Pressure

Writer’s block can be triggered by any number of things. Real life gets too busy, you get sick, you wrote yourself into a corner, you can’t get that freaking song out of your head and it’s ruining your scene.

Sometimes it’s pressure. With writers, there are three main sources:

  1. From your publisher
  • Although I’ve been lucky in this respect, some publishers take that wonderful book you wrote over the course of a year or two or five and want you to write three more just like it. By the end of the year.
  • From readers, real or perceived
    • This can be tricky. Most readers aren’t trying to pressure you when they’re asking when the next installment of this or that series will be out. You did your job as a writer, and now they’re a fan of the world you’ve created. This is a good thing. It’s a compliment.
    • Occasionally, though, I get a letter telling me to finish a particular storyline, and that generally has the opposite effect intended because I’m childish that way.
  • From yourself
    • This is the worst, by far. Writers by nature have overactive imaginations, and we can blow things all kinds of out of proportion. So everything listed above gets spun into your own psyche, along with:
      • If I don’t write three books a year the readers will forget me.
      • If I don’t write this freaking sequel the publisher will drop me.
      • What if this sequel isn’t as good as the first story in the series?
      • You’re only as good as your last book.
      • Nothing I write now will ever be as good as that one beautifully crafted book I wrote five years ago.
      • What if I never finish anything again?
      • I suck.

    Dealing with the first two sources is easy.

    1. If your publisher honestly expects you to write five books a year and that is not within your skill-set, tell them that. If they still expect the wordcount, then find a new publisher.
    2. Acknowledge that people love your world/characters enough to write you about them. Then take your time, and write a book that you love as much as the first one. Be good to your readers by being good to your story.

    See? Easy peasy. #3, though… There’s no simple way to lose all that baggage. But here are some of the things that I do:

    • Get a hobby that is not writing.
      • It clears my mind, relieves stress, and reminds me that there are other things in life.
      • I draw, fold origami, take pictures of toys and sometimes make animated .gifs of those toys, play soccer with my nieces and nephews (because apparently one little league season during kindergarten makes me the expert in my family).
      • I know other writers who sing, who cook. I’ve seen a lot of them knit during wait times at conventions.
    • Make friends with creators who are in the same fix.
      • Writers, artists, comic book creators. Talk about stuff. Vent that frustration we all get when we try to create a work of art only to have to market it as a product. Share that fear that we’re being pretentious when we refer to what we create as “art.”
      • This helps me realize I’m not alone. That these problems that seem so devastating are actually very common. Once the problems become common, they put a lot less pressure on me.
      • Note: Make friends. Don’t join a gang. The point is to get all those positive vibes flowing, which clears the air around you, which makes it easier to write.
    • Write under a secret identity for a while.
      • Hold on, hold on. I know this sounds mad sketchy. But it helps, especially given that I’m an established (am I being pretentious when I call myself “established”?) writer and the people around me tend to assure me that I could never write anything short of wonderful. Which is bullshit. Everyone will write a flop eventually. Most people will write several. But sometimes I get caught in one of two traps:
        • I get tied into knots because I’m terrified that the next book will suck and all these people who had faith in me will be disappointed.
        • I start to suspect my friends are lying to me.
      • I create a new username. I pick a forum or other such free story site that either aligns perfectly with my interests or falls way out of my comfort zone. I write. I get feedback from strangers who don’t know I’m Rowan McBride.
      • Rules:
        • Tell no one (not even my best friend who lives in another state and doesn’t like the internet) of my username. The primary point of this exercise is to see how I do when I have to “start from scratch” in a sea of people who do not know me.
        • If I’m writing in my comfort zone (frex: muscle growth) then go all out and write it, without all those invisible rules that come with being a published author tying me down.
        • If I’m writing out of my comfort zone, write it. Do my best to rock this strange new world.
        • Experiment.
        • If I fail, be glad. It won’t affect my writing career and I’m learning something.
        • If I rock it, be glad. I have proof that I am awesome.
    • Create long, rambling lists with bulleted points on how to relieve pressure. 😉
    • Read. Inside your genre. Outside your genre. Discover how absolutely fabulous you really are and realize with joy how much better you have the potential to be.
    • Listen to music.
    • Dance.
    • Breathe.
    • Write.


    Note: Thanks to Sherry on Goodreads for the suggestion of “breathe.” 🙂

    5 Responses to “Pressure”

    1. Jennifer Leeland Says:

      This is brilliant, Rowan.
      The one thing that has saved me when #3 pops up (i.e. EVERY DAY) is to talk to my author friends. They KNOW. And save my ass daily.
      Great post.

    2. Rowan McBride Says:

      @Jennifer Leeland – Thanks! Friends are the most important thing on that list IMHO. And breathing. Someone else pointed out that I forgot to mention breathing. XD

    3. k.n. Says:

      when i read “(because apparently one little league season during kindergarten makes me the expert in my family),” I thought, ah, god, I love you! You’re awesome!

      the hobby thing trips me up b/c my hobbies are reading and buying/selling office supplies and i think i should get into something… like repairing music boxes! anyways, thanks for sharing 🙂

    4. Rowan McBride Says:

      @k.n. – Repairing music boxes sounds awesome!

    5. Anonymous Says:

      The only thing I got out of all this is that you have more than one pseudonym. I feel for all your stories out there that I haven’t read.

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