Is it easier to write by plotting out the story or free writing?
I personally find it easier to free write. It’s hard for me to plot things out, because I never end up writing the way I planned to. That comes with allowing the piece to write itself. You can tell yourself it’s going to go one way, but when you start writing, the piece might not have the same plan.
I have tried on many different occasions to outline a story, to write character sheets, and to plan. But every time, I change things, my characters don’t fit, and I get bored because the scenes in between large plot points feel boring. I like to just let the story write itself. I like to develop a character by writing their reaction to scenes and allow them to be a part of the plot, not to force them into it.
But I knew that doesn’t work for everyone.. Some people need to outline and plan, and that’s cool too. I wish I had the discipline to plan something and stick to it, but I just don’t. I lose interest in a piece if I know too much ahead of time. I’ve seen some very well developed outline from other writers and it’s impressive, but I think it’s easier storing those characters in my head, until they’re on the page.
How do you stop yourself from procrastinating when it comes to writing?
I don’t think there is a way to stop it. I think sometimes we need to take our time doing something, because we can’t force ourselves to do something we don’t want to do or aren’t ready to do. I do that almost every other day as a write. Sometimes I have things I need to get off my chest, and other days I’m just not in the mood. I ran into that problem just this week. I was out of town and my schedule became unpredictable. I kept telling myself that I needed to write, but I just didn’t feel like it. I needed a few days to get away from it and clear my head. I needed to, because I try not to force myself to write, when I don’t know what to say. A piece should be able to write itself. If it’s forced, then it’s not going to have the potential it could have if it had been inspired.
On the days you want to write but don’t know what to write, don’t push anything complicated. Write about the chair you’re sitting in. Write about what you had for breakfast. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just something to get yourself writing. But some days, you won’t even want to write about breakfast, and that’s okay too.
But sometimes the job really does need to be pushed along. Motivation is the only thing that overcomes procrastination, not just in writing, but in everything we do in life. You just have to want it enough and you’ll get the job done.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
The key isn’t to force your writing. If you find yourself staring at a blank page, walk away and come back. Find inspiration in the world around you. Read a book. Take a walk. Call someone on the phone. You may not find inspiration from a blank page. If you force your writing, it’s not going to come out the way you want to. You have to let a piece write itself.
Most of the time, when I write, I have no idea what I’m going to say. I just start typing and the words just come to me as I go. That’s where my best writing comes from. And if I can’t get the words to come, then I take a break, because I don’t want to say what comes from my head. I want to write what comes from my heart.
What are ways that you can stop yourself from being your own worst critic?
You can’t. You are always going to be your own worst critic. That being said, you need to accept that and to learn how to write despite that. I came across someone in a poetry workshop today who hated his poem before he even started writing it. Because he went into it with that attitude, he decided the poem wasn’t going to be good enough. He assumed everyone in the workshop would only say negative things. I gave him the advice not to doom his poem before it was finished.
We’re all guilty of quitting a piece because we don’t think it’s good enough. We’re all guilty of saying, “No one wants to read this.” Several years ago, that was my life motto. I never wanted to finish anything because I would ask myself, “What’s the point?”
You don’t have to write to please people. You need to write because you want to. You need to feel that writing with everything you have. But most importantly, you need to keep the voice in your head away from your work. Let the words write themselves. Don’t listen to the voice in your head because it’s wrong. It’s going to bug you nonstop until you quit writing, and you can’t let it do that. Your writing is worth something when you place your heart in it, not your head.
You also need to believe in your work and believe in yourself. That’s the part I had the most difficult time with. I didn’t believe in my writing for a long time, and it’s why I didn’t think anyone else could believe in it either. It wasn’t until I started sharing my writing with others, because I believed in it, that others started believing in it too. Even now, I sometimes doubt the things I write, but I do it anyway. Every piece of writing needs work. Nothing is ever perfect. But with the dedication and the belief that we can accomplish something, we can.
There is no way to stop being your own worst critic. But there is a way to stop writing with your head and start writing with your heart. Don’t stop. Don’t think. Don’t worry. Just write until you’ve created something.
Did you ever meet a famous person?
I’ve actually met several, but I’ll tell you about one of the most meaningful experiences for me. I’ve met Chris Colfer on multiple occasions, but there is one time in particular that stands out to me.
I attended every book signing on his The Land Of Stories tours. Although I often felt like one of the oldest people there, I didn’t mind because he had been a huge influence to me. I also really enjoyed his books, despite the fact that they’re written for kids. I’ve always loved fairy tales and I’ve enjoyed stories that involve rewriting them to make it something new. (Like Once Upon A Time)
Anyway, I was too starstruck to make sense of my words the first time I met him. So the second time I did, I felt more composed. As a result, I was able to ask him about his writing process. As a writer, I kept trying to find ways to attempt writing books that never worked for me. So when I had the chance to talk to one of my favorite people, who happened to be an author, I figured I would ask him. He gave me really good advice: No matter how much you tell yourself it’s not good enough, just keep writing. Don’t stop. Don’t go back and edit anything until you’re done. Because once you do, you won’t finish.
And I found that advice really helpful. Ever since I had that conversation with Chris, I found myself doing what he said. By doing so, I was able to finish more pieces. I was able to realize that I would always be my own worst critic, which he also told me. I couldn’t let that stop me from writing. I couldn’t let that stop me from finishing anything.
It’s one thing to hear that advice from every day people, but getting real advice like that from someone I admire put things into perspective to me. I’ll always hold that advice in my heart, and I’ll always be thankful to Chris for helping me overcome one of my biggest struggles as a writer.