Don’t Punish Yourself For Creating

My Writing Worldview

As I’ve talked about before here, I write fiction. I have yet to be published, for multiple reasons, but I am still hard at work on my favorite pastime. I only mention this because I am speaking not as a published author, but as one of many writers in the world still looking toward that goal. It’s an important for what I’m about to talk about.

There is so much varying advice in the writer world when it comes to how many projects you should juggle. I have friends who only work on one novel until it is completely finished. I have other friends who have a small cluster of projects, usually averaging about three, who rotate them based on inspiration.

I have frequently been accused of being easily distracted. And it is true, both in my regular life and my practices as a writer. I’m often derailed by new ideas, working to at least plant them on firm ground, if not devote myself to them, before perhaps moving on to another new project or back to an old one. Or even juggling several of these at once. I flit like a bee between my various project ideas, sometimes pollinating more than I can count.

As you can imagine, this creates a lot of delays in finishing one, SINGLE project. I’ve heard a lot of criticism from fellow writers over my process. Most of it comes from a place of helpfulness, but sometimes I think people forget that being a writer (more than many other professions) is not a one size fits all system.

And I will fully admit that what I have come to is not a perfect system, but I have realized something that is true for myself and others may need to hear.

Don’t punish yourself for creating.

Now that sounds a little too obvious right? But it isn’t. And there was a bit of misunderstanding on my part over what other writers were recommending to me.

What I’m about to say, I don’t say this as a universal truth for all writers, by any stretch. Do what works for you, but if I’d had someone tell me five years ago what I’m about to say to you, I’d have developed much more as a writer by now. So I wanted to say this, even if some people may criticize me for it. But as I said before, I write because I love to and I do not depend on it for income (though I do hope to someday profit from my passion), so take my advice with that grain of salt. My advice probably won’t work for someone hoping to support themselves economically off of their writing.

I spent years mentally punishing myself for not sticking to one project, or even three projects. I tried to force myself to “behave” and be like others. But I simply wasn’t capable of it. Frequently, I would start a new project, passionately put out often over twenty thousand words on it, and swiftly get distracted by another endeavor. Rinse and repeat. With frequent interludes of trying to touch back on older ideas as well.

But since I couldn’t be like other writers, couldn’t do what others told me was most efficient, I spent a lot of time not creating at all. Maybe my way of doing things wasn’t efficient, but it was the way that I could create the most with the greatest enjoyment. It made me happy to do things the way I was doing it, regardless of practicality.

And again, trying to do things in a way that didn’t work for me, but that others told me was good was actually decreasing my ability to write, my creativity, and my passion.

Why Bother Talking About This?

As I’ve also been vocal about, I’m a huge proponent of NaNoWriMo. They host an event in April every year called Camp NaNoWriMo in which you can set your own monthly goals.

At the beginning of this year, I had made an unofficial commitment to work revive one of my older projects. However, due to a number of factors, I felt inspired to begin a new project. I believed the story had everything necessary to succeed if I put the work in, the first time I had felt that about a new idea in years.

I was also in the midst of a writing drought. I had little time to write due to my job and other circumstances; other personal factors (health/emotion) played a part as well. So, despite my better judgement at the time (just wanting to be able to write something), I decided to begin the new project. I made the decision that if I couldn’t get this story solidly off the ground during Camp NaNo that I would return to what I had previously planned to work on.

So I set my goal at 25k words for the month of April and got to work. I had been dabbling with the book the previous week and knew I was enjoying the story already. I thought this goal would be achievable, even though I was extraordinarily busy. Even if I didn’t make the 25k, I just wanted to see how much work I could get done.

Not only did I reach my goal, but I surpassed it, reaching over 40k words. I found a project that means something to me and that I have been consistently able to work on since I began, even when not feeling inspired.

Takeaway?

If I had followed what I thought was being recommended to me by other writers, I may have let this project fall by the wayside and not have the makings of a successful novel on my hands. I changed my plans and it turned out for the best. In fact, it actually turned out that this is the only project I’m currently working on because I became so enthusiastic about it.

I will still recommend you take my advice with a grain of salt. I often still struggle with finding the best method for myself in terms of making the most of my writing. I won’t pretend I have it all figured out. All I know is that I am much happier writing the way I naturally do and that I am actually able to create with ease and passion. I have set limits on myself based on my own experience of how I work best, not on others’ ideas of how I should be working.

One more bit of explanation about this. I am not advocating for only writing when inspiration strikes. I still push myself to create, even when not inspired. It is more of a matter of what I’m creating. I make a point to always keep writing, even if I have to switch projects to do it. I do make the effort to keep on a single project as often as possible, but I don’t do so to the point of not creating at all if I cannot continue on one single project for whatever reason. Usually I switch projects because I have a breakthrough on another project.

As I said before, I’m still perfecting my own methods, but I encourage you to at least take my main piece of advice to heart. Don’t punish yourself for creating. Ultimately, it is better to continue creating and perfecting your craft and abilities, even if it means it takes you longer to finish one, single project. You’re still learning, still improving, still creating.

Happy writing, my friends!

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