How I got my writing mojo back
I knew from the age of 7 that I wanted to be a writer. That idea grew with me as I grew up, when it reached its most distorted apex in high school. You see, I didn’t want to be just any writer – I wanted to be that writer.
You know the one. The one who becomes a smash success with their first book. The one whose crystal-clear, vibrant prose would make readers weep and publishers bow in awe. The kind of writer who lives in a trendy apartment downtown, dispensing insightful bon mots in coffee shops, wearing black, and generally living the bohemian dream.
Despite this unrealistic ideal, one family member in particular was supportive of my goal. Too supportive, in fact. She constantly asked to see what else I had written lately, and said I would be famous. I grew very resentful of her constant interest, but still kept on writing – I was a teenager, of course, and this sort of irrational thing is a teenager’s specialty.
I hit my final year of high school and took a creative writing class. In that class, I wrote a short story that I had considered my best up to this point. It was about a high school girl who was incredibly gifted but had a lot of pressure put on her, who nearly got killed in a skating accident and then recovered from her coma by going through some sort of spirit-quest while being guided by a painfully obvious Jungian archetype figure.
In other words, my story was pretentious as fuck.
Unsurprisingly, I eventually grew dissatisfied with it. I tried so hard to sound distant and thoughtful and pretty, but it just wasn’t getting anywhere. I likened it to having a “membrane” separating my mind from the story I really wanted to tell, and concluded that I would never be a good writer, because I couldn’t break through it.
At this point, I finished high school and entered university. This meant essays. Lots and lots of essays. Some of them were interesting. A lot of them were meaningless. But all of them required effort and time spent writing. It was at this point that I concluded I would never really be a writer, because the writing I used to enjoy was fiction and would never amount to anything, whereas this writing – the important stuff – was hard and boring. Besides, my “fun” writing was pretentious and disappointing and distant, right? So much for the downtown dream!
Things stayed like that both throughout my university studies and for a year or so after I graduated. “Leisure” reading was fun, but I was just too burnt out to take the next step.
Then a funny thing happened. I got an iPod and started listening to podcasts. I subscribed to “I Should Be Writing” and “Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing” and “Variant Frequencies” and the “Seventh Son” trilogy. I was exposed to the heroin of genre writing, and it was fun. On top of that, I decided that freelancing would be an excellent fallback plan in light of my current employment situation. And what did I think I was good at? Writing, of course.
I got to networking. I joined organizations. I blogged. And slowly but surely, I started to write for myself again. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m now doing NaNoWriMo. I also got myself out of the “fine Canadian literature” ghetto that I was in and embraced reading non-fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror books. Now I’m writing something that is unabashedly a genre novel, and doing so with glee.
Will I “win” NaNoWriMo? Who knows. Will my writing be good? Who knows! The difference this time is that I know that real writing – satisfying writing – takes time and tenacity.
All that really matters is that I’m doing it again, and that I’m doing it with more realistic expectations. And that’s why I’m happy that I’ve got my mojo back.
This originally appeared as a guest post on the blog of Valerie Haight. She has recently been signed on to Turquoise Morning Press. This post was originally published on November 14th, 2011. It has been slightly altered from the original version.