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Rewriting: Recognizing the Demon

September 21, 2014 by Diane

hand opening red curtain on white.

I belong to a writing group that has two members. A coworker and me. We meet for lunch at a Taqueria every Wednesday and she elaborates on all of the writing projects she’s working on, and I complain about the writing projects I’m not working on.

Before I started rewriting my novel, every Wednesday I’d say: “I wrote another post for my blog.” Every week my goal was the same: to work on my novel. Instead, I posted on my blog. A blog that only six people subscribe to…and one of those people is me.

The next Wednesday I notched it up. I told her: “I bought a datebook so I can set deadlines.” I took a long time picking that datebook out at Target. There were blue ones and green ones and big ones and little ones and weekly ones and monthly ones. I chose the pink and white one with a spiral binding and a sturdy plastic cover. A Weekly Monthly Planner. For a mere eight bucks. “The only problem is,” I said, “when I got home I discovered that the calendar doesn’t start until July.”

This was in June.

She nodded, unimpressed.

“I think I’m in resistance,” I said.

My friend sipped ice water and got that thoughtful look on her face, like she was about to lay the golden egg.

“I think it’s an esteem issue,” she said.

What? Me? Esteem issues? Bah! With a knife I cut into my veggie soft taco, loading my fork with guacamole and pinto beans and Spanish rice. I chewed slowly, and frowned—deep, thoughtful frown lines—and gazed out the window. I don’t have issues with low self esteem, I told myself. This is resistance with a capital R. I’ve read The War of Art. Oh yes, I know all about resistance. “I don’t know,” I said. I crunched on a salted tortilla chip. I took another chip from the basket, loaded it up with rice and beans and guacamole, and crunched on that. My friend was gathering her thoughts. She pulled them from her well of wisdom and rearranged them in her mouth and spoke them slowly.

“You have a demon inside who keeps you from writing.”

I crunched another chip. Loaded up another forkful. I chewed, and studied the stucco ceiling. I tried to feel what was keeping me stuck, tried to put a name to it, but my mind was blank. Resistance.

She gathered more thoughts.

“The demon tells you that whatever you’re writing isn’t good enough.”

“I don’t mind writing crap,” I argued, “but if it’s not going to produce something worthwhile, what’s the point?”

She exploded. “So what!” Her hands swept the air. “So. What. Write it anyway.”

I stared at her.

“Tell the demon to go away,” she said.

Too late. It continued to speak through me. “There’s never enough time. After working all day, and then exercising, and then eating, I need to unwind or I can’t sleep. I might as well watch TV instead.”

She leaned forward. “Then…read…a…book.”

I shut up.

I’m a writer. Writers read. It doesn’t have to be a luxury. It’s a necessity. My eyes lit up.

My friend picked up her fork and dug into her cheese-less, guacamole-less, salsa-less, tortilla-less chicken burrito.

So what if I have only six subscribers, I told myself. There might be a million more who are following from an RSS feed. Besides, those six subscribers are worth every word I squeeze out. And it’s writing, right? It’s building an author’s platform.

The demon snorted. Woo-hoo, six people. That’s not a platform. That’s not even a crowd.

This, dear reader, is the demon who followed me behind the curtain to torture me during my rewrite. This is the demon who peered over my shoulder as I reviewed the first draft of my manuscript and sneered, it stinks. And I believed him. I felt beaten down. I wanted to shred every page. Then I read in Immediate Fiction that this is typical for writers, that at some point you hate what you’re writing and you want to give up.

So I went fishing (metaphorically speaking), to take a break from writing. Until one of my loyal followers commented that after three weeks I should have caught enough fish to support a small tribe of aboriginal mountain people. Come back! He said. How could I refuse? I left the fishing pole with my inner demon and returned to my keyboard.

On Wednesday, I complained to my writing buddy: “I’m blogging about rewriting, and I don’t even have a clue how to do it. This is insane!”

Aha! I recognized that voice.

My friend waved the demon aside and said, “You’re leaving breadcrumbs, remember?” And she was right. I’m not an expert. I’m a novice. There will be times when I flounder. I’ll make mistakes and stumble and go off in wrong directions.

That’s okay.

That’s part of the process.

That’s how we learn.

We writers need to stick together, to hold each other up and push each other onward. We need to trudge through our word counts and shove past our resistance until we get to the end of our stories, and then we need to double back and clean up the muck. How? That’s what I’m figuring out. Hang in, I’ll get it.

Takeaways this week:

Don’t believe everything you think.

Do believe in yourself. You’re one-of-a-kind. The world needs to hear your voice in all its raspiness.

To find out all about resistance, read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

 


14 Comments »

  1. Ellie says:

    I’m sure you have more than 6 followers on here! But really, I wouldn’t beat yourself up over WordPress numbers, either. I did, too, but then I read Chuck Sambuchino’s “Create Your Writer Platform.” It really drummed home that while it’s NICE to have a platform (and that you shouldn’t be unfindable), if you write fiction, it’s not necessary. This was liberating. Social media was something good I could do for myself, but not something mandatory that I had to hate myself for doing poorly.

    Anyway, your writing buddy is very wise.

    I think most writers have had a crippling moment of doubt, or a deep, long moment of writer’s block where they can’t write anything, have no interest in writing, and hate everything they try to. But it’s obviously agonizing when you want to be a writer but you can’t bring yourself to write. I hope you can find a way out soon!

    • Diane says:

      Thanks Ellie! I’ve been at odds about the whole platform thing. If I’m a fiction writer, shouldn’t I focus on my fiction writing? Glad to hear Chuck Sambuchino feels the same way. I’ll get a copy of his book!

      • Ellie says:

        It’s an awesome book and I wholeheartedly recommend it. :)

        It has lots of great advice on how to become more active in social media and why it’s important. But the real message was that non-fiction writers live and die by their platform, but it’s a nice-to-have for the rest of us.

        I came away feeling very relieved. I’m certainly trying to be more active online and to meet new people, but I’m not agonizing over how 60 Twitter followers must mean that I’m doing something horribly and dangerously wrong.

  2. Jan says:

    I agree that writers need to stick together. We’re the only ones who understand the deep frustration we face with ourselves! The enemy – the demon within!

  3. Joan says:

    So glad to see you back…I’ve been missing you!!!!

  4. Charli Mills says:

    Great post, Diane! I love the passage where you write about eating and talk about writing. The munching on chips is like being there with you (and now I want chips). Writers write. And we think, and connect and do all the things that excite us until we spill out in words. Blogging is a valuable platform for several things–the regular discipline of writing, experimenting and sharing ideas with others. Platform is important to marketing as a writer. If you don’t intend to publish books or get swept off your feet by an agent (there’s always room for hope)then platform may not be your goal. But it is your home as a writer and important. You write well…keep going. Persistence will run over the demons in the end. :-)

  5. Hey, you were talking about me! I’m so glad I brought you back.

    We all suffer self-doubt. You just have to keep writing through that crap. Write so fast that the demons can’t keep up. After you’re all done and it’s all out, you can allow a few of the demons back. They’ll sharpen your story and tell you where to cut.

    • Diane says:

      Yep, you were the one who lured me back.

      You’re so right. When I write fast the work is much better. I know I’m in trouble when I’ve spent an hour on one sentence. And the sentence still sucks. And shouldn’t be there to begin with. Ha!

      I got your book! Looking forward to reading it. For those who don’t know, it’s called Lost in Spain: a Collection of Humorous Essays.

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