Posted tagged ‘finishing a manuscript’

Blocking Writer’s Block With Derek Jeter

July 10, 2011

Yes, I know. It doesn't really look like him.

Followers of this blog know that I am in the final stages of finishing a manuscript for a novel.  (I really am almost there now.)

It is difficult.  I am a pretty fast writer, but a terribly slow re-writer.  It takes me drafts and drafts and drafts, with additions, deletions, re-additions, re=deletions, corrections and missed corrections, and corrections of the corrections.  While revising and copy-editing can sometimes have an engaging aspect, they can also be soul-wrenching.

I don’t want to sound too whiney, but it can be hard not to be overwhelmed by the question:  “is it worth it?”  “It” being the manuscript, even the whole endeavor of writing.  And then there are all the related inquiries; most of which begin with “why,” many of which include “bother.”

The answer, I guess, is that you just have to do the things that make you you, even when they are difficult.  Translation: if you are a writer, or even if you just want to be a writer, you have to write.  And if you want any kind of an audience, and have any kind of pride, you have to re-write.  (And re-write again.)

Even so, as you get towards an end of a project, it is hard not to grow increasingly self-critical, a mind-state that can be paralyzing.

This weekend, I’ve looked for inspiration in one of my all-time heroes–Derek Jeter!

I call Derek a hero with some trepidation–maybe Jeter is not as nice as his public persona.  But no one can fault his determination, focus and drive.  His at-bat on his 3000th hit was a great example.  The count was 3-2.  Then he kept hitting fouls, one after another until he got a pitch he could slam.  As he said afterwards, he was not trying for a home run, he was just trying to hit the ball.  Hard.

Of course, one could argue that baseball is kind of a silly game; even if you like it,  a game.  All this effort–all this focus–all this attention–all this money–for what?

I, for one, right now, just choose to admire.  And to make myself get back to my own work with some of that determination, focus, élan.

Blocking Writer’s Block – Hold Your Nose Perhaps (But Don’t Shut Your Eyes)

October 20, 2010

As a daily blogger, I probably don’t seem much affected by writer’s block.  (Even when I don’t have much to say, I seem to be able to get it onto the screen.)

Here’s a confession:  my writer’s block, which is intense, comes towards the end of the process.

Getting a major project  done to the point of being able to say–this is the best I can do, the final shape I want these ideas to have–is nearly impossible for me.

The closer I get to completion, the more my stomach turns.  My whole being becomes one huge wince.   Unfortunately, squinched-up eyes don’t copy edit.

In the midst of this ongoing wince, I tend to make one of three bad choices – (i) I let the manuscript languish; (ii) giving up, I simply send it off.   (When the recipient mentions that it’s not quite finished, I cringe more and let it languish.), or (iii) I change the manuscript so radically that it is once again far from completion.  (Then, growing tired of it, I let it languish.)

Some of these difficulties may come from childhood, the curse of precocity.  When you are a precocious child (as many writer/artist types are), you always have the benefit of a certain handicap.  (“So what if his monograph spells Nietzche wrong a couple of times?  He’s only four years old!”)

Precocity is a protective clothing, highlighting every good quality, blurring every fault, chafing, at times, sure, but other times cozy.  But when the precocious child grows up, he or she, like the emperor, suddenly finds that all that clothing has blown away.  Oops!  Embarrassment sets in big-time.

Since this is a truly difficult problem for me, it’s hard to come up with tips.  These sound promising:

  1. The classic advice is to get a little distance from a nearly finished manuscript (i.e. put it in a drawer.)  This does help you to see the manuscript more clearly, but do not expect it to make the process significantly less painful.
  2. Make yourself begin.  Hold your nose if you must, but don’t shut your eyes.  (Keep in mind that eventually some interest or craft will kick in and it won’t feel so bad.)
  3. Make yourself move along.   I really like the Apple software “Pages” because when I re-open a manuscript, it takes me right to the place I left off instead of back to the beginning.    (In Word, I tend to spend months and months snagged on the first twenty pages.)
  4. Make yourself stop.  At a certain point, you will be playing around with minor edits that do not make your manuscript better. Worse, you start making such major changes that you are really writing a completely different piece, one that is farther than ever from being finished.  Maybe your original concept needs these major changes, or maybe you are just sick of it.  Try to be honest.  Allow yourself to begin something new.  (So what if you, like Shakespeare, are using similar themes and characters?)  (P.S. when your ego’s in tatters, feel free to glom on to some  good old grandiosity.)
  5. At some point, you really should proofread the printed pages, and not just look at the screen.  My best advice for this–get outside help (i.e. a really good friend or, maybe, an M.D.)

(Ha!)