Story of My Block
If I am honest, I will admit it all started because I was the epitome of the naïve, newbie writer. You name a cliché and I did it (except mailing query letters on purple paper hand-scented with lavender spray. …my one claim to early intelligence was avoiding that blunder.). I wrote a book. I fell in obsessive love with my book. My book was so spectacular that it was sure to make me rich, famous and beautiful.
I went in search of editors to publish my masterpiece (who needs agents, am-I-right? All they do is take a chunk of the hard-earned money and allow one to name drop*) and discovered that writing contests can be a short cut. Well that made things easy. All I had to do was enter a contest, win it, and sign my name on the contract that the editor would insist on shoving under my nose. (Seriously, this was my line of thought.)
I found an editor I liked, entered the contest, and waited impatiently for news of my win. Finally (F-I-N-A-L-L-Y) the results were posted, and to my surprise, my name was not on there. I was philosophical. It was after all my first try. Possibly I’d missed a few typos and hadn’t used enough active verbs. I’d wait to get my comments back, make the needed changes, and try again.
The comments arrived in a Fedex envelope (this was err… prior to contests being run via email/upload). I was so excited to read the compliments that I ripped open the envelope standing on the front porch. I read the scores, read the comments, and didn’t finish another book for seven years.
(Also there were tears. And the burying of the envelope and its contents in the bottom of my T-shirt drawer and pretending it didn’t exist.)
I was devastated and humiliated, but not just because I was such a terrible writer (I came in dead last, just in case you were wondering). The true problem was that I hadn’t seen it coming. I thought my pages were near perfection in terms of skill and story. Yet, all four judges said (in the nicest words ever) that I needed to take some introductory writing classes.
I had zero ability to assess my own work. I couldn’t trust my own intuition. This was the cement truck that poured, cured, and finalized my writer’s block.
I still loved to write and loved creating stories. With time I was willing to let other writers read my unfinished work again, but I always made it clear the book was only ‘in progress.’ Unfinished. Just an attempt. Not ready for publication in any way, shape, or form.
And I believed every single one of my own statements. I had no recognition of what was really going on. I couldn’t see that avoiding finishing let me avoid making myself vulnerable. So I’d write 85% of a book (and my first drafts are usually pretty close to being a final draft and would take me near a full year of work, decide the entire concept was lacking, and start from scratch on something else.
Five books I did this to:
The Melody of Midnight
Fall a Little Further **
I was seriously, severely blocked.
*To be clear, this was a belief of my naïve self, not my current one. I am VERY grateful for my wonderful agent, Rachel Brooks.
*Those poor five books that will never see the light of day are in no way regrets. I might not have finished them, but each one taught me so much. While working on them I took classes, attended conferences, worked with other writers, and learned craft. I truly believe my block was a blessing in disguise, even if at the end it was a blessing that I had to learn to manage.