Last night I was struck with a severe case of what I have dubbed “Writer’s Despair,” the cruel cousin of Writer’s Block. Unlike with Writer’s Block, I could not break through Writer’s Despair by searching through my idea notebooks or looking up prompts on Pinterest. Rather, WD hung over my head like one of those cartoon rainclouds, allowing me to write, but not allowing me to take pride in what I wrote. Even worse, this grey cloud of WD prevented me from seeing my work as unique or worth finishing.
“Oooh,” I’d think to myself, scribbling away in my notebook. “I will have a scene where the main character realizes that…”
“Predictable and cheesy,” grumbles WD.
“Fine,” I think. “How about-”
“Nope. Already done.”
“Why bother?” sighs that stupid cloud. “You’ll never publish this novel. Actually, the odds that you’ll ever publish a book of any sort are low and- hey!- look over there on your shelf: Newberry McWritesALot has published five books already. And there you are, blogging again, pretending to ignore me.”
Ouch. Writer’s Despair stings. A lot. On the verge of tears, I decided that I was not going to let this persistent and metaphorical cloud rain on my equally-metaphorical parade. I marched over to my new books and picked up Bradbury Speaks. And thank goodness that Ray Bradbury did speak, for from his words, I gleaned the single best piece of writing advice I have ever received and it was enough to evaporate WD for the time being. Bradbury, probably my number one writing mentor (despite never having met him and him being, unfortunately, no longer alive), had these words to offer as he discussed his writing methods:
“What we have here, then, is a very unusual approach to writing and discovering, not knowing the outcome. To move ahead on a blind journey, running fast, putting down thoughts as they occur. And along the way my inner voice advised.”
There are three key pieces of comfort that I found in these words:
1. Writing is about “discovering.” It is about mysteries. And guesses. And hopes and dreams and abstract ideas. Plot graphs are nice and cutesy, but ultimately, to be authentic, they must be abandoned to some extent so that the writer can discover through his or her freedom the realms of possibility in the world of words.
2. Writing is a “a blind journey.” Sure, this means that some stories will go off on tangents, some flop miserably, and some make zero sense to anyone but the writer. However, through these miserable flops and failures, the writer will find stories with plot twists he or she never could have planned, characters that seemed to create themselves, and stories that fly because they are not bound to a carefully-charted arc.
3. Writing is about finding and expressing your unique “inner voice.” I do not have a specific style of writing. Jane Austen did, Charles Dickens did, and J.R.R. Tolkien certainly did. I do not, yet. As of now, I am an infant writer, experimenting with rhetorical devices I learned in school and writing of experiences that are not my own. But someday I will find the style that fits, if I just keep on writing. Essays, blog posts, stories, journals- it does not matter. If I just keep trying, putting letters on a page and attempting to communicate my ideas, one glorious or perhaps simply ordinary day, my “inner voice” will finally spill out onto paper and Writer’s Despair will no longer call me unoriginal.
Ray Bradbury’s words have inspired me today. I may not be working on my novel as I should be, but here I am: writing. So take that Writer’s Despair! Not today!