By Laura Drake
Press On Regardless. I know you’ve seen this phrase before. It’s one of those old sayings, and like dialog tags, they become invisible after awhile. But it’s more to me – it’s my mantra.
We start this writing journey, naïve, excited, and hopeful. Actually, we’re that way because we don’t know enough to be scared. And that works wonderfully. Like a young woman, pregnant for the first time. Older women shake their heads and think, “If she only knew what she was getting herself into.” But at the same time they smile, and wish just for a moment, they could feel that thrill, of everything ahead.
So you begin. You open a Word doc, and start typing. Along the way you learn about the characters, you learn about the plot, you learn about POV. You’re still excited, but you now have RULES. They’re walls that define your direction. That’s okay, you think, I need structure, because I'm so going to sell this book.
Time goes on. You learn more. You’re in the middle of the book (or the second, or third) and the walls have closed in. Your story is lost and you’re wandering a maze, trying to find it, wondering why this seemed like fun in the beginning.
If it helps, every writer goes through this – almost every book. I wish I could tell you that it gets better.
If you know me or if you’ve read WITS long enough, you’ve seen that I’m driven. I get up every morning at 3 am (even now that I’ve retired) and I write every day. I’ve sold 4 books now. I’m in the middle of writing two more. Sounds impressive, huh?
I have to let you in on a little secret: I’m scared. Every single 3 am I sit down to write, every new chapter, I’m afraid. I’m afraid I don’t know what happens next. I’m afraid the maze is going to open up to a blank wall, and I’m too far in to find my way back. I’m not kidding – seriously afraid.
I’m no different than the person who has good ideas, but who, sitting in front of a blank screen, freezes up and never writes. Except for one thing:
I Press on Regardless. I sit down, every day, afraid that THIS is the day that nothing will come out.
But guess what? Something always does. Some days what comes out is crap. Some days something comes out that is so perfectly what I wanted to say that I’m in awe that I wrote it. Many days, it’s just (hopefully) decent writing.
What I’ve realized through pressing on regardless is that my fear is an illusion. You’ve heard the acronym for fear:
F – False
E – Evidence
A – Appearing
R – Real
It’s true. It’s the little man, behind the curtain, flipping a switch to make flames come out of the huge scary mask. It’s not real. I know, it feels real. Every single day.
I believe that women can understand how fear works better than men, because we experience PMS.
No, really. As a teenager, you’re ruled by the hormone-induced mood swings, right? They’re REAL.
But sometime, maybe your late twenties, you get blasted with the emotion you stand back and think, ‘What’s this about?’ You look at a calendar, and the light bulb goes off. Oh.
You discount the emotion your brain is conjuring, and you go on with your day. As you get older, you recognize it faster. The emotions never stop (well, there’s menopause, but that’s a whole different post.) The emotion always just as strong. The difference is, you learn to press on regardless.
Fear is the same. It never stops feeling real, but you can push through it. I promise, it’s just like the Wizard behind the curtain, or PMS (I have no idea how I put those two together, but it kind of works, doesn’t it?)
You don’t need to know everything about writing to be a good writer. You don’t even need to know what’s going to happen next. All you need to do is to sit down. Today. That’s it.
And when you get scared, Press on Regardless.
Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
thank you, i needed that today. But really 3;00?
Laura ... so true. Butt in chair ... heart in throat ... or as the slogan goes ... JUST DO IT !! Waiting for an inspiration, the right moment, the perfect timing is like a shy maiden who sits and waits for Mr. Right to appear at her door. She will wait a lifetime. A shame ... when all she had to do was walk out the door. Every day we have the choice to walk out the door and engage life. Or as the case might be ... sit down and get to work 🙂
Love this description, Florence. Wise words. Reminds me of SOMEONE who sat behind her door, waiting for an editor to knock on her door and ask if she had a book to sell! Sorry to out you, Fae. Glad you're through that phase and cranking out more books!
And I had to laugh, because a crit partner and I went on a PMS-driven rant just yesterday. 😀
Do we really understand how to ignore emotions, or is it just another BS theory of mine?
I have to push myself to sit down and write, but when I do the words come. It's about getting that butt in the chair, no matter where the chair might be, and put hands to keyboard or pen to paper and write. So, that said, I must go and put pen to paper to make revisions! Thanks for the kick in the butt!
Yep Betty. It's clearer when you don't put expectations on yourself - to write a chapter, or brilliant words, but only make the commitment to SIT DOWN. We can all do that, right?
Everything you say resonates with me with regard to my riding and my writing. Every time I get on Maximus in the arena I'm afraid but I get on anyway and go for it. And when I start to write a new book I'm terrified my ideas are going to come to a screeching halt in the middle of typing. But I press on anyway. Oh, I'm sure all of us can SO relate.
Thanks for a lovely post.
But, honestly, 3 a.m.? AACH!
Hey, you'd be surprised, Patti - the world is sleeping, no distractions...wouldn't be possible without coffee, of course, but...
I always laugh and say that words just seem to come out of my fingertips. But even that can't happen if I let fear and the outside world squash me. 🙂 And sometimes my biggest fear has nothing to do acceptance. It has to do with OMG what if I succeed. What will be expected me? I put all this stupid pressure on my self and worry about what won't even get a chance to happen unless I get to work! Stupid -- so stupid. 🙂
Not stupid, Sharla. We can all relate. That's why if you ONLY focus on sitting down in the chair, it takes some of the pressure off.
You're so right. We all face that fear of freezing up, of losing our "muse." I've been struggling with my fear monster this weak, procrastinating, not wanting to work on the next chapter in my WIP. Why? Because of a little seed of doubt, making me fear the words won't come. You've just given me the push I needed. I'm turning off my browser and shutting out distractions. It's time to write!
YAY! GOOOO Linda!
So true. And just what I needed to read this morning. I am going to press on.
You are so right. Some days you think this isn't working. I find some days I can barely get going then near the end of the day I'm rolling along.
Laura, what do you do when you've written something and you realize it's not right, or it creates a clash with something in an earlier chapter, or its not logical? Do you go back and rewrite then and there, or do you push on till the end of the book and say "i'll fix it in the rewrite" ?
Richard, I know this isn't how a lot of writers do it, but I can't move on until what comes before is solid. I write so linear that it's scary. I want to be able to get to "The End." and it is really the end.
Until the revision letter, of course. Sigh.
How about you?
So you go back and fix what's wrong before you move on? I did that with my book and it meant a lot of time was spent going back and fixing stuff because I typed in things and then realized I hadn't thought through clearly what implications one scene would have for another. Maybe that was because it was my first attempt. I've been trying to avoid that this time, but I'm having trouble getting a coherent plot for number two.
Sounds like you're a wanna-be reformed pantster, Richard...welcome to the club! I love all the plotting tools - I collect them like a yuppie housewife who doesn't cook collects cookbooks!
I'd love to be a plotter, but I'm just not. We all struggle to keep learning our process. This may just be yours. Sigh. Just keep writing, Richard - you'll figure it out, I have no doubt.
Great post, Laura. Carry on. 😉
I'm slow catching up with reading, but this was just what I needed this morning! Perfectly said as always, Laura!
[...] Laura Drake does this better than anyone I know. She sits her butt down every morning at 3 am, often with no idea what she’s going to write, and she trusts in the process. Note: if you want to read about it, she wrote a great post called Press on Regardless. [...]
Thanks, Laura! I found you through Jenny. And you're absolutely right! Funny thing is, I thought I'd be less scared after writing two books. Now, trying to come up with ideas for the third, I'm MORE scared. What a crazy job this is.
3AM, huh? Bet you don't go to bed at midnight! Press on, I get that part. Might not be doing it this very second, but I do get it!