Top Ten Ways to Sabotage Your Own Writing, Rookie Writer Style

The “Writer’s Digest” second annual “Big 10” issue is out. Chock full of literary 10-fers — including “10 Ways to Harness Fear and Fuel Your Writing” and “10 Great Travel Destinations for Writers” — the September 2011 issue keeps you on all ten toes and, in typical WD style, doesn’t disappoint. A thorough read-through leaves this writer excited about writing projects already underway, anxious to read some of the 10 debut novels highlighted in the issue and encouraged to revive neglected storylines. However, what holds me back is not a lack of resources or motivating material, but classic self-sabotage. I’ve determined to identify my top ten obstacles to being the writer I want to be . . . and to name myself as the responsible party holding me back.

Self-sabotage tactic number . . .

  1. Popping popcorn. It’s true . . . when my mind drifts from the writing project at hand, it drifts to popcorn. And I think I know why. It gives me an excuse not to type. After all, who wants salt and butter on an expensive keyboard?
  2. Fear of failure.  Cliché, I know, but for a darn good reason. No writer wants to get a rejection letter. Or worse still . . . no response at all . . .
  3. Writer envy. Enough said.
  4. Fantasies. Before I actually wrote for a living, I envisioned writing as a sort of non-laborious, fun, artsy, nonchalant and relaxing — yet dignified — way to earn a living. I still harbor that ideal, so it sometimes feels as though I must be doing something wrong.
  5. Isolation. I move from a blue office to my screened porch to a comfy corner on the couch, seeking an ideal place where the words flow freely onto the page or the computer screen. But I rarely leave my house. Although taking the liberty to loafer might make for a good number 11 on my self-sabotage list, I think that surely an occasional writer’s conference or literary convention could open up doors for me or at least expose me to other writers with similar goals.
  6. Networking . . . which includes looking up cool quotes to post on facebook, checking my email multiple times in a 30-minute period, checking my blog stats, etc.
  7. Pain . . . real or imagined. It’s true that when I write about such things as the symptoms of a specific vitamin deficiency, I start to notice those symptoms in myself. I begin to think . . . “you know . . . I might have a B-12 deficiency since I’m a vegetarian.” I do feel fatigued and have problems concentrating, after all. Aside from hypochondria, my knees really do hurt, most likely from sitting for so long. My back and my “sits bones” ache sometimes, especially if I fail to take 10 to 15 minute walking breaks on the hour.
  8. Ignorance. Yes, I admit it. There are so many things I don’t know about how to make it as a writer. I didn’t take the classic journalism route and I didn’t start until later in life, which brings me to number . . .
  9. Excuses. If creativity fails to seep into my writing, it never fails to creep into my subconscious, telling me that I’m not cut out for this. Since I’m writing right now, my creative juices are frozen, putting me at a loss for naming specific excuses. I’m too tired to think right now. After I finish my popcorn, I may be able to organize this line of thought. All the good examples have been taken. I really wish I could think of a good excuse, but I can’t seem to wrap my brain around one.
  10. Settling. The first niche I found has become my comfort zone. Even though I know my work is print-worthy, I haven’t ventured into print media. I also haven’t consistently worked on my novel. I have, in essence, made myself dependent on online content, secretly — and perhaps subconsciously — hoping to be discovered quite by accident.

In self-discovery fashion . . .

~The Rookie Writer

 

(photo compliments of Carlos Porto @ freedigitalphotos.net)

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Tweaking My Perception

It’s so easy to tune people out when you’re on a mission, even the ones who love you most. At least for me it is. Not that I ignore that my family and friends need me or want to hang out, or that the laundry needs doing and the dog needs food and water. I’m talking about the below the surface stuff. It’s funny how when I’m writing an article, I think nothing of delving below the waterline, so to speak, to point out the not-so-obvious or to make unlikely connections, when in my interactions with the VIPs in my life, I so readily turn off my radar and assume that all the cards are on the table.

Since February, I’ve learned some pretty disturbing stuff (love that word, right?) about someone who’s been close to my family for more than 20 years. Emotional abuse, controlling behavior, fairly blatant psychological profile stuff (again with that word) going on right under my nose. And someone dear to me has suffered because of it, all while I mix words, drink latte and spend hours at a time researching nutrition, child care guidelines and the like.

Needless to say, I’ve adjusted my radar and spent a great deal of time offering support, researching data about controlling behavior and kicking myself for my lack of insight. Oddly enough, I know I would’ve picked up on the signs if I’d read this person’s saga in a fiction novel. Too often, I expect reality to go right along as predicted and planned, mistakenly assuming that all the drama in my life is staged in literature and the media.

Off topic for my blog, I know, but I’m consumed right now with reality.  And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m sure you all take time to really know and be there for the important people in your life. But on the chance that your career, goals or downtime sometimes gets between you and the people you love, this post is offered as encouragement to tweak your perception every now and then.

In off-topic fashion,

The Rookie Writer

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Coping, An Attempt at Therapeutic Poetry

Hi friends,

Let me clarify up front that I know I’m not a poet. I have no formal training (obviously), but I’m currently nursing a need to express my frustration. And you? Well, you’re my unlucky audience. At least it’s short and sweet. As with any attempt at poetry, interpretations will vary. You might read this poem as a reference to writer’s block, and that would be a perfectly reasonable guess. I wish it was writer’s block. It’s not even me who’s been misled in the text, however. It’s someone who has to turn toward her own sunrise. I hope she does soon.

 The Sunrise

 I met a red herring today

who tried to lead me astray.

He tickled my ears, compounded my fears,

and confused and clouded my way.

Then turning my eyes to the warming sunrise,

I heard the voices of friends.

I tuned out the cries of Red’s deafening lies

and found my way once again.

 ~The Rookie Writer

 

(Photo compliments of Evgeni Dinev via freedigitalphotos.net).

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Unlikely Vegetarian

Where I come from, vegetarians are a rare breed. There’s usually bacon in the green beans. Or in any kind of beans for that matter. And chicken broth gets put in everything. So my conversion to vegetarianism nearly three years ago caused quite a stir. I have family members who say they’re praying for me. Apparently, my cooking skills have gone to pot, and grilling out lost its fun factor for my husband because I’m not eating and bragging on the steak anymore.

Strangely enough, my favorite “vegetables” growing up were french fries and baked potatoes. In fact, these were the only “vegetables” I would eat, aside from the occasional leaf or two of boiled cabbage I managed to swallow to keep my mom from freaking about about my eating habits. I tried Chinese stir-fry when I was 16–I picked out the chicken and cashews and left the rest. I was probably in my 20s when I first tasted broccoli and in my late 20s before I actually ate any part of a salad besides the croutons, cheese and dressing. It wasn’t my parents’ fault–we always had a garden, and vegetables were served with every meal. I just refused to eat them.

Sometime between age 25 and 41, I learned to like, even love, vegetables–except for tomatoes, but I’m not sure they even count. It’s all a blur now but somewhere along the way, I acquired a taste for squash, spinach, legumes, mushrooms, green beans and even the dreaded English peas that made me gag once at the family dinner table. I really sort of turned vegetarian, as opposed to making a conscious choice.

One day, I was trying to eat chicken. All I could think about was a little white chicken losing its head for me to have a fried chicken salad. Then came my disenchantment with other meat dishes that aren’t called by their animal names, such as hamburgers, bacon and filet mignon. Finally, I confronted my love for barbeque ribs. With the chicken, I knew–hey, this is chicken leg, chicken breast, chicken thigh or chicken finger (but that’s another story). Heck, I didn’t even know which animal’s ribs I was actually eating. I’m disgusted now that I ever ordered and consumed a half-rack of some mystery animal’s ribs. So, my journey into vegetarianism was pretty much cold-turkey, so to speak.

Ironically, I live in a cabin in the country surrounded on three sides by my husband’s cattle farm. The cute dalmatian-colored bull we affectionately referred to as Buck now resides in our freezer. No, he wasn’t fed hormones and he didn’t grow up in unethical conditions, but I bottle fed him, for goodness sake. Now my family expects me to cook him.

Yes, I am an unlikely vegetarian. And one who’s considering going vegan. Can’t wait for the prayer chain that move’s gonna start. Since I can’t convince my family to give up meat, I tried to raise my dog as a vegetarian. My husband caught on and fed Sebastian steak. So much for that thwarted attempt to make a small difference. But I did manage a smidgen of success in one area: I’ve started preparing two meatless meals a week for my family. So far, no one has mounted a rebellion.

Your fellow word lover and friend to animals,

The Rookie Writer

(Photo compliments of: Suat Eman/ Free Digital Photos)

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Cool Change

I think it’s time for a cool change. I’m revamping. I’ll still update my progress. But it’s time to make this site more than a place to share victories and defeats. It’s time to make it fun. Hope you enjoy!

Cheers,

The Rookie Writer

(photo compliments of Suat Eman, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=151)

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Second Guessing, Freestyle

I’m looking up right now.

Don’t assume optimism.

I’m looking up through the stinky, oppressive, self-produced pile of empty pages I’m drowning in, looking for some sign of light, some way out.

The bills continue whether or not my brain reports for duty, whether or not writing opportunities fall in place, whether or not a major family dilemma disturbs my equilibrium.

The bill inbox grows while my finished work outbox blows.

It’s not a trap. It is a trap. It’s not independence. It is independence. It’s not what I wanted. It is what I wanted.

“It”–you know–the writer’s life.

There’s a wall, no matter what you’ve heard.

It’s solid and painful and shocking and blocking.

Don’t tell me writer’s block is a myth of imagination, an excuse for procrastination

or a lie propagated by lazy idealists.

No. Tell me it’s real. Tell me what I already know.

Confirm the ugly side of freelancing, of trying to freelance, of living the unpredictable, self-employed, debt-ridden writer’s life.

Then tell me help is on the way. Tomorrow the words will come freely, the money arrive on time.

I’m subject to believe you.

~The (temporarily self-doubting, but always rebounding) Rookie Writer

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Learning Curve

Change happens. It’s part of working, living, aging and any story worth its ink. Aren’t you always working toward something? Whether it’s the weekend, a vacation or that last square of chocolate you’re saving for dessert, unmet desire drives you forward, fueled by the inevitability and promise of change. But sometimes, don’t you wish you could make it stop?

When my daughter was six, she caught me bagging up some clothes she had outgrown and she commenced to crying. Her reasoning? “You know I don’t like change!” That was an apt description from such a young self-observer. Sometimes I don’t even recognize what’s bugging me when change shifts me out of my comfort zone. Which brings me to my point.

I’ve gotten comfortable with the idea and practice of writing online content. Just settled in with my coffee and confidence, in fact. But that market is shifting, outgrowing its former clothes, if you will. My problem is that I’ve become a dependent piece of that diverse wardrobe. To avoid getting myself bagged up as a pair of last-season fuzzy socks, I’ve got to find a way to be the glass slipper.

In typical growing-pain fashion, 

~The Rookie Writer

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