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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

Afraid of the Magic
by Andrea Mack

It was a fabulous piece of writing. The words flowed smoothly into lively paragraphs, gradually building towards an emotional conclusion that wrapped up all the loose ends and left the reader wishing for more. It was magical. I read it again, this time taking note of the author's name. Unbelievably, it was mine.

Doubts began to form in my mind. Could I actually have written something that good? It must have been dumb luck, I thought. Or maybe they weren't really my words at all, but borrowed subconsciously from something I'd read before. Or maybe it wasn't that good, I'd just lost my objectivity after all those hours I'd spent working on it. I studied the pages again and again, each time feeling a mixture of pride, wonder and anxiety.

It seems paradoxical that the thing you strive for can become the thing you fear most. Instead of leading to a feeling of accomplishment, reading over a really good piece of your own writing can sometimes give rise to doubts and insecurities. You've raised the bar. There is no point in writing anything more because it won't measure up to your new standard. If you are brave enough to jot down a few words for your next project, you know even before you read them that they are terrible. Before you sink into a self-induced writer's block, take some time to put things into perspective.

Enjoy Your Moment For What It Is:
Take a day or two to bask in your accomplishment and feel good about your writing ability. Then give your masterpiece its best chance for publication by researching an appropriate market and send it off. Keep in mind that future writing success is not likely to come from one remarkable work. And, no matter how remarkable it is to you, there's no way of knowing whether an editor will feel the same way. You might not be able to keep from thinking about it hopefully from time to time, but the best thing for your writing is to put it out of your mind and move on.

Remember the Revisions:
Because the words in your story fit together seamlessly, there is no sign of the sweat and tears struggle it took to get there. The more you read over your masterpiece, the less motivated you are to start something new. Instead of building it up in your mind by reading perfectly polished prose over and over, take a look at your original notes. Your early revisions are probably just as rough as the notes you've made on your latest idea. Reading over rough drafts reminds you of all the work you put in to create your finished copy. Focus on the process, not the product.

Don't wait to be perfect:
Perfectionism can be a useful trait in a writer. When you are revising your rough draft, it pays to be attentive to details. Consistency and thorough research add authenticity to the final product. Choosing exactly the right words is what good writing is all about. But being overly concerned with creating the ideal piece of writing can create road blocks that are hard to break through. An idea that seems perfect may become impossible to work on. If you keep waiting for the right words to describe it, you may never get started. Jump in somewhere, anywhere, and get writing.

Break the cycle:
Once you have created something wonderful, it is difficult to settle for something less worthy. Work that might seem good on its own is now merely mediocre in comparison. Instead of trying to measure up, take a temporary break from the kind of writing you usually do and work on something completely different. If you usually write fiction, try a poem. Or if non-fiction is your thing, try a fantasy-based story. By switching to another genre, you escape your high expectations. You know up front that you're not an expert at this kind of writing, leaving you free to create.

Set the Stage:
Your tour de force didn't just come out of the blue. Chances are, you had the research at your fingertips, maybe an outline, and you'd already spent hours thinking about your idea. Add to that some uninterrupted writing time, a relaxed attitude and an eagerness to work. You can't force magic to happen, but you can provide the right conditions to increase the probability. A seed has a better chance of growing if you nurture it. It might not be today, or even tomorrow, but it will happen if you are open and ready for the opportunity.

Because of the personal nature of the writing process, anything that causes self-doubt can lead to writer's block. Doubts can arise from fear of rejection, fear of failure or fear of an inability to meet your own standards. While high standards can be a great motivator, sometimes you need to ground yourself or break the pattern to rebuild your writing confidence. Not everything you write will be moving or eloquent. But if you did it once, chances are that with the right conditions and some hard work, you can create magic again.

Andrea L. Mack is an freelance writer and proofreader who lives near Toronto, Ontario. Her writing credits include articles in Baby Years, Wonder Years, Ladybug magazine's Parents Companion, and Wee Parents, as well as the Busy Freelancer. She also writes children's fiction and nonfiction for an educational software company.









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