An Aside

My writing self is pretty insufferable right now.

Let’s imagine the conversation between the two of us: my conscious self, studying for classes, having fun, but all the time wishing he could motivate himself to write instead of procrastinating all day— and my writing self, who is doing nothing.


Conscious: Bro, get off Facebook and start writing.

Writer: But have you seen this puppy video?

Conscious: It doesn’t matter.  I want to finish this current novel by the end of this month.

Writer: Puppies.

Conscious: What’s going on?  You used to be so powerful.  You used to motivate me to get all my stuff done so we could write for eight hours, then publish a blog post, then write some more.  What happened to us?

[Hello plays softly in the background]

Writer: I don’t know, man.  It’s just…  We’ve drifted away from each other and I’m not sure we can ever get back.

Conscious: Don’t say that.  We’ll make it work.

Writer: It’s not you, it’s me.  Believe me, this hurts me more than it hurts you.  Conscious… I think we have to break up.

Conscious: You realize we’re both sizable parts of the same brain, right?  That’s kind of impossible.

Writer: Whatever, man.

Conscious: I think it’s the change of pace.  All through high school, we motivated ourselves.  No one else could do it for us.  Good grades?  No one cared.  I was homeschooled.  Who cares if I get into a good school?  I’m writing anyway, and marching along toward a possible career there.  I know I motivated myself.

Writer: Very true.  Remember when I wrote 65k words in like two weeks?  I wrote a quarter of it in a single day, in fact.

Conscious: Bro.  You’re bragging.

Writer: These days, I guess there’s just so much outside motivation that we’ve gotten lazy with ourselves.  We’re forced to spend more time in school, no matter how hard we work.  All the structure we used to impose on ourselves has turned into something other people dictate.  I guess I’ve started waiting for someone to give me outside motivation too, instead of motivating myself.

Conscious: It’s awkward.  We made a complete switch during that indoctrination thing back in July.

Writer: Golly gosh, then.

Conscious: I guess that’s it.  We just need to motivate ourselves a little more.

Writer: No, no, I don’t think that’s it.  Plenty of times, we’ve gone down into the library basement and opened up Scrivener and tossed ideas around.  We’re in the middle of a scene where stuff blows up— that’s usually the easiest place to get going again.  But we’re not.  I don’t think it’s just purely motivation that’s the issue.

Conscious: No?

Writer: I feel like I’m getting in my own way.  Like, I’m trying really hard to get it perfect, because as a college student with not a lot of time, whatever I make should be worth all this time I’m putting into it.  I don’t want to mess it up.

Conscious: Please.  We’ve gone over this a million times.  You don’t have to be perfect.  First drafts are supposed to be bad.

Writer: Yeah, but…  Okay, it’s not just me.  It’s a little bit your fault too, I think.

Conscious: Bold words for a guy who can barely hold a pencil anymore.

Writer: That’s not what I mean.  You said I was bragging before, but we both brag— you more than me, sometimes.  Everyone says, if you write you’re a writer, so call yourself a writer.  That’s what we do.  We call ourselves writers, and when writing assignments come along, we write like fury.  We’re great at it.  Then we stagnate on the stuff we want to do.

Conscious: What’s your point?  We’re too cocky?

Writer: I just feel like…  If we’re going to brag about stuff, I have to live up to whatever we’re bragging about.  But it isn’t about quantity, it’s quality.  You know?

Conscious: So you’re getting to be a perfectionist just because we brag too much?

Writer: And because of feedback.  It’s weird.

Conscious: So, put the feedback out of our heads— we aren’t as great as we think we are— and get ourselves back into the mode of “I’m not very good at this yet, but I don’t need to be.”

Writer: Yeah.  And stop clicking Alt+Tab all the time.  It’s really distracting to be switching windows constantly whenever I stop writing.  It’s like a constant reminder that I could be doing something else.

Conscious: Got it.  I’ll try.  But that’s more of Unconscious’s thing.  It’s almost automatic now.

Unconscious: [snores]

Writer: I guess it all comes own to getting over myself, like I said.  Stop trying to be perfect.  Sit down and write whatever comes to me, even if it’s gibberish.  Stop trying to structure stuff perfectly and plan stuff.  I’d love to write a perfect first draft, but what I really want to do right now is hardcore pants something.  Like, start out with…  Dang it, I can’t even think of a first line without trying to be perfect or original.  Start with “The elephant couldn’t jump.  That made him sad.”

Conscious: But that’s straight telling emotion.  You can’t do that.

Writer: See, this is what gets me in trouble.  That’s a thing for editing.  Sure, I can spend a scene describing how sad this elephant is, but sometimes you just have to say what you want to say.

Conscious: And let the words come out.

Writer: Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.

Conscious: [clears throat] That’s actually a kind of good song for writing.

Writer: Right?  Well, this blog post has been a good conversation.  It started with me just trying to say whatever, and it turned into a really good collection of thoughts that have been on my mind.

Conscious: I think you could have phrased it better.

Writer: But would you have had as much fun saying it?

Conscious: I would have added a couple penguins.

Penguins: Bro.

Writer: Yeah, I think this was best for us.  Thanks for finally talking to me.  I’m going to go read a book and write a short story or something.

Conscious: Viva la vida.

Unconscious: [Snores]


7 thoughts on “An Aside

  1. You have made this a difficult post to comment on.

    I want to encourage you but I don’t want to make it harder for you to not be perfect that’s a terrible way to put that, Katherine.


    Okay, how’s this? If you ever need a word war, shoot me an email or Twitter message and I will be there ASAP. I don’t mind if we go back to all day word wars like we used to, like in the early days in the chatroom and before that. That’d probably help me, too. Obviously, neither of us can actually word war all day anymore, but I am available most nights starting at about 8:30 and most times during the day, except late afternoons from 4:30. But if you need a word war during those times, shoot me an email anyway. I could always threaten or bribe you. (I draw the line at a word war during the midnight to four watch, though. But if you know you are on watch from four to eight and want to war, tell me the night before and I can be up and ready to write around six.)

    I’d also like to put in that NaNoWriMo about killed me (this is actually kinda relevant, just bear with me a second). I did write 50K in a month and a whole first draft in a month. And the end result was not as good as I had hoped it would be, to the point that I don’t really want to edit it. And the outcome of that draft made me scared to start a new story for at least a month. Because what if the new story turned out as bad as the one I just finished? So, yeah. I kinda know the struggle of wanting to write a perfect first draft. And oddly enough, mine also comes from some “I’m so great” problems. LASER’s first draft turned was one I wanted to edit and it turned out pretty good. When NaNoNovel 2015 didn’t turn out as good, it caused problems.

    Huh. I guess this is what you said the other day about if you don’t edit, you run the risk of writing something else and then not editing it too because it’s not right for some reason.

    If you want to read the story I don’t want to edit, let me know and I’ll send it to you. (It’s perfectly fine if you don’t.)

    Okay, I’m done with this novel-length comment.

    Keep being awesome. I couldn’t help saying something!

    1. …I just realized I wrote “Stay awesome” and you wrote “Keep being awesome” and I didn’t even see that. Great minds think alike, I guess?

  2. This is such a perfectly timed blog post. And delivered with your usual flair and humor, Liam. 😀 I am in much the same situation as you: busy school, stagnant writing. I think I’m afraid to spend time on something and not follow through. Maybe that’s why I’m not writing. I don’t know for sure. But this is a huge encouragement. Thanks!

  3. Yep, I’m in the same position. And thinking about it, when I was homeschooled I did write more on my own time. I had more of it.
    Anyway. This post was very interesting to read, even though it was just you talking to yourself. It lectures without lecturing.
    Gah, I just keep getting worse at wording things…

  4. Liam Liam Liam THANK YOU. I don’t even know what else to say because this just described my life. Especially this paragraph:

    “These days, I guess there’s just so much outside motivation that we’ve gotten lazy with ourselves. We’re forced to spend more time in school, no matter how hard we work. All the structure we used to impose on ourselves has turned into something other people dictate. I guess I’ve started waiting for someone to give me outside motivation too, instead of motivating myself.”

    And the perfectionism because of so little time. And this: “…get ourselves back into the mode of ‘I’m not very good at this yet, but I don’t need to be.’”

    So, yeah. Just…thanks, okay? I needed that so much this week. It’s been a transition stage, which could also be called a “where did my life go and what is this new thing” stage, and it’s been tough. But I’m feeling better about it now. So thanks.

    Stay awesome.

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