Getting over my water buffalo anxieties


This last week has not been as productive as I wanted it to be. And I only have myself to blame for the many distractions and self-interruptions. While I have been working on my novel every day (research, characters, settings), I feel frustrated that I haven’t written a single scene yet. It feels like the days are running away with me.

But what was really the main issue?

I finally worked out that I hadn’t found my work-writing groove. I had read about how some writers work best first thing in the morning … and some last thing at night. I don’t think I am a night writer, and I like my mornings to start with a dog walk followed by a good one hour sorting all of life’s other matters (emails, projects, meetings etc). Thanks to Kim Bullock and her words on Motivation: Make Writing Dessert Again – we appear to share common writing practices. Kim's article helped me realise that it is okay to write when it feels right for me.

Should I just try and write a scene anyway?

Or should I keep working on the planning and preparation?

My right brain kept saying Just write!, and my left brain Hang-on, not so fast! I was feeling anxious about how the story was going to come together, especially as this is my first book. The uncertainty of the journey ahead was sending me into a spin. I was reminded of Poppy, our labradinger. When out on our morning dog walk, Poppy doesn't relax and enjoy the walk because she is always anxious to know what (or who) is around the next corner – just in case it’s some enormous, scary water buffalo.

I just need to enjoy working in the moment

I needed to stop worrying about what writing phase is around the corner, and just enjoy working in the moment. The moment was (and still is) preparation. While I had the skeleton of a story outline in place, I really hadn’t put any meat on the bone, nor considered the natural flow of the overall timeline. I had studied plot points, pitch points and of course scenes, but the rhythm wasn’t coming naturally to me. Not yet anyway.

The many helpful resources available online were helping to allay my own water buffalo anxieties. Big thanks to KM Weiland for her numerous articles on novel outline and story structure. I went back to my beat sheet, opened up Scrivener, and managed to plot the forty scenes across the three acts of my novel on a cork board.

The flow of the novel just feels so much better now. The left and right brains are learning to respect each other more: no longer competing but working as a team. There is structure in the creativity and creativity in the structure. My characters are coming to life and are more interesting because of the structure.

There may be an enormous scary water buffalo around the next writing corner. But rather than feel anxious about it, I am enjoying the here and now. And I feel better prepared to just to move on past with less anxiety and a little more confidence.

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