Literary Recovery

Some of you may know this already, but I've been having a bit of a bout with writer's block for the last year or so. It's been painful, but I came to the realization about 6 months ago that part (maybe all) of the problem stemmed from my own expectations for myself. Creativity is not something you can force. The best you can do is mould it into a habit.
So, I scaled back my expectations. I put a moratorium on demanding things from myself (as best I could, anyway) and let the muse crawl back into her cave to recuperate.
I don't think I ever stopped reading Whatever, Nicole's Blog, or Miss Snark and I know I discovered the Evil Editor during that time. I never really stopped reading about writing, I just stopped expecting that I would DO it.
After a suitable break, I decided to start reading again. Not that I ever really stopped, but I started choosing books like those that inspired me to write in the first place. I also bought subscriptions to fiction magazines that had stories like the ones I used to write. Ones that I might publish my own stories in, if I started writing short fiction again. I subscribed to two new magazines, Farthing and Subterranean (so far I've been pretty impressed with the quality of the former, less so by the latter), and I plan to subscribe to a couple well-established ones as well. I used to be pretty practiced at short stories, even if I only ever submitted to one place (Sword & Sorceress). If I started writing again, I didn't want to limit myself like that again.
Reading was the best antidote. I reconnected with words and grammar and story structure and character development. I would read something and think, "hey, I think I could write something as good as that!"
Of course, thoughts like that led to me wanting to read my own writing. I started with my Drake story. I read the prologue and immediately felt discouraged. It didn't quite have the quality I expected. A few days later, I read my Blue Collar story and laughed the whole way through. The characters were clear and fun and the writing was vivid without being overwrought. Not coincidentally, this is the most recent writing I've done, so was the most mature.
So, I'm feeling encouraged and interested in my writing again. I'm trying to keep focused on the enjoyment I get from the act of writing itself. Publishing or not will come later and I'm really not going to think about that right now. The road to recovery (much like my knee recovery) has been long and will continue to be long. Patience with myself and my own process is the key.

Much Later:
Even though I took a break from Writing, I never stopped paying attention to my everyday writing. Whenever I write, I think about the construction, the tone, and word choice. It sounds laborious, but to me, it's not. It also means that I've grown as a writer, even when I'm not Writing.


belsum said...

I'd love to read your short stories, if you're willing to share!

Is the mag "Farthing" related to the new book by the same title? It's an alt history; I just read a review and it sounded good.

Anne said...

I'm certainly happy to share the published ones. I think I have those scanned to pdf. When I find them I'll send them to you.
The unpublished ones I'll keep under wraps. Not only because I'm a bit superstitious about that sort of thing, but because I know that all of them were written quite some time ago (because I'd moved on to longer stories), and so are probably quite bad.

No, "Farthing" the mag isn't related to _Farthing_ the book, but now that I've looked into it, it does look good. "Farthing" (a pun on Far-thing) the magazine is a quarterly magazine that says "SF, Fantasy and Horror" on the cover, but really is just a great combination of speculative fiction. What I like about it is the variety and the writing quality is pretty high.