Things my inner anxiety cat says to me when I’m thinking about my draft

And the logical side of my brain’s responses. 

 

Anxiety Cat, batting at stringWhat if you never finish it?

Logical side of brain, staring at Anxiety Cat over the frame of their glasses: As long as I try, as long as I keep taking small steps every day, I’ll get there eventually. If I never finish it, then that means I quit.

 

Anxiety Cat, knocking a glass off the counter: What if it’s horrible?

Logic-Brain, grabbing the broom: That’s what revision is for.

 

Anxiety Cat, coughing up a hairball: What if nothing ever comes out of it, and you just wasted over a year on this project?

Logic-Brain, taking a sip of espressoI still learned a lot this past year, no matter what. I completed a novel, and that’s not nothing. It wasn’t a waste.

 

Anxiety Cat, dropping a dead mouse on the rug: Fine. This is for you.

Logic-Brain: Honestly, what is wrong with you?

Cracking knuckles and preparing to tackle.

I think I figured it out.

I’ve been dealing with making any sort of progress with my second draft; I’ve been dragging and kicking and just not getting anywhere. And I’m sitting here at midnight with a glass of red wine and my draft in front of me, and I realize something: with my first draft, I mowed through it. Don’t stop for anything, I told myself. It’s okay if your first draft is terrible. It should be terrible. It’s your first draft.

But I’m not on my first draft anymore.

And every time I’ve sat down to write, I feel this tightness in the dip of my throat, and type a few words before I end up online or watering my plants or talking to my dog. And just a few minutes ago I realized that my second draft isn’t my first draft (obviously), and there’s this sort of trepidation, this nervous tip-toeing I’m getting around it, because I told myself the first draft could be awful, and that I just had to keep going and not to stop for anything, but now here I am and…it’s the second draft. It feels a little more serious.

I’ve been overthinking everything, belaboring over small details; I’ve barely made a chip in the face of a granite cliff. I think I need to take on a bit more of my first draft mentality here: I have the rough bones to work with here, so now it’s just a matter of starting to put them all together and make them look a bit more spiffy.

So. Time to tackle this second draft with a bit more shoulder and force and less mousiness.

*cracking knuckles and getting into tough guy stance* Ya hear that, second draft? I’m coming for you.

No really. How is it July?

It’s so easy to do anything other than writing. And it’s not because I don’t love to write. It’s just that there’s this big, tangled, messy ball-of-yarn cluster of thoughts and emotions and fears in my head, and there’s this coffee-and-wine-stained, scribbled-over, wrinkled first draft printed out and stacked next to my laptop, and a yawning, indeterminate stretch of work sprawled ahead of me that looms like a dark path going into the woods and it’s all dark and mysterious, and I freeze every time I attempt to stare down it down.

So. What have I been doing the past couple of weeks? Oh, you know. A little of this, a little of that. Made some DIY deodorant over the weekend. Currently have some homemade cayenne/onion/garlic bug spray straining through a paper towel on the counter. I keep Scrivener up on my laptop with my second draft open, and every once in a while I circle it, coming a little close and then backing away, because maybe it might bite. I type in a word or two. Maybe a sentence, if I’m feeling brave.

It’s been a slow couple weeks. Progress is being made, but glacially.

I’m thinking of getting back into a calendar system like I did with my daily word count during the first draft – writing in how many words I wrote each day so I could quickly see if I was staying on track or not. But since the second draft is more of a tweaking and typing and revising situation, I’ll probably need to go by hours put in instead. Hopefully it will help, because I’ve not been as productive as I could be.

It’s easier for me to sit around worrying about everything that is wrong with my novel in progress rather than actually getting anything done. 

Oh, hi.

I haven’t been here lately. I’ve been elsewhere, bouncing between countries, doing holiday stuff, and trying to ignore that I’ve been totally neglecting my novel.

Yeah. I haven’t been so productive lately, and the anxiety and guilt is finally starting to dig its claws into me physically because of it. Tiny headaches, tension in my shoulders – it’s as if I’m haunted; like every moment I’m not writing there is a tiny ghost inside of me that pokes and prods and nags and is impossible to ignore. It’s interesting how I literally have a visceral reaction to not writing.

I quit my job to do this and time is running out. I gave myself to the end of February, to the AWP – although now that I’ve really looked at it, the AWP is beginning to look like it won’t be financially feasible for me. But still, the deadline is there. And what have I done in the last month? Shrug. Not very much, writing-wise.

I did hit 100 pages, which was huge – 100 pages feels so real, like I’ve really done something. If I printed it out, that would be an impressive stack of paper. But I’m nowhere near the end, and I have no idea how much longer it will take me, or how to accomplish making it all feel cohesive, or even what’s going to happen, really. And what if it’s awful? I’m 100 pages in, and this could be an awful, ridiculous story.

I try not to focus on those things. Once I start worrying, it worms its way into me for hours and days. I immobilize myself. Sometimes I wonder if I do it on purpose, just to avoid writing.

Writing is so much more work than I realized it would be.

But I hit 100 pages. And now it’s time for me to stop kicking myself for the past few weeks I’ve wasted, and to just start typing instead.

Keep moving. Keep writing. Keep typing. Stop thinking.

4:00 in the afternoon and haven’t written anything yet. Finally, I stomp over to the freezer and pull out the bottle of vodka, throwing back two shots straight from the bottle.

And now I can feel it humming in my limbs, making me warm and loose. And I sit down in front of my laptop and feel more comfortable, feel brave, feel like I can open my manuscript and stare it in the face boldly. You don’t scare me now, you dumb, mean novel that’s taking forever to write.

Didn’t expect to be sitting slightly tipsy today as the sun’s just beginning to set. But whatever.

Excuses

Last month, I printed out a monthly calendar and started writing down my word count towards the novel for each day. On days when I’d written nothing, I’d simply put down the hideous, shaming number zero, where it burned singular and lonely in its little daily square.

This month, I’m taking it a step further and writing down my reasons when I have a zero day. So far, I have three of them (out of five in the month! I hate myself). And the reasons consist of: 10/2 Headache, 10/3 Villain issues/brainstorming, and 10/4/ which just says UGH. Because I basically was in such a state of self-loathing at that point that I spent the entire day on the couch, miserable.

Isn’t it weird that the solution to my gloom is to simply sit down and write, but I just keep…not doing it? Mustn’t I hate myself very much to keep doing this to myself? And then when I do sit down to write, and I realize ten minutes in that my eyebrows have crinkled together in a vice grip and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to relax them…why am I doing this to myself? Shouldn’t this be fun? Shouldn’t I be metaphorically skipping through a sunny meadow, since I’m trying to pursue my dream, allegedly doing the thing I love? Maybe I actually hate writing. Have I just been wrong my entire life?

I’m beating myself up more often than not. When I’m writing, I’m trying to shut up the inner critic and jam out the words. When I’m not writing, I’m hating myself for not writing. And I want to run away from it all and work at Subway. Except something small and quiet inside me keeps saying, “This is what you want to do. Keep trying.” And somehow, it manages to be heard above the clamor, above me stomping and flailing and brewing a thousand cups of procrastination coffee. And it calms me for a second, and I sit back down.

I think I’m making myself crazy. But that was probably bound to happen whether or not I decided to finally try and pursue this writing thing.