Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Writers Write

I'm always plagued by the same thought: how can I be a writer when I find it so hard to get the words out? Now, when I do get the words out, they usually aren't too bad (I hope). I quite like editing. I know about grammar and punctuation, and layout convention etc. I understand much of literary theory. But it's getting the words out in the first place that I struggle with the most.

When I see how much the other writers on my course produce, it makes me wonder why I seem to find it so difficult. Other writers I connect with online seem to punch out several thousand words a day.

I've only got about 3500 words down (and that's not even properly edited) for my novel, and I've been working on it for several weeks. I don't even have a full time job as an excuse any more.

I need to just let go and splurge. But I think there is an element of fear that stops me doing that. I need to get over this, or else how can I call myself a writer?

(Image by Shannon Runquist)


  1. Hey Sophie. It is the writer's condition to want to write more, write better. I've found that even when I'm on a roll I always feel like I could do better. The age-old advice works: write every day, or if not every day make a routine of when you write and don't cheat. (Read Dorothea Brand). And most importantly, turn off your editor - first drafts are for generation, not editing. If you can master that you'll soon find your words coming. None of them are wasted. You'll never get it just right in the first go anyway so give yourself the freedom just to write it out and see where it takes you. It takes as long as it takes.

  2. Someone far more knowledgeable than me said: 'Self doubt is a writers biggest enemy'

    Never a truer word spoken in my opinion. That nagging voice in your head - Am I good enough?, am I good enough? - is the hardest thing to overcome.

    I've recently distanced myself from the internet (not saying this works for everyone) so that I don't keep comparing myself to all the other great writers out there, and just try and enjoy writing again. It's working, sort of.

    Probably not for everyone, but it has stopped me feeling so inadequate and given me a bunch of time back...

    As long as you're writing something, you're going in the right direction.


  3. Thanks guys.

    Rich, I really should try disconnecting from the net some time... But I am more than a little addicted.

    Robin, I know what you mean about first drafts. I guess I'm working a little strangely, though, because I don't have time to do a full first draft. I have to present 3-5 thousand words to my MA class every three weeks. So that's got to be fairly polished. Which is hard, because I'm trying to have polished parts of a whole I'm still unsure about.

    Did you have a similar set up in your class?

  4. We had to submit that much every two weeks. Some folks submitted first draft stuff but most were working with a finished first draft manuscript, which makes more sense to me. I wasn't comfortable submitting first draft - like you, my stories evolve in the writing so I didn't want to invite criticism or comments that might dampen the exploration. I chose to work through the piece with my mentor and submit shorts that I could polish and send off during the year based on student notes.

  5. I found your blog through Inkspill. (Yours was actually the nicest rejection letter I think I've ever gotten--and you were completely right to reject my work.) I'm a fellow student as well, working towards an MA in writing. I'm one of those annoying folks that writes thousands of words in a matter of hours. The secret is simply not editing while you write. Get it down on paper (or pixels) and go back and edit after-the-fact. I know it's scary, but it works! I learned this through National Novel Writing Month (, which is actually going on this month. Happy writing!

  6. Thank you for your comment, Ann, and for stopping by the blog. Nanowrimo has never really appealed to me, but I can see why it works for others.


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