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Writers, resist!

Writers, resist!

Where there is power, there is resistance – Michael Foucault

Paraphrasing Oscar Wilde, writers can resist everything except those traits that make them so special and unique. Being a writer usually means knowing what impairs your stories and your writing life —after all, we’re very reflective people— and still, having to battle day in day out with such circumstances.

As writers, we have to learn to fight our limitations and to resist whatever gets between us and the stories we mean to tell.

Writers must resist their own minds
“The Thinker” – Mats Erikson

The writer’s mind

Our mind is our first, and maybe the most important, antagonist. From the outside, writers are perceived as a happy bunch, always ready to sit at their desks and let their imagination pour a rain of characters, situations, settings and scenes with almost no effort on our part. The reality, however, isn’t so pretty:

  • We compare ourselves to other writers –past or present–, or to our colleagues –who obviously write better than we do… and publish much more.
  • We procrastinate to no end. In fact, we’re the original procrastinators. We say we love writing, but we’d rather do the laundry, or take our mother in law out to lunch than finishing that damned story.
  • We can spend hours talking about a novel that’s only in our heads, without ever writing a word because telling everybody how fabulous the story is, saps our creative energy.
  • And we can even stop writing altogether. Driven by our fears, we decide we’ll never be good enough and we start looking for a decent, nine to five job.

 

Resist the urge to commit writing sins
Even Julio Cortázar had to battle with some “writing demons”. So do we.

When writing…

Even if we’re the champion of self-confidence, we’re sure that we’ll be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Literature (in ten years or so, because we’re optimistic but not stupid) and we possess that kind of iron willpower that has us up and writing at 6.00 sharp every morning:

  • We start writing without a plan, so we get lost; we have to start all over again…only to get lost for a second time before deciding that planning isn’t for losers after all.
  • We over research. We might not be writing a word yet, but we’re working like crazy gathering data. We are bookworms, sure, but are we writers?
  • We stop writing to pursue a competing idea. As writers, our eyes and ears are always open, and our mind is always active. So much that we get carried away by any new idea that crosses our path, even if it has nothing to do with the story we’re writing. So we end up having scores of notebooks but no book.
  • We overwrite. A simple, straightforward style looks so, well, simple, that we cram our stories with unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, or we use an obscure language trying to look intellectual.
  • We create loaded characters, extreme, suffering, agonizing, over-the-top types because what’s the point of writing about ordinary people in an ordinary style? As a result, our readers get tired of that unbelievable people, or we cause them a headache!
  • We edit on the go. Everyone’s favorite. I haven’t yet met a writer who hasn’t edited a paragraph or two before finishing the story, the novel or the article. However, early editing can only spoil a good page by overwriting it or –if it isn’t good enough– it’ll make us lose momentum, concentration, and inspiration by going over the same lines, again and again trying to polish them.

Yes, we’re writers and because we write we can all commit a couple of “writing sins” once in a while. The idea is to try and resist the impulse of doing so. We’re human, after all.