Last week, I started a video course by Lauren Sapala titled, “You Are a Writer – Getting Past the Fear and Finally Moving Forward”. I went through the first session and learned several things about myself and how toxic procrastination was affecting my writing process. I wrote extensively last Saturday about my reaction to that session and went to bed feeling extremely positive about things.
Sunday night rolled around and I was ready to put this new positivity to work. I sat down with all of the wonderful tools I had gathered. Time to do some real work on my story.
Nothing. As I sat there, I just felt like a two-ton rock sat on my back. This heaviness just crushed me.
Well, I wasn’t going to be intimidated by a little resistance. I would find a way to get past it.
In my previous forays into writing this story, I had been able to get through Act 1 before things just stopped. Even though I sort of knew where I needed to go with the plot, I just couldn’t come up with story events after Act 1 to fill in the blanks.
I was going to get beyond that point now. I would start with what I already knew and use that to build some momentum. Since I had previously decided to use the 8 Sequence approach for plotting, I opened my notes for what should appear in Sequences 1 and 2. As I skimmed them, I saw that everything I had written previously still worked according to the structure. I moved on to Sequence 3.
Nothing. More heaviness. I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I pored over my notes for Sequence 3 but even though I knew this was the “crossing the threshold” moment, I just couldn’t get into it. Tim went home. So what?
No, it wasn’t that I couldn’t get into it – I just didn’t want to get into it. It was like I was just so tired of going through these steps over and over that my brain refused to cooperate. I had a rebellion on my hands.
I panicked. Then, I had a thought – this must mean I’m using the wrong plotting method. All I have to do is choose one that I haven’t worked with much – that will provide some stimulation for my bored brain. I pulled out Eric Edson’s book, The Story Solution. I’ve always been attracted to his method and now I could try it out. Since his method is based on 23 “hero goal sequences” that he says every story should follow, all I had to do was use his beats and I would have my story plotted.
I pulled up Plottr and created a new template for Edson’s structure. OK, now I was excited. This was new to me and I was ready. Finally my story would be plotted.
Nothing for a third time. I just couldn’t get into it.
Maybe I was tired – after all I had worked extra hard the past couple of nights going through the first lesson of Lauren’s course. I just needed a break.
I tried again on Tuesday – and the same thing happened. I just could not force myself to get anywhere with the story no matter what I did.
Then, instead of working with the plot, I tried working with the characters. I pulled out Jeff Lyon’s book Rapid Story Development which uses the Enneagram to build characters and the relationships among them. Looking at the provided worksheets just made me shrivel inside. WTF? Now, not only did I not want to deal with my plot, I also didn’t want to work with my characters. What was going on?
I was really panicking now. I had just created this web site to work through this story and it was like the story had taken a leave of absence. Am I a fake? What am I going to do?
I thought about moving ahead with the second session of Lauren’s class but I had made myself a promise I wasn’t going to rush through the course. Still, maybe she had some answers in her other videos on YouTube. I started searching.
What I Found
Almost immediately, I ran across one of the introductory videos for another course she created called “Intuitive Writing”. In it, she described exactly what I was experiencing: I was trying to use rational writing processes to force myself into this story and I was meeting severe resistance. What I needed to do, according to Lauren, was instead use a writing process that fit more closely with my personality type – a feminine approach she created and called “Intuitive Writing.”
After checking her site, I found more information on this second course. Seeing it was specially priced for the pandemic, I went ahead and got it before the price rose back to it’s original cost. I then immediately started reading the handouts that went along with the videos.
It was eerie – I was experiencing everything she described – and this wasn’t like horoscopes where everything is so generic it fits everyone. This was almost verbatim to my own attempts.Whoa…
I instantly felt relief. If I listened to what she said, then it wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t lazy, or stupid, or whatever else I told myself when every “sure-fire” system I had tried failed to help me with my writing. I was just wired differently. All I needed to do was use something more in tune with my personality and I would see results.
Of course, I immediately balked – wasn’t this just an excuse? Everyone knows you have to beat resistance into submission. No one wants to write everyday so you have to force yourself to get into the habit. Remember: BUTT. IN. CHAIR.
It felt like what she said was just giving myself permission to slough off.
When I listened inside I heard a sigh of relief. It felt like something inside saying, “there – he’s finally getting it.”
So, I am putting a moratorium on everything I had already “decided” I was going to do. The systems I had created? They’re on hold. The books and plotting methods and character questionnaires and worksheets I had collected? Set aside for the time being until I decide which ones are actually needed.
Instead, I’m going to listen to Lauren Sapala for a while. I’m just going to work with the material found in these 2 courses. I’m going to listen to my body and my feelings and learn to determine my own creative cycle. As she says in the first session, this doesn’t have to be a battle.
I’ll admit it’s going to be hard. So much of what she says goes against a lot of the conventional wisdom out there. At times, I’m sure I’ll feel foolish. After all, she describes her method as “unconventional, eccentric, and a little weird”. But then she also says people who have tried everything else with no success follow her advice and experience breakthroughs. And I’m all for that.
The first session showed me a few things already:
- Even though I’ve always considered myself a plotter and not a pantser, I’ve never actually created a complete plot. Each guru’s set of steps always felt out of sync with my story. I’d get partway through and then find places that didn’t fit. And of course, since the guru knows everything, it was always my fault for not being able to make things work.
- I tend to balk the more detailed things are. Long lists of character traits? No way. Scene templates with attribute upon attribute? Not on your life. Even though I could force myself to come up with the answers, it was just so boring. I’d much rather let my relationships with my characters grow organically. And who cares if Tim likes Pepsi more than Coke?
- I experience a lot of embarrassment and shame when I go through these stalls. Not only do the gurus say their systems work, but so do their followers. I’m the weirdo who doesn’t fit in. Plus, everyone and their brother is writing a craft book about plotting a novel in a day (or even an hour). Hell, I can’t even do it after spending weeks trying. What’s wrong with me?
- There’s also some fear involved – what will happen when I write something that people who know me don’t expect? (I’ve already experienced this when I once showed my spouse some chapters that shocked him with a scene set in an adult theatre.) I know a lot of the backstory and it’s not pleasant. How will people react?
Needless to say, there’s hope now. I see that I’m not the only one who experiences these things. And those of us who do all seem to share a common personality type. If I can just get out of the way and learn to trust myself, I’ll get this story out. I’m not the problem – I’ve just been using the wrong tools to create my story. With time, I’ll learn the process.
In the meantime, I just need to be able to say (and believe) this affirmation from the first Workbook:
I am open to learning the Intuitive Writing method and I am willing to be surprised by the gifts it brings into my life.
And then? I guess the sky’s the limit.
(Note: to learn more about Lauren’s “Intuitive Writing” course, read this post.)
Photo by Will Porada on Unsplash