Read her, please!
Why write for money? I want to write for Love! I want to cry along my characters, be their shade as they walk down the streets of their imaginary world. I want to write because one day, when I’ll be older, my children and grandchildren can have a piece of me to keep forever, a piece that will be part of my family’s history. Who cares if it doesn’t make money. I write because I can, and because it’s my dream.
That was me. At 13.
It was 1998, the year I spent rewriting a novel I wrote in primary school, one based on the crossover/remake of the Transformers cartoon series and a Japanese anime called Gordian. A novel I pitched to an important Italian publisher— completely unaware of copyright issues. Actually, I didn’t even know what copyright was. I just had fun writing.
That novel got rejected (of course), but it sealed my commitment to getting published, one day.
So I kept writing. If not every day, at least twice a week.
But the entrance into adult age changed something. The magic was lost, even though I didn’t want it to. The adult world pressured me to ‘do things for money’ so much that I started to feel guilty every time I approached a project out of pure genuine interest, either it involved money or not. I began to drop projects based on pay.
Was that the right thing to do?
My writing muse screams ‘NO’.
The Fundamental Cause Behind Adult Writer’s Block
As a kid, the only thing that would cause me to put writing projects on hold was going to school and getting homework done. Or having to go out with my parents on family trips that didn’t involve time for writing. But as an adult, I found myself getting blocked for a different reason (plus a gazillion smaller silly ones):
Am I really good enough to even begin this project?
Or put in other terms: What right do I have – me, a lowly writer whose English is not even her first language – to submit my stupid ideas to important publications?
The ‘important publication’ could be a blog, an e-zine, a newsletter, a print magazine, a short-story anthology. Anything. Even the lowest paying small circulation magazine or blog would appear too important in my eyes.
Where did my writing innocence go? Why am I unable to ‘just write’ without having crazy internal editors get in the way? There was no editor who could stop me at 13. There are way too many to deal with now.
Recover That Writing Innocence Before It’s Too Late
If you read this far, you might be on my same boat. You need to recover that writing innocence from your childhood if you want to further your writing career and be successful at what you do. There’s more than one way to subject yourself to ‘writing therapy’, but remember that no method will work until you make it a commitment to heal fast and get your writing muse back.
1. Pen and paper in hand, close your eyes and write. Who cares if you overwrite your own words, go overboard or if your handwriting looks more like a kindergarten kid’s first attempt at writing? What counts is that you hiss your consciousness and just follow the trail of your thoughts. When you are done, put pen and paper away (without looking at it) and do something else. Later, grab your paper and edit. There might be food for more than one article, short-story or newsletter inside those ‘crappy’ lines.
2. Write wherever your heart commands. If that’s the white border of your daily newspaper, that’s fine. If that’s the back of your grocery shop receipt, go for it. If that’s the palm of your own hand, it’s no problem (just make sure you can wash it away!). Don’t make time for writing, just write. It can be as urgent as food when you’re starving.
3. Don’t wait for an editor’s response. Write away! I realize this goes against all the advice you’ve heard about focusing your efforts on tasks at hand when freelance writing, but sometimes waiting means losing the momentum and the joy for the piece you want to write. So, don’t wait for your editor’s ‘go ahead’ to start writing! As freelance writer Christina Katz says in her her book Writer Mama, prewrite your features! And not just those, but fillers, columns and blog posts, too. That is how the post you’re reading was written— straight from the heart. And refined, edited later.
4. Use a tape or mp3 recorder (or your cellphone recording function) to note down your ideas. This is no new advice for freelance writers, but it turns out incredibly helpful when you want to get rid of your internal editors and just let your writing muse speak. Free! You’ll have time to put your vocal notes in order later.
5. Make (or leave) your notepads as messy as you can. Trying to write orderly when you’re noting down ideas and outlines only hinders your ability to write freely and it freezes any new idea twist or slant you had been working on inside your mind. Keep your innocence alive, let it make your heart pound!
And be a child again. You need it. 🙂
What do you do to feed your writing innocence?