had a chance to talk with her. She laughed when I told her he'd insisted I name a character for him and she wants to read the book someday. I couldn't have planned it - but the topics in the book are ones that I hope will bless her when she does - God couldn't have planned this plot more perfectly. Gotta edit it so someone will buy it so she can hold a real copy in her hands...

I'd offer y'all some cookies but, well, I don't think I have any extras...

Carol Moncado said...

Oy that was long. Feel free to skim ;).

Stephanie Rae Pazicni said...

<3 This Missy! IMO This is one reason homeschooling can be so successful. Creativity rules. If you don't know you can't do it, you just might. It worked for starting a business too, though that could also fall into the "ignorance is bliss" category.
Writing without the pressure certainly was more joyful in my experience. You have given me some philosophical thoughts to think... Can publication match the unbridled joy of unrestrained story? Seekervillites? I ask you.
Though of course, publication would justify years spent playing with my imaginary friends...

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Oh, this is excellent, Missy. I didn't buckle down and write long fiction until this past Speedbo because I was afraid to try a new type of writing.

Thanks for all the comments about first drafts. I am working on mine and still find myself freezing. Carol, your comments were keepers, no skimming necessary.

I can tell it is going to be a good writing Monday.

Thanks again, Missy. This one is going to be printed out and posted on the wall by my computer.

Peace, Julie

Julie Hilton Steele said...

PS. I heard a great quote this weekend about being an amateur, trying and failing. "I made a decision not to be scared to fail in public. Hey, they even had to rewrite the Constitution in 1787 because they didn't get it quite right the first time." from an interview from one of the participants in Bunch of Amateurs, a new book on creativity by non-professionals.

That alone will motivate me to enter contests.

Ausjenny said...

I am told that my grade five teacher told mum and dad I wrote great stories except no one could understand my writing. They would have liked to keep me down cos my spelling and writing was so bad but I was already doing higher maths so they couldn't.
I have to say my writing never improved and my spelling lets just say spell check and dictionaries are wonderful.
In saying all this if I wrote a book it would be about 2 - 3 pages long and I don't think thats long enough.

Besides if I was a writer how could I read all the great books.

Annie Rains said...

This is such an inspiring post, Missy. You made me remember being a child and writing all the time in my notebooks and then stuffing them under my bed. I wrote even though I knew that no one would ever read them. Now I write with the hopes that people will read them. I think you're more fearless when you're not thinking about the readers--maybe.

Thanks for the inspiration. Happy Monday everyone!

Kav said...

Wonderful post, Missy! I watched that whole video clip. What dry wit, but what a point he makes! I'm an arts advocate in a very technology oriented school so I'm going to share that video clip with the staff.

I definitely get fear-struck in my writing -- like a deer in the headlights. Fear freezes me. I never considered thinking back to my childhood when I started writing with such abandoned enthusiasm. I would get so caught up in writing my latest story that I'd miss the transition between language arts and the next subject. I'd come back to the real world to find the rest of the class in the middle of a mathematics lesson. I blame writing on my lack of math skills. :-)

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Great post, Missy! Like Annie Rains, it reminded me of all the stories and such I scribbled in notebooks as a kid. I remember writing stories about whatever history unit my class was studying, like the "trail of tears" and pioneers homesteading the prairie. All written in my childish cursive on notebook paper. I even wrote a Titanic story, which looking back now, is so awful and historically inaccurate that it's laughable! But I had so much fun writing it!

I think I still have fun writing (being unpublished helps!) but there is some fear, too, so thanks for the reminder!

Bridgett Henson said...

Very timely post, Missy. I've been working up the courage to query an agent. lol!

After this post, I forgo the courage and send the query anyway.

Thanks.

Bridgett Henson said...

Oops! Typo in a blog comment?

Another fear of mine. :)

Missy Tippens said...

KC, I like Super Missy! But I think you meant Super, Missy. LOL

And I agree that Tina does seem fearless. So I guess we all struggle with it at times! Probably the toughest is on that second book. So we need to jump right in there and just do it! (to borrow from Nike) on each and every book. :)

Audra Harders said...

Missy, what a keeper of a post!

You made me think back to my sea captain book (which I too wrote while tending an infant, LOL). I loved that story and just went on and on...never really had a plan, just knew it had to be terribly romantic and mysterious and heartwrenchingly sappy!!

LOL!

I loved writing back then. I still do, but you're absolutely right about keeping the rules in my frontal lobe now rather than my creativity.

What's the use of writing fiction - especially romantic fiction - if it's not fun?

Gotta start rearranging priorities : )

Great post, Missy!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, Missy, what a perfect reminder to love what we do.

And it's funny, I teach that concept to little children and then forget it for myself.

This is so "faith of a child" friendly, Missy Tippens! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

And I love Teeeeeeena's secret.... I think we all have a hard time with fearless on this side of the fence because we know the fence ain't all that tall.

;)

Audra Harders said...

Tina, you are the epitome of fearless to me : )

Missy Tippens said...

Carol, thanks for sharing your fear. Isn't it funny how we can have them at different stages of the writing process?

Submitting IS a big hurdle. Because once they say no, then you have something you worked very hard on that you have to tuck away and be done with. And your chance is over. You have a big "R" in your nice empty pile.

DON'T THINK ABOUT IT THAT WAY.

You may NOT get a big "R." You may sell it out of the gate. Or you may get a revision letter. Or you may get an "R" but she'll ask you to send something else. Then she'll buy the next one and will eventually end up buying the first one after you've looked at it months later and made changes.

LOL Okay, I could go on and on, because there are so many GOOD scenarios, too.

As soon as you have it polished, submit that Speedbo book! It sounds like God has plans for it.

Missy Tippens said...

BTW, Carol, I love the picture of your internal editor running for the hills! LOL I'm going to try to envision mine doing so. :)

Janet Dean said...

Wonderful post, Missy! The early writing I did was fabulous fun. No one to please but me and back then I was easy to please. :-) I've feared failure and success in equal measure. Deadlines scare me. None of this is good for creativity. I'm grateful for prayer and pals and posts like this one.

Janet

Missy Tippens said...

Stephanie,

I hadn't thought about this in relation to home schooling, but I think you're right--if the parent doesn't pass along a fear of mistakes. I'm afraid I would! I've always been a perfectionist who HAD to get all A's. I would probably drive my kids crazy.

As for the joy of writing in relation to publication...

There is no joy like holding a copy of a book in your hands that had your name on the cover! But more than that, it's pure joy to read the last version of your book (after it's been edited) before it goes to print. I always love reading my books after my editor has gotten hold of them, and after I've made additional changes according to her suggestions. It's always a much better book than that first draft--more focused, more emotional, etc.

I think that's why it's important to have our business/editor side of the process. We can let our creative side have free reign to a point. Then we switch gears.

Both sides together make for a finished product that brings joy as well!

Plus, like you said, getting a pay check gives us an excuse for playing with imaginary friends. haha

Jeanne T said...

Missy, I needed this post this morning. Thanks! I began writing poetry in my 'tween years (though they weren't called that at that time). I took a college prep composition class in high school, and wrote lots of things. I remember writng one story of a real life event, and my teacher loved it. The joy of expressing the emotion on the page is what made it good.

I'm writing my rough draft of my story right now. I am definitely a a plannner, so I find my writing flows best when I've thought through the scene and sketched it out some. Over the weekend, I began worrying about my heroine and her being written well enough. You've given me the encouragement to just write and fix her on the next pass.

Loved, loved this post, Missy. Thank you! I'll be coming back to this one. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Julie, I hope you do have a great writing Monday!! You can do this.

You're not writing a paper for a class. You're not writing a magazine article on theology. You're not writing something that people will want to pick apart to see if you're right. :)

Remember: You're writing a story for someone to enjoy! And if there's a lesson in there, well, that's just the cherry on top. Enjoy yourself!! :)

Missy Tippens said...

BTW, Julie, I love that quote!! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Jenny, we're so glad you're such a loyal reader!! But if you do ever decide to write a book yourself, just remember that you can always ask someone else to proof it for you. I know writers who really do struggle with spelling and grammar and need extra help--but they're great storytellers!

Missy Tippens said...

Annie, I'm definitely more fearless when I don't think of the reader! It makes me a nervous wreck if I start worrying about getting negative reader letters over something I'm writing into my story. I struggled with that on my wip. I finally got brave and left it in (remember my Be Brave Baby Rabbit post last month?). :)

Now, when I finish the first draft (will probably be this week!! woo hoo!!) I'll be sure to go into editing mode and make decisions about how much to keep. But for now, that fun secondary plot is still in there. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Kav, I just love your story of missing the transition to math class!!! LOVE IT!

That's how we, as adults, should get lost in our stories! We need to remember that feeling and go for it.

Your story reminded me of how I used to love to write futuristic stories and draw pictures of inventions I thought we'd have in the future. Cars that didn't need drivers or to worry about wrecking. And now, look, Google has a satellite-steered car! LOL I should have gone for a patent back then. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Stephanie Queen,

I did the same! I remember when we did Kentucky history (I think in 7th grade), I wrote a journal of a girl traveling West. Honestly, I think I always wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Bridgett, come back and let us know you sent it!! We'll pray over it for you. (We Seekers do this for each other--pray over submissions.) So always let us know! :)

Missy Tippens said...

And Bridgett, LOL on the typos!! I'm the same way. I had to go in twice and change typos in my post after I'd already published it!

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, Audra, we want a sea captain book from you! And maybe a pirate book, too! (Jack would love to star in it, I'm sure). :)

Missy Tippens said...

Ruthy, you're so right!! We should keep that Scripture in mind while writing.

And maybe we should all start doing finger painting with kids before a writing session. :)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Missy, this was a great reminder and I've so been through this. Many times. Thanks for reminding us that we don't have to be perfect that first time. sigh

Sure would make life easier though if we were. LOL

Kav, glad to see you back. I really do fear computer gliches.

Missy Tippens said...

Janet, your words are a good reminder for everyone that this can be a problem no matter how many books we have under our belts. It's something we'll probably always battle, so it would be good to find a way to deal with it.

My kids are out of school today for the summer. So for the next three months, my mantra is:

Bottom in chair, get the work done before the kids get up!!

Cara Lynn James said...

It was so easy to write when I was in grade school! But as I got older I learned to second guess myself and FREEZE! Now I write a horrible first draft without worrying that it's unpublishable. I like to edit, but it's so much easier to do when the words are on the paper, not just in my head. Edit as you go really slowed me down.

Fear that somebody will snicker at your writing can be so paralyzing. So keep it to yourself until it's half way decent.

Pam Hillman said...

Great post. When I first started writing, I could write for hours, tweak and think, and plot, and like you said, it was awful, but it was fun.

Will work on having FUN this week! lol

Connie Queen said...

My sister told me once that I had too much fear about my writing, but I aruged w/her.

Last year, I became so frustrated at not being able to get the words on paper that I wrote about my frustrations. I titled it, Now that I learned to Write. Hey, if I can't get a story a paper, can I write about not being about to write?

Fear can kill the joy.

Thanks Missy.

Missy Tippens said...

Jeanne, I'm so glad this post was helpful and hit at a good time for you!

Isn't it wonderful to have had a teacher who encouraged you and bragged on your writing? I had fantastic high school and college writing teachers. They were very positive, and I loved writing. In fact, I remember one of my college professors asking if I went to Bowling Green High School, because she could always tell when her students had gone there. I had great H.S. teachers and was so thrilled to have my college professor think my writing was good! It gave me a huge boost, and also, I think, a love of writing (because I felt successful at it).

And then I turned about and went into biology. LOL But I loved it, too. :)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hey, Missy! Great post! At this stage in my writing, I usually try not to show my book to anyone until I'm finished with it. So no critiques until I'm done. I can sometimes become paralyzed with doubt if someone doesn't like something about my book. I think it can be as important NOT to get critiques as it is to GET critiques, whether you're published or unpublished.

Right now I'm working on a new WIP and I really love it. I am blocking out everything else and just getting lost in the story and trying to make it the most exciting, satisfying story I can. But I'm also asking myself about goals, motivations and conflict, about the way the characters' personalities naturally interact, things like that, but it's almost subconscious most of the time. So I'm having fun.

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

OOOH Missy...
Yes?

Bridgett, come back and let us know you sent it!! We'll pray over it for you. (We Seekers do this for each other--pray over submissions.) So always let us know! :)

My name's not Bridgett (though it's a lovely name!) but... If y'all could pray over mine, I'd be so grateful. It's with the writing coach/editor now. She should be returning within a week-ish...

My DH and I are praying she'll find all the things that need to be changed, fixed, tweaked, enhanced, expanded, contracted, polished... And anything else we can think of, to make this a book glorifying to the Lord.

Would appreciate prayers there too.

Erica Vetsch said...

I love this! Sometimes the business and the busyness can make us forget the joy of writing.

I just recharged my creative batteries this weekend, which is a good things, since content/copy edits on a book hit my inbox late on Sat. nite. :D

CatMom said...

LOVED and soooo needed this post today, Missy--thank you! You are right on target about children being unafraid to tackle something for fear of being wrong. I remember how much I enjoyed making clothes for my dolls when I was very young, but then when I had a "terrifying" home ec teacher in high school my sewing skills greatly declined (all because of FEAR *ugh*). ~ Your post is a definite KEEPER for me (I might just post it next to my computer!). Hugs, Patti Jo p.s. Along the "creativity note" I wanted to add---when I taught first grade/kindergarten, one of my favorite things to do was set out all kinds of assorted craft supplies, paper, glue, etc. and let the children have fun creating whatever they wanted--no rules or guidelines, they could make anything they chose. It was SO much fun seeing those little hands creating all kinds of projects--and THEY had fun! :)

Julie Lessman said...

MISSY!!! What a FABULOUS post today, and soooo timely!!

The most fun I ever had writing was writing book 2 of the Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Redeemed. WOW, that story just poured out of me, so much so that it only took two months to write while I was working outside the home part-time, which basically means I wrote it in about a month -- 475 pages!! I remember my friend telling me that it felt like I had really hit my stride in that novel, and I thought so too.

LOL ... I also remember the final stages of that book, when I was in what my family calls my "zombie state" where I would nod and respond, but had no idea what I was saying or my husband or daughter because I was literally somewhere else in my mind. I was SO immersed and having SO much fun that I often wrote until 5:00 AM, sleeping just a few hours, then back up at 9:00 AM. WOW, what a rush that book was!!

Regrettably, I haven't had that much fun since, but am currently trying to get back there with the book I'm writing now, and I am happy to say the fun is back!! :)

Hugs,
JUlie

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Sandra, Cara and Pam!

I'll always remember a writer who has repeatedly said, "Protect the work." I keep that in mind as I do my first draft, as I'm in creative mode.

Missy Tippens said...

Connie Queen, go ahead and write that paper! Get the frustrations out. But then move on and get back to the story writing. Tell yourself the writing is only for you. Do it for yourself. Then later you can decide the next step. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Melanie, good for you!! It sounds like you've found a method that works well for you. Keep at it!! And enjoy.

Missy Tippens said...

KC, you've got it!! I hope you get lots of fantastic feedback!

Missy Tippens said...

Erica, YES! You definitely recharged your batteries, you and Mary. And I'm SO jealous! I need a writing retreat asap! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Patti Jo, I bet you were the best teacher! I know how fun it is to be given art supplies and free rein. :)

I used to keep all kinds of art supplies for my kids. They loved it. Made plenty of messes, too! LOL I remember getting home one night after a date night, and my oldest (who was in elementary school at the time) had painted his siblings' bodies--thankfully with watercolors! The babysitter had let them have a grand time. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Julie, isn't it amazing when that happens? I love when a book pours out like that.

My last book, A House Full of Hope, was my easiest to write. I think it's because it had the most external conflict. That's probably a lesson I need to learn while planning a book! :)

Mary Connealy said...

What a great post, Missy. We are all just risking so much when we write 90 thousand words out of our own heads and hearts then cast them out in the world, begging people to buy them.

It's really a crazy thing to do.

Fear is attached like a huge leech on each of us, sucking away the courage we need to take that huge risk.

Joanne Sher said...

Love this post, Missy! I've had pretty much all those fears at one time or another, but I remember when I LOVED to write. NEED to get back to that more often :)

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, you're so right!! LOL! But think what a joy it is. What fun. And, doggone it, pretty amazing! We're so blessed to be able to do this!

Missy Tippens said...

Joanne, I hope you find that joy today!

Missy Tippens said...

Hey! I forgot breakfast. For me and for everyone here.

Okay, time for something yummy. How about big, gooey rolls from Cinnabon?! Yum. Enjoy!!

Lindi said...

Great post, Missy. :) I remember the joy and wonder of putting the words on a page and writing The End. It was so amazing to me that I actually finished a book. I still remember that feeling--and plopping the pages on the kitchen table in front of my hubby telling him 'I did it!"
That book never went anywhere--but it was just the beginning of learning to let that creativity fly.

Sally Bradley said...

Missy, thank so much for this! I may need to read it once a week. Writing used to be something I did every down chance I got. And, yes, it was bad. It was just for me, though.

So I'm trying to find the balance between writing something I love and something that is still salable. It's too easy to let the criticism we expect to come make us give up before we've hardly started.

Jan Drexler said...

Oooh, Cinnamon Rolls from Cinnabon? And no calories, right? I'm in!

Fear is such a powerful enemy! And Missy, I think you hit all of the reasons fear creeps in. It can be paralyzing, can't it?

I've put off starting the list of revisions I received more than a week ago because I was fighting a nasty cold (still hanging on - couple a nasty cold with allergies and I end up with a very fuzzy head!). So instead of diving into the revisions, I spent my time on background research to give my story a more authentic feeling.

But now? During that 10 days or so the fear crept in without me knowing it. Did I really just waste 10 days on research when I have a deadline looming????

Ah, but that's where creativity kicks fear out the window. For me, working without preparation destroys creativity. I'm counting on the days I spent researching to give me confidence as I tackle those revisions.

Donna said...

Thank you Missy! I think we all needed to hear this! I had just gone through a battle with this. My creativity was 'beyond dead' into nonexistence, until this past week. I read the first chapter of the Plot Whisperer and she addressed every doubt (and excuse) I had been having. Unfortunately I don't think the book has helped my plotting but that's ok, I got what I needed !! And what you said today helped even more!

Mary Connealy said...

I remember when I hit a wall with my efforts to get published where I just 'threw up my hands' (that's an author joke) and said, "No one's going to publish me anyway, I'm just going to write to entertain myself."

I just tried everything that interested me. Up until then I'd really been focused on sweet contemporary romances (If you've read my Heartsong 'Clueless Cowboy' that was one of those books) because I didn't know where else to sell a book except Harlequin and that's what they did, their Silhouette Line at that time was very sweet and fit with my desire to write clean romances.

I don't remember which of my umpteen zillion rejects kicked off that attitude but it was fun. That's when I wrote my first western. It's when I wrote Ten Plagues. I wrote a gothic romance, inspired by Phyllis Whitney if you've ever heard of her. Great, chilling, clean, non-paranormal gothic romances.

So maybe that 'entertain myself' mixed with hopelessness was...in a way...a type of fearlessness.

I was getting ready to launch into a Noel Coward phase when Petticoat Ranch sold. I really wanted to try that droll, witty, upper crust style of writing.

Digging for Pearls said...

Missy,

Your post is exactly what I needed to hear today. It sounds like it resonates with so many of us too. I had tears in my eyes as I read through it, and all the comments.

I talked about fear last night with my husband before we crawled into bed. I stand on the threshold of a new chapter in my life. 16 years of homeschooling came to an end on May 11th when my youngest graduated. At his graduation party I was asked numerous times, "What are you going to do now?" one even asked, "Do you have a job yet?" My response was what I've been desiring for so many years - to be able to write full time.

But as I stand on the brink of the next chapter in my life, I find myself riddled with fear. I've written and edited my novel, entered contests, and have met with no success. I'm set to start a new book, and to pitch it at the end of June during a 'speed date sessions with an editor.' Now fear has a strangle hold on my throat...what if I don't ever 'make it' as a writer? What if I can't ever get somebody interested in my work? Like Carol, I have a novel that I believe God inspired and worked out the details with as I wrote it. But now what?

I remember filling notebooks as a young girl too. The first story that got me hooked to be a writer was about my dog attending Jimmy Carter's inaugural ball. I feel that joy of writing when I sit down and actually work on a piece, but right now those fears are affecting my ability to move on... fear of rejection and never being able to measure up.

Sigh! Here I am writing a 'book' about my fears. I pray I can move beyond, and start on this new project. Thanks for the encouragement, and hope that there is something beyond the fear. Somehow it's comforting knowing I'm not the only one who experiences this as a writer.

Blessings,
Jodie Wolfe

Virginia said...

Ohhhh, this is so great!!!

I usually have to kick my parents and every disapproving family member out of my head as I sit down to write. I just keep imaging them seeing a line and saying, 'That's such a load of crap'.


TINA, I love that quote. "Write like you're unpubbed" as an inspirational quote? Hm....

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Did Connealy just say she had a huge leach attached to her?

Imagery.... Imagery....

Ugh.

Do you think Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman used leaches????

Lisa Jordan said...

I work with young children on a daily basis, and I adore their complete freedom in expressing themselves. At that age, we encourage them to be creative, yet once they hit schol age, teachers are telling them to stop daydreaming and focus. We lose sight of that focus.

For my writing, I allow myself to write terrible rough drafts, but I still find myself trying to get it right even in the rough draft.

Great post, Missy!

Lisa Jordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jackie said...

So funny to read this today. I was on vacation and remembered the first story I wrote as an adult. That was almost 20 years and many moves ago. I had a new baby and was on maternity leave. A child was missing around Atlanta and I was riveted to the search for her on TV. That got my creative juices flowing and I began to write. At the end of my maternity leave, I quit until just a few years ago.
I'm unpublished so right now my biggest fear is if I never get published, what will I have to show for all the time I spent writing?
Thanks for sharing and encouraging us to be fearless.
Have a great day everybody!
Jackie L.

Missy Tippens said...

I'm back! I've been busily writing two scenes. Actually, I wrote most of the second and just remembered it was my blog day! LOL Gotta love it when you're so into the writing. I think maybe I learned from my own post. :)

So I'll catch up on comments here and then go finish that scene. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Lindi! Thanks for stopping by and for pointing other this way.

Sally, the beauty of editing is that you can make it more salable on the second (and third and fourth...) passes through it. :) Enjoy the moment of the first draft!

You know, I'm actually a first draft lover. That's where I feel more free to just create (as long as I don't psych myself out).

Missy Tippens said...

Jan, maybe that's just the way you work best. Don't fuss at yourself if that works for you.

Whenever I get a revision letter, I usually let it steep for a few days to a week. I seem to be able to think everything through and process it in my head over that time. Then I sit down and tackle everything on paper--one issue at a time, checking them off as I fix them.

Missy Tippens said...

Donna, that's great! I bought that book last month and have started it. Very interesting and helpful. Keep up the good work!

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, your books show how much fun you have writing them! So don't ever lose that sense of joy and fun. It makes for some great reading!

Missy Tippens said...

Jodie, you really are at a time of emotional upheaval. I haven't faced the empty nest yet, but having one graduate was enough to give me a feel for what it's going to be like! I imagine after the trauma of living through one graduation with me, my Seeker sisters will be going crazy, trying to get away from me when my youngest graduates. LOL

I think you're main challenge will probably be in trying to look at this as a positive change. Start using positive self talk: "I can write full-time now! I have my days for myself!" I imagine in no time, you'll be cranking new words out. :) And I think that positiveness (is that a word??) :) will help you overcome your fear of pursuing writing as a career.

Just tell yourself: I have to submit to sell things. I have to pitch and query and send out my work. Otherwise it just stays a dream.

In the meantime, be prepared. Your friends will probably start asking you when your book's going to come out. They'll assume it's a given now that you're writing full time. :) You'll have to educate them a little. ;)

Digging for Pearls said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement Missy. Guess I'm on the emotional roller coaster right now. My youngest will soon be out of the nest, and my oldest and his wife are expecting their first child any day now. Hard to believe I'll go from 'Mom' to 'Grandma' any day now.

Thanks again,
Jodie

Missy Tippens said...

Virginia, it's tough isn't it?! But we need to kick all those voices out! I still have a voice in my head: "Why do you waste your time writing those trashy novels when you have such a beautiful singing voice. You should spend your time on voice lessons."

Yes, someone really said that to me a year or two before I sold. I won't say who. (it's not my husband or kids!) And even though this person has since bragged on my books, it's still a burr under my saddle. A hurtful burr!

Missy Tippens said...

yes, Ruthy, she did say leech!! I now have the shivers.

Missy Tippens said...

Lisa, so true!! Maybe we should all try writing our first drafts in crayon, just to see if it helps. :)

Maybe that's why I like writing stuff in purple and pink pens. Just for the fun of it. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Jackie, I often get story ideas from watching the news!

And I almost quit writing because I was spending so much of the family's money on writing supplies and conferences and such. And felt like I had nothing to show for it. I felt guilty! But every time I almost quit, God would do something to encourage me (a kind word from an editor or a final in a contest). I truly think He kept me going.

Of course, it was nearly 12 years of writing before I sold. But it was all in God's timing. We'll never know what we'll have to show for our writing unless we stick with it. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Jodie, you'll have to let us know when the new grandbaby gets here!!! How exciting! But yes, lots of changes for you at once.

Clari Dees said...

Fear. What a nasty little bugger. And half the time, fear is as substantial as a soap bubble--a ring around nothing.

Great post, Missy. Encouraging and timely. I'm also enjoying the comments.

May I ask for prayer as well? My revised manuscript is back in the hands of my editor and she's supposed to tackle it in the next few weeks. I'm trying to bury the doubt that whispers, "she might not like it," and "you may have totally screwed up what she liked in the first place," under the busyness of work and tackling my next wip. Everyday I hold my breath as I check my email. Waiting is hard. :-)

Praying for all you other fearless Seekers!

Missy Tippens said...

Clari, yes! I totally understand those fears. I still have them and check email with bated breath whenever I send something! :)

I'm sure she'll love it!!

Missy Tippens said...

I'm heading out to take a friend to dinner and maybe a movie for her b-day. P.F. Chang's, here we come!! One of my favs!

I'll check in tonight. Y'all keep chatting about those early writing memories. :)

Cara Lynn James said...

If I think a story is just for me then I can enjoy writing it. If I think maybe it'll sell and critics will read it and shred it it's a lot harder to write with joy.

After it's completed and it's time to edit I can worry about what other people might think of it. But not at the beginning.

Bridgett Henson said...

Missy, Thanks so much for the offer to pray for my agent submission.

I've followed guidelines and written a query specifically for this agent. I'm anxious to press send, but I think I'll wait until morning and edit for typos one last time.

All prayers are appreciated.

Thanks again. I love you, guys.

Debby Giusti said...

Such a great post, Missy!!!

Fear hinders all of us. I can so relate!

Loved writing my first manuscript. Didn't have a clue about the "Rules," as you mentioned. I just had fun.

Perfectionism can be a problem...wanting the story to be magical, perhaps on the first draft. That just doesn't happen. At least not in my world. It's only in working and reworking the pages that the story starts to take shape.

Sometimes we want success before it's time. Patience is a virtue, which I have to constantly remember.

Mary Connealy said...

Clari, do not be afraid! Everyone knows that once you're published there are no more problems, ever. All is bliss and joy and wealth and ease on this side of that stubborn door to publishing.

(now we can all have a good laugh!)

Glynna Kaye said...

Wonderful post, Missy! By the time I finish a book and ship it off to my editor, I'm so THRILLED to step away from the computer for a little while.

I segue into the NEXT book and re-energize my creative batteries by doing my initial brainstorming in a 9x12 newsprint pad. The kind you buy at the Dollar Store for your kids. A smooth texture your pen just flows across. No lines to constrict.

I'm free to scene storm, think about story concepts, ask myself questions. Draw flowers. Fill in boxes. Draw arrows and circles and whatever I need to do to jar loose the brain drain from months of racing toward a deadline. :)

Sherrinda said...

Love, love, love this post. When I started writing 5 years ago, I just wrote, not knowing any rules. Oh, the freedom!

Now...not so much.

Thanks for a great post!

Nancy C said...

Oh, Missy, what a terrific post. I think I've experienced just about everything you mentioned :-) I need to shake off some of the fears and go forth. Wonderful reminder about feeding the creative well.

Belated congrats to the weekly winners ... to Larissa, Melissa and Carol, too.

Now to read the comments ...

Nancy C

Nancy C said...

Mary Connealy -- nice new photo!

Nancy C

Lyndee said...

Paralyzing fear. Probably my biggest obstacle. Trusting the Lord on it, my greatest victory. Thanks for the post, Missy.

BTW, the photo of the little boy painting reminded me of a sad day with my son. He was 6, in first grade, and his teacher called me in for a conference. Her two complaints were that he did puzzles too quickly (to which I answered 'get him a harder puzzle') and she pointed out that he was inappropriate with his art.

My mind raced. What did that mean? She clarified that he painted the tree leaves purple, the sky red and the people green. I laughed. Snorted actually. But she was serious. I went home sad that they were going to force him to conform to what the world expects or he would fail. No creativity allowed.

Good news. He's going to be 30 in a couple weeks, and he's the greatest young father. And he lets his son paint using any colors he wants!

Missy Tippens said...

Debby, that's such a great point about expecting a masterpiece on the first draft. It just isn't going to happen.

Missy Tippens said...

Glynna, I love that idea of doodling on a sketch pad!! I'll have to try that. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Sherrinda and Nancy C., I'm so glad you could relate!

Clari Dees said...

Mary Connealy, No More Problems!? Really? Wow! Let me just bask in that mental picture for a moment.

Oh. Wait. You're being sarcastic aren't you.

Way to crush my delusions of grandeur. I'll just go crawl back in my dark little corner and pout for a while.

Anybody got any Reese's? I think I'm gonna need a transfusion of chocolate and peanut butter to get over this.

Missy Tippens said...

Lyndee, that story about your son's teacher makes me angry!!! I be you were incredulous! Goodness, something like that should be against the law.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Clari!!! Yes, Mary had to come crush all our dreams. Miss Mary Realistic.

I agree about the Reece's transfusion. Sounds like a good excuse to me. Maybe we need to keep Mary around more. :)

Pamela Mason said...

Another keeper Seekerville post - thank you Missy!
I think when we see others going before us with having their dreams fulfilled - whether it's tradtional published or indie or self - we let ourselves slow down and lose our momentum and excitement and then fear creeps in and kills our desire.
I used to write all the time in notebooks too, until I got on the learning curve and discovered how much I didn't know what I didn't know.
Maybe, above all, the writers who are successful are those who not only have the discipline and get the components, but also are honest and true to themselves and aren't afraid to bare it all. Because those are the writers who show me the discoveries I already know, but don't see.
That makes no sense at all.

leslie tentler said...

What a great post and look at all the comments! I saw this being discussed on FB and came over for a look. So glad I did - LOTS here I needed to hear right now. Thank you, Missy!

Missy Tippens said...

Pamela, that makes perfect sense to me. Thanks for your comments!

Leslie, I'm so glad you stopped by!

Crystal L Barnes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crystal L Barnes said...

Thanks, Missy. I believe this hits the nail on the head. Fears do have a way of stemming the flow of writing, but I believe that is because fear is the opposite of faith. When we write, we write by faith and of our faith. One book I was given as a college graduation present has helped me in this area. It is called In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson. To be a writer (or do anything God calls us to do), we have to be willing to run toward our problems instead of away from them. We must also remember it is for God we run.

Missy Tippens said...

Crystal, that's such a good point about faith. Thank you for sharing!