“Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing,” is a quote I saw online once (apparently Sylvia Plath said it). If so, then my room must reek. I’ve got shelves and shelves of the stuff, and very little published writing. On top of that, most of what’s on my shelves is unpublishable – not only is it not edited, it’s not even finished. I always hope someday I’ll get around to finishing it, but that seems less and less likely…
I’ve realized that I write to escape from reality to a world I can (somewhat) control. So when I start it’s all excitement – I get to explore this situation, this new world, or a set of characters. But then comes fear: what if I screw this idea up (when it’s such a good idea)? What if I can’t write the characters as well as they deserve, and anyone who reads this story can’t see why I’m spending ages and ages describing what this loser does? What if I can’t figure out a way to resolve the plot in a satisfying and interesting way?
As soon as fear creeps in, the desire to write becomes less and less. I put off writing the next bit until I’ve truly lost interest in the story or the characters, and wonder why it excited me so much in the first place.
Then that stack of writing goes to join all the others on the shelf.
A handful of times, I’ve gotten through the fear stage, the excitement came back, and I plowed on to the end of a story or novel. That process looks something like this: