Coming out of my post last week about inspired versus forced words, I was trying to figure out why I’ve struggled with certain projects lately yet excelled with others. The one story I had been opening weekly and adding meagre words to is one I was hoping to submit to an anthology–with a deadline quickly approaching as I struggled to get it done. Conversely, the other story I opened at random recently is in a genre I don’t write and I’m writing it for myself. If it turns into something worthy of other people’s eyes I may submit it, but at this point it’s my fun practice project.
Looking at the pieces side by side, one theme came to mind: audience. Which led me to one conclusion: when I’m writing for an immediate audience my anxiety is increased tenfold and I find excuses to not write. I avoid that invisible person looking over my shoulder by avoiding writing. However, when I’m writing for myself, just myself, I feel free to just get the words down.
This isn’t a new concept. Writers have struggled with this since there have been writers.
Sometimes, like when I’m blogging and imagining an audience, it helps me shape my post so I’m focused and not boring people to death with extraneous details. I’m aware I don’t always excel at that…
But when I’m writing fiction, the opposite is true. The need to make my piece “perfect” before eyes are laid on it can be crippling. This isn’t always the case, but more often than not that’s how I feel (especially now that I have so much time to think about the actual act of writing).
It’s a vulnerability thing. With blogging I usually know what I’m talking about and what I want to say. I have a sense of authority and I feel good about what I’m writing and sharing. The stress of a deadline helps me get things done.
When I’m writing a story I feel exposed, so when I think of someone reading it before I feel it’s ready it’s like I’m personally being judged and evaluated.
Being a writer is complicated.
I’m still on the surface of this audience idea. I think this means I need to approach my stories with a different mindset. I have to write like no other human is ever going to see anything I get down and then edit like every human is going to see everything.
I know the importance of keeping the writer and editor brain separate but I need to go that extra step so I can actually get the words on the page. It’s like stress, there’s good, motivational stress, then there’s unhealthy, crippling stress. With an audience, even a perceived one, there’s going to be pros and cons.
We’ll see if this helps with my output moving forward. I sure hope so. There are some projects I’m really excited about that I want to get done so I can eventually share them.