Part of the How They Do It Series
From time to time I like to invite writers who are still "in the trenches" so to speak, to share their writing challenges and journeys. Writing can be a solitary endeavor, but we all go through a very similar process and it's nice to know that we are not alone on this journey. Sandy Fry joins us today to talk about a different type of writing block you might be facing yourself.
Sandy is a writer, photographer, traveler, retired computer analyst, and lifetime art student. Though she yearns to write as well as and be as successful as her critique group friends, that hasn’t happened yet.
Sandy thought that planning a contribution to the “How They Do It” column would motivate her to submit some of her work elsewhere. She’s happy to report that she now has an essay in the current issue of Minerva Rising, and a first place in the non-fiction category of the Atlanta Writers Club’s spring contest, but sad to report that she still has submitter’s block and hasn’t sent anything out since.
Sandy admits that Bob, her late partner, was a something of a hoarder (she would like you to know that he was a clean hoarder). She’s still working on sorting through his things, and keeps herself focused on finishing that task by blogging about it.
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No one has asked her any questions about why submitting her work is difficult for her, so she decided to ask them herself.
Take it away Sandy...
What’s the biggest problem with your writing?
Problem? I don’t have a problem writing. I happily make lists and scribble endless sticky notes to keep track of ideas. It’s not hard to start, not hard to gather my thoughts and make connections, to edit and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite.
No writer’s block here–what I have is submitter’s block. I’ll bet I’m not the only writer with this problem. See if you share any of my symptoms.
What’s so bad about submitting?
First, it’s boring. Writing is much more fun. But I’ve finally realized that no editors are going to come knocking at my door asking me to please give them my favorite work to publish. And I wonder, if a tree falls noiselessly in the forest because no one is there to hear it, are we really writing if no one reads our work?
As for submitting, I intend to do it but somehow sabotage myself. I look at friends’ and critique group partners’ publications with admiration and some envy. I spend hours researching publications and contests. I plan. I write down deadlines and forget them, waking up the day they’ve past, realizing I’ve goofed again.
When I tell someone I have a problem submitting my work I usually get a look of sympathy and some form of, “Have you thought about whether you’re afraid of rejection?”
Yes, I’ve thought about it, but there’s more to it than that. I do submit once in a while, just often enough to get a few good results that should inspire me to keep submitting. But I still don’t. I begin to see maybe the problem is that, despite all this working, writing and rewriting, what I’m not doing is finishing.
Where am you going wrong?
I’ve been accused of pesky perfectionism, but here’s an idea: I worked in computer programming for 30 years, maybe I’m stuck in one of those endless shampoo loops–like “lather-rinse-repeat”–but with writing. (write-critique-rewrite-repeat…)
What’s so bad about finishing?
Until last week I didn’t realize it was hard to finish, I just thought I was still polishing several things, er, everything. Then, in the middle of listening to the audiobook of the excellent Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I heard this.
Mr. Norrell began by asking Strange if he had brought his writing? He would, he said, very much like to read what Mr. Strange had written.That hit home. I was listening in my car. I nearly screeched to a halt in the middle of Lower Roswell Road, slammed with the realization that I have way too much in common with that old fussbudget, Mr. Norrell.
“My writing?” said Strange and paused a moment. “I am afraid, sir, that I am at a loss to know what you mean. I have written nothing.”
“Oh,” said Mr. Norrell. “Mr. Drawlight told me that you had been asked to write something for The Gentleman’s Magazine but perhaps . . .”
“Oh that!” said Strange. “I have scarcely thought about it. Nichols assured me he did not need it until the Friday after next.”
“A week on Friday and not yet begun!” said Mr. Norrell, very much astonished.
“Oh” said Strange. “I think that the quicker one gets these things out of one’s brain and on to the paper and off to the printers, the better. I dare say, sir,” and he smiled at Mr. Norrell in a friendly manner, “that you find the same.”
Mr. Norrell, who had never yet got any thing successfully out of his brain and off to the printers, whose every attempt was still at some stage or other of revision, said nothing.
What to do?
I started blogging to help me focus on downsizing and de-hoarding my house, but I think it’s also helped my writing. At first it was hard to click that “publish” button, but with weekly practice I’m getting better at it, even looking forward to it.
Still, I think it’s the Mr. Norrel likeness that makes the biggest difference. If that doesn’t cure my submitter’s block I don’t know what will.
And since I clearly need some practice, here is my tentative step forward–thank you Janice for accepting this submission to your blog. I’m almost ready to hit “send”.
Have you ever had submitter’s block? How have you coped?