Writing the first draft of your story can be both joyous and torturous. I’m on page 21 of my new novel. It’s the follow-up to Pennies from Burger Heaven (still unpublished), so I have book two already plotted. Although it’s nice to know what happens next, the blasted book still needs 75,000 more words! Those first two chapters were not easy to do, but I at least enjoyed myself. I thought, “This book will be different. It’ll be fun!”
When it came time to tackle chapter three, fun went bye-bye. I encountered the dreaded…
Loser Writer Syndrome.
Yes, make an ‘L’ with your hand and plant it firmly against your forehead.
Marcy’s unofficial definition of Loser Writer Syndrome: You cannot writeth; therefore, you sucketh.
Here are the gory details of my tragedy. I crawled to my laptop at 4:38 am that Friday morning because I woke up extra early and couldn’t fall back to sleep. Because I know me, I’d already shut down my two email accounts the night before to avoid distraction.
I promptly opened both and read my entire inbox. I also checked how many comments I had to answer on a guest post for a huge blog.
They’d have to wait. I had my priorities straight. I was focusing on my novel first, by Gawwwwd.
Oh, I forgot, I also went to Mudpie Writing’s Facebook page to count Likes, Shares, etc.
No, no, no. I’d just wasted 22 minutes.
I stopped that utter nonsense, closed all Internet sites and returned to chapter three.
Only, it wasn’t happening. From scene to scene, I clinked and clunked around. I never found my story’s rhythm.
The sun was just rising and I already hated myself. Of course, I would try again tomorrow, but today I had to suffer through 24 more hours of Loser Writer Syndrome. It feels like a rain cloud, showering you with gloom and doom.
Intellectually, I knew this slump would pass, but Fear kept storming over me:
What if I’ve forgotten how to write?
What if my days of success are over?
What if I never publish my novels?
What it…what it…what if?
Day after day, I kept hammering through the scenes of that chapter. They kept not working. I made it decent enough, then moved on to chapter four. Fortunately, the first 1,000 words there poured from my fingers.
I’m feeling hopeful again, but not enough to try and fix chapter three yet. I don’t want it to jinx me, so I’m pressing on with my story. I’ll go back and revise it later.
3 Tricks to Combat Loser Writer Syndrome
I’ve been writing a long time, so this much I know is true:
1. Loser Writing Syndrome (LWS) is temporary – I once read an interview with a New York Times’ Best Selling author (I can’t recall his name). He talked about having good and bad writing days, but when he read the final product, that beautiful novel from the bookstore — he couldn’t tell the difference between the good and bad writing. He’d smoothed it all out in the end.
2. LWS will only be temporary IF you continue to produce new pages – Don’t wait for the muse to inspire you, or when you retire and have more time, or when every detail is plotted before making writing a priority. The more you show up to battle the blank page, the faster you’ll improve. It’s called practice for a reason.
3. You’re not the only writer to experience LWS – Most everyone has encountered this painful condition at some point on their journey. More than once. It’s not happening because you’re new to the craft, you lack talent, or are too lazy. It’s because you’re human and Fear is part of the creative process. Every writer battles Resistance. Fear of failure. Fear of success and a thousand more phobias in between.
Bottom Line: You’re going to experience Loser Writer Syndrome, but you must decide whether you’re going to move beyond it and get those words onto the page (even if they’re awkward and ugly), or if you’re going to let Fear shut you down.
The choice is yours.