By Shahnaz Radjy
“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.” ―
When Does It Get Real?
In the few years that I have been contributing to Two Drops of Ink, I have tried to alternate between sharing writing insights with pieces of my own, whether non-fiction or fiction. While I love writing, on some days, I don’t consider myself a “real” writer. I know, logic confirms that if I write, I am a real writer, but emotionally, I think I need to level up before the “real” applies.
However, I refuse to let the emotions get in my way, but I thought for this post, it was necessary to mention my conflict.
I’ll Use Their Words
One of the reasons I love doing author interviews: hearing about other writers’ journeys to the Holy Grail that is becoming a published author is inspiring and empowering, and it allows me to share writing wisdom much beyond my immediate experience.
In parallel, I write novels, non-fiction, and sometimes even children’s stories.
Well, sort of, and that’s what I wanted to talk about today.
1. I’ve Been Distracted by Life
Over the past few months, I have been distracted by life and haven’t done much writing. I’m busy with freelance work, which includes writing but not for myself, for clients. The perk is that it feeds my bank account.
The downside? Working on my own writing is what I want to be doing.
I have heard of people that viewed COVID-19 like an extended vacation. Some got inspired and undertook new creative projects. Many struggled with the mental space to create and the motivation to write.
I started optimistically, but now I have to face the truth: I haven’t been writing since April. Not really.
2. I’m Busy
I’m busy. I’ve worked on the storyline for one of my novels. The weekly calls with my two writing accountability partners have continued and felt productive, either focused on the storyline or doing writing exercises and prompts.
That’s what makes this confession so hard. I’ve still been checking some boxes – it’s not like I am suffering from writer’s block! And yet.
There’s no May submission from me on Two Drops of Ink, and there’s no new material in my writing portfolio – whether raw or ready to share with the world. In “The Artist’s Way,” Julia Cameron says that suffering from a creative block is not laziness, as many of us tend to believe. It’s a situation based on fear: Fear of success, fear of failure, perhaps even fear of abandonment.”
The first time I read that, I shrugged it off. None of that spoke to me. Then I read on.
It turns out; she might be onto something. When I was in high school, I wanted to take art as one of my higher-level subjects. My parents vetoed the idea. They said no one would ever take that seriously, that I would be jeopardizing my college applications. They meant well, I complied and focused on science.
To Heck with Excuses, Education, and Expectations
With my education secured, I had time to write, and in 2017, I participated in my first National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It’s a free challenge you sign up for, writing 1667 words a day, and at the end of the 30 days, you’ll have 50,000 words.
Although my relationship with my parents had changed, I was apprehensive about telling my brother how I was spending my time, so I didn’t tell him until October 31 that I was participating.
I might be afraid of failure and success, but I was definitely (and very subconsciously) afraid of abandonment. I was worried my brother would reject my writer’s aspirations. This realization came to me as a surprise, but being aware of it made me better able to counterbalance it and set it aside as the irrational fear that it was.
I had butterflies in my stomach when I told him, afraid he would laugh at me. My brother is one of the people I respect the most in the world. He’s brilliant, funny, insightful, and has always been one of my idols.
Regardless of my healthy self-confidence, if he mocked my NaNoWriMo participation, it would fuel that little flame of doubt I already had in the back of my mind:
- Could I write a book?
- Did I have enough imagination and staying power to weave a story that held its own and lasted for 50,000 words?
It turns out; my brother was almost more excited than me at the prospect of my doing NaNoWriMo. With his encouragement of my creative efforts, I completed the challenge, and the first draft of my first novel was born.
Time to Get Creative
There are several lessons I’ve learned from my current situation and a few tools to get back on the proverbial horse. I know I need a plan, commitment, and focus. I know I can’t dwell on past failures, unfulfilled promises, or fear. Here’s how I intend to get back to writing, stronger for this slight setback.
Here’s what my plan is. Hopefully, the tools I will use to get back to writing will make the habit that much stronger for this slight setback.
- Show up: I’ve put a few slots back in my calendar to block time off for writing, and I refuse to cancel calls with my accountability partners. The mortification of showing up with only an “I didn’t do what I said I would do” and no words to show for the week? That’s a powerful motivator (not always enough, but still better than nothing).
- Do the work: Last week, I was tired of not writing. So, I took one of the anecdotes from my long list of memories kept in a tab parallel to my Homework for Life and wrote it into a short story. It was painful to write, painful to share with one of my accountability partners, and painful to read over with her. But the words were there on the page, and she made me realize that, with some work, the piece could actually work!
- Keep it fun: Keep the ink flowing. Not in the mood to work on your memoir or novel? Try your hand at haikus. Pick a writing prompt and see if that can help you reset. Write from a different perspective. The sky – and then some! – is the limit.
- Keep pushing: Being a writer means going beyond your comfort zone, so while I am all for being kind to yourself and giving yourself space to be and process and take time off, you also need to be willing to push yourself. It’s not just life that begins at the edge of your comfort zone, but it is most likely some of your best writing.
None of these strategies are fool-proof, and some may not work for you. The point is, keep trying, and you’ll find what keeps you on track more often than not.
After all, if you want to be a writer, the only thing you have to do is write.
Shahnaz is an adventurer, foodie, bookworm, and horse-lover. She is a freelance writer based in Portugal as well as the co-founder of an eco-tourism project. Alumni of the World Economic Forum and the University of Pennsylvania. Shahnaz has lived in Geneva/Switzerland, Philadelphia/USA, La Paz/Bolivia, and New York/USA.
http://casabeatrix.pt/shows the adventurous spirit of Shahnaz and her husband, François. First, they traveled the world working on farms to hone their skills, and since 2017 have been in Portugal. They bought an old farm in 2018, and are turning their biggest dream into an unforgettable farm / nature / disconnect-to-reconnect experience we’d love to share with you.
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