That Which You Fear Most, Face First

I feel this overwhelming resistance to working on my current novel. Once I start writing (which I still do, every day), the words flow, but for the past couple of days sitting down to write feels like forcing myself through quicksand. I want to understand why so I can overcome it.

Could it be because choosing to write–or not to write–is something within my control, while other things feel pretty out of control right now?

Or maybe I’m feeling unworthy of writing this particular story.  I want to write a story that’s as good as the fantasy novels I’ve loved, and I’m stunted by that thought perhaps.

When creating a first draft, I usually let the story flow the way it wants to, and I don’t read back through it until the second draft stage. However, today I wanted to post a line from my work in progress on Twitter for #1lineWed (one-line Wednesday), when writers from all over tweet a line or two from their manuscripts in response to a weekly theme, this week’s theme being “action.”

As I skimmed through my YA fantasy novel for an action line, I found myself really liking much of what I’d written so far. Did this encourage me? Maybe a little, but like a cranky toddler I’m still resistant to returning to write more.

As I struggle through these feelings, I have to remind myself of a kind of epiphany I had after many years of young adult procrastination–like forgetting to pay my car registration then getting pulled over for expired tags, and other self-sabotaging attempts to control things by NOT doing them. Here’s the saying I try to live by: That which you fear most, face first.

When I started doing this, my life became less chaotic and much more livable. I still stumble. For instance, I have a major project to complete at work, which I’ve been putting off for, um, weeks now, so today have to go in to work–on Veterans Day holiday–to complete (okay, START)  the project.  The stakes are high, the work must get done, so I just need to face it.

About writing, the irony is that when I give myself permission to NOT write, I still do it because there’s nothing else I’d rather do. And whatever the writing crisis might be, the advice I always get from established writers is: WRITE THROUGH IT.

So now I’m off to complete that project at work. And I’ll also put in more work on my new novel. Yes, I’ll probably have to force myself to sit at my desk and get started, but eventually the writing resistance will pass– as it always has before.

–Eve Messenger

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10 comments

  1. I’ve been slogging a bit these last few days, too, but I’m still meeting my daily goals–it’s just a lot harder. I wrote the end of the novel first because I knew where I wanted to go (which is good advice I’ve heard several times!) but it wasn’t by any means the hardest section of the story to get down on paper. I had (have?) a huge chunk of the outline in the middle where I have scrawled “Something terrible happens…” with no further guidance. And that’s pretty much what I have to tackle next!

    It’s always lovely to read your thoughtful and encouraging posts.

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    1. Thanks for making feel less alone, Elena, though I’m sorry you’ve been slogging it of late. It’s interesting you should mention writing the ending first. With the past couple of novels– though I haven’t actually written the ending (which I might try with the next one)–I’ve at least gone in with a sense of the ending I’m working toward, which is way helpful. Yep, filling in Act II is hard!

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  2. Your second to last paragraph about wanting to write when you give yourself permission not to reminds me of a quote from Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.
    “Doing what you’re supposed to do is always boring. I can’t imagine anything worse than being required to have fun.”
    It’s not quite the same, but it kind of relates in that perhaps it’s because it’s part of your routine to write now. Perhaps that’s why you don’t want to do it. You want something out of routine for you and for that reason, giving yourself the option to break that routine (make it less required) makes you more inclined to do so. Does that make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s it exactly. Major bonus points for illustrating your point with an example from literature. I seriously loved your comment. Thank you, Melanie and Scott Westerfeld (who is SO on my TBR but whose work I have get to read). Have you read many of his books?

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  3. Excellent post, Eve! I’m so with you there. Today I’m going to just try and write without forcing what I think should happen especially since it doesn’t feel right. Thank you for your post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s been hard for me to start writing these past couple of days, too! There were a couple difficult scenes that I didn’t know how to write, so I was definitely avoiding them. Like you said, though, once I got going it was much better…On another note about what you and Melanie were discussing. I read the Uglies series a long time ago (like in my middle school days), but I remember enjoying Scott Westerfeld’s stories!

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  5. As a memoirist, my writing slumps are usually rooted in avoiding the emotional price tag of an upcoming chapter, or in massaging out the tender muscles caused by the previous one. Many an author has repeated: Apply butt to chair, but I like your line better. That which you fear most, face first.

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