Tuesday, August 4, 2009


“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”—Sylvia Plath [as posted on Mike’s Writing Workshop and Newsletter].
I suffer from self-doubt. I wonder if there are any writers who don’t. There’s a discussion about this in one of the critique groups I belong to. Two points mentioned so far were the inability to write, and the perceived poor quality of previous writings as one cause for this inability.

One participant suggested free writing as a way to jump start one’s muse. I’ve done this. You set a timer for ten or fifteen minutes and write until the bell dings. What you write about isn’t important. The point is to write. Don't stop to edit. Don't think too much. Just write.

When done, I read the resulting text looking for a sentence or phrase to expand into a story. It’s rare, but once in a while I find a gem. A novelist can use this technique by having a conversation with a character about a scene in the current work in progress. Or if a setting is unclear in the author's mind, he can write a more detailed description than is useful for the novel. Something might click and get the author past the block that’s keeping her from finishing a chapter.

As for previous writing, I’ve reread a few of my older pieces and cringed. Thinking about this now I realize an editor somewhere liked them enough to publish the stories, so they must be good. What I need to remember is they were the best story I could write at the time, that I’ve learned more about writing since then, and my stories show this -- I hope.


Jennifer Parker said...

Do you find that a writer's group is helpful? If so, how would I go about finding one? Would online be better than in person since I seem to be in the writing boonies (Fort Worth, TX)?

Jim Harrington said...

I belong to three online writers' groups at the moment (but may drop one). I find them very helpful. Online vs in-person depends on you. Some folks prefer the anonymity of online. With in-person groups (I've never belonged to one), participants often feel obligated to submit writing on a regular basis. Online you can submit stories when you choose. One of the groups I belong to requires participants to critique a certain number of stories each month to maintain their membership.

One way to find a local, in-person group is to visit the online site of the association for the type of writing you wish to do. For example, a romance writer would go to Romance Writers of America, a mystery writer Mystery Writers of America. Often you'll find a link to state and local groups. Google can assist you in finding the URL for the association for your interest. Another place to find local groups is by asking at your local public library and bookstores. Often this is where these groups meet.

As for online groups, again Google can help. Search for "online critique groups." I recently joined Zoetrope. This site is interesting because it has sections for every kind of writing. It’s free to join, and you can browse the sections without having to submit. It is daunting. Members include new writers and experts. But you also know you’re reading some of the best writing around and some that is more at your level, whatever that is.

Hope this helps. BTW, I lived in Garland, TX (outside Dallas) for ten years.

Jennifer Parker said...

Thanks for all the info...I'm sure it will help me!

My husband grew up in Garland, and I am very familiar with it being from Richardson myself. :)