‘What will make you finish it is not discipline, it’s self-forgiveness.’ Elizabeth Gilbert.
I watched a wonderful interview of the writer Elizabeth Gilbert this week. You can find it here. The quote above comes from this interview. As writers we can get caught up in thinking that if only we had the time, we would have written the book that we always wanted to write.
The truth is that it is our discomfort as we judge what we are writing or have written that stalls us. We have to have the self-forgiveness to write on the days when it’s just not flowing, on the days where we think that no-one will ever want to read what we have written, on the days when we just don’t feel like it and would rather read a book. Reading books can certainly help with establishing our own writing voice, but if that’s what we do all the time that book that’s meant to be written will stay forever as a beautiful possibility.
I often think about when I am much older and when I look back how will I feel about what I did? How will I feel about how I spent my days? I know that when I look back I will be glad to have written and so I write.
It also doesn’t escape me that this post isn’t the easiest to write and I could have easily put this week’s post off for longer. I could have told myself that I didn’t have anything new or important enough to tell you. This is also discussed in the talk referenced above, the belief that our work must be completely new and original when the fact is that nothing really is and even Shakespeare did some recycling of plotlines in plays.
The new book I am going to write won’t be my first attempt at writing a book. I wrote a children’s book set in Venice and I wrote a hybrid between a chick-lit and a self-help book. (I know!?)
I got myself a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook that lists all publishers and agents in the UK and made regular trips to my local post office with covering letters, synopsis and extract chapters. This was before everything was emailed.
The only result that came out of all this was that I became friends with the lady in the post office, which is a good result in itself, but not what I had in mind when I began.
After many rejections, I binned both the books (literally) and called myself Not a Writer.
I had failed to see that sending out first drafts of novels was not the best way forward. The quick start tendency on my Kolbe indicator test was working against me. (Martha Beck has written a wonderful article about this test, which you can find here.)
So here I am, some years later, with enough life-coaching experience to be able to tell myself that my summation of myself as a writer was the ego’s attempt to keep me safe. If you never publish anything no-one can ever criticise it.
In the interim I did a degree in Creative Writing and I’ve written for a lot of well-known websites and I am now ready to poke my head out of the not writing shell.
I am planning on writing a crime novel for 9-12 year olds and it will take time and redrafts and probably no trips to the post office this time round. I’ve ordered a book on crime writing from the library and a number of books in this genre that I am loving.
If you’d like help on your writing journey I offer a six session coaching package for writers for £495. If you’d like to set up a free 30 minute session to chat about working together email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.