Writing and Getting Out of Your Own Way

Monday, September 07, 2020

One of my favorite things to do with writing is looking back over old material. I usually start out intending to clean things out and it ends up with me reading notebooks from years gone by. 

What always surprises me about this is when I come across writing that really isn't that bad. I mean anything I come across always needs revising and improving and more often than not, it's all half-finished. Yet, I love it when I come across something that surprises me in a good way. (I have had my share of reading cringe-worthy writing).

In fact, earlier past year (think January) I stumbled across a half completed story that I started over 5 years ago. I liked it enough to finish it. 

Often times with writing I think we're all a bit hard on ourselves. I get that way too. Yet every now and then I am reminded that sometimes being hard on myself, means I get in my own way.

About a month ago, my mom found a poem I wrote when I was about 18, right after graduating from high school. I had maybe tried revising it once or twice but I had forgotten about it completely until she found it. She encouraged me to submit it somewhere but as I looked at it, I thought, "There's so much work to do on this." So, I tabled it and figured I would get to it eventually.

On a slow weekday afternoon, I dug up this poem and thought, "Well, I may as well try to clean it up." I polished here and there, giving it more rhythm in some places, replacing a few word choices.

Then I submitted it, thinking to myself it would enter a seemingly endless cycle of revision, rejection, rinse, and repeat.

But it was accepted. 

I couldn't believe it! This little poem that didn't seem likely to find a home (in my mind, at least) was going to be published.

What I realized now is that I think as writers we are way too hard on ourselves sometimes. I am certain I have ditched projects far too soon and ignored story ideas that were hidden gems. I think it comes down to getting out of our own way sometimes.

So today, as you look on your own writing, I encourage you to write despite that lingering self-doubt. Over this past year, I've learned to write even despite that sing-songy torment says, "This isn't going anywhere you know." Look into the eyes of your self-doubt and say, "So, I'm writing anyways." Because sometimes the very thing we think we shouldn't write, or couldn't write, or would never work anyway, becomes something amazing. And you get that acceptance despite nearly getting in your own way.

Today, get out of your own way and write anyways.


And in case, like the meme says at the top of this post, your writing plans get cancelled because of...well, anything. It's okay, get back at it tomorrow.


My poem is going to be featured in an anthology being released later this year! Yay!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Nicole--Double (or triple) congratulations. Poetry acceptances are sooo hard to come by. I think part of it is the sheer volume. Everybody thinks they can jot off a poem quickly. They think, how hard can it be? To those who don't know, they figure punctuation doesn't matter, and neither does the white space... and hey, rhyming is easy, and all poems rhyme, right?

I'm so glad your mom found the poem, and so glad you dug it up and gave it a second chance. I wrote a poem in high school--probably the most emotion-laden piece I ever wrote--as a "gift" to a friend. I'm sure he did not keep it all these years, and last year, he killed himself. That poem is long gone. (There's so much emotional angst in middle and high school--a wonderful foundation for poetry.)

Your poem in an anthology? Incredible. Congrats. It's proof that we DO need to examine our work more than once, and sometimes years in-between the examinations is a good thing.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Congrats, Nicole! Sometimes, we have great ideas but need to hone skills to write 'em better. So the moral of that story is never throw out anything!!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Get out of our own way. Definitely!

Don't you think we are encouraged to be hard on ourselves? To doubt our work? "If I haven't revised this 96 times and been working on it for two years, it can't possible by ready to go out."

That's why we need to hear stories like yours. Wrote it. Left it. Rewrote it. Forgot about it. Oh, look. This isn't half bad. Rewrote it. Victory!

And CONGRATULATIONS! This is such wonderful news.


Jeanine DeHoney said...

Such an inspiring post Nicole, reminding us to get out of our own way, which we writers far too often do. Congratulations on your poem being featured in an anthology. Keep finding those "hidden gems" and submitting, your best is yet to come.

Angela Mackintosh said...

I was listening to one of my 80s playlists yesterday when the Psychedelic Furs's song "Love My Way" came on, and I thought of writing:

Swallow all your tears my love
And put on your new face
You can never win or lose
If you don't run the race

It's so true--we gotta run the race. If we don't submit, we can never garner an acceptance. I just pulled up a prose poem/cnf piece and submitted it to a couple places over the weekend. I felt this piece didn't have enough oomph, but then I showed it to two of my writing partners and they loved it and didn't have any major suggestions for changing it! They are notoriously hard and one said to submit it as is. So even though I don't have a lot of confidence in this piece, I decided to get out of my own way and let it speak for itself. :)

Congratulations on the poetry acceptance, Nicole! That's so great it'll be in an anthology. I had one poem accepted for a print anthology almost 20 years ago, and it was one of the first poems I ever wrote. I haven't written any since, but I'm starting to get into prose poetry now and love it!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Psychedelic Furs! I need to listen to them. They were one of my favorites. Then I married a metal head.

Good luck with your poem!

Nicole Pyles said...

@Sioux: Your story about your poem reminds me SOOOOO much of one I wrote in my senior year. It was sort of advice I would have written to my younger self, and I really liked it and I think I gave it to a friend maybe to look at (thinking that of course, I had it saved somewhere). I was never able to find it and seriously doubt that my friend kept it. So tormenting when that happens!!

@Cathy: Absolutely!!! It makes me somewhat of a hoarder, when it comes to notebooks but so worth it.

@Sue: Thanks Sue!! I've definitely been down the revise it 96 times route and leave myself with nothing but a Franken-story usually LOL. Three cheers for sending out our work in spite of ourselves!

@Jeanine: Thank you Jeanine! I sure hope so!

@Angela: Oh I'm so glad you submitted your own poetry/prose! You have to run to win, and weirdly, I think sometimes I avoid submitting in fear of rejection so I leave things in a constant state of "maybe." But when I get out of my own way and submit, I experience moments like this! Now, I absolutely have to look at that song!

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