HAVE FUN & GO WITH *YOUR* FLOW
In case you're not in the know, the She Wore Black Podcast is one of my absolute favorites and if you haven't checked it out just go do that. Right now.
In a recent episode, podcast host Agatha Andrews spoke with author Rachel Harrison about her new book Such Sharp Teeth and it turned out to be a conversation I have now listened to three times. At the 7ish minute mark, they start discussing the importance of writing for yourself, having fun with writing, and getting out of your head about the process, especially when it comes to thinking about other people/readers.
I felt a bit silly when I heard this and paused the podcast to rewind to hear it again because it seemed so simple. Like, duh, of course you need to have fun with your writing, I think I've actually talked about it myself in a past blog post.
The podcast conversation then moved to the pressure writers feel to constantly consider everything that's shoved down our throats to sell and publish our stories. The "rules" and technicalities of pitching (and a swarm of other things) that cloud our brains and hold us back from writing the story that's speaking to us.
It hit me that I have been ignoring an annoying internal narrative that stops me when I'm having fun writing. As if having fun means I'm doing it wrong.
I'll explain: I read SO much. I am constantly moved and inspired by what I read, constantly dissecting everything about a story that stirred something in me that makes it a bit more unforgettable that others. Because of this, I regularly start (or continue) working on a story and almost immediately stress that, if it feels easy or fun to write, then surely what I'm writing isn't emotional or profound enough (in an early draft lol) to be worthy of anyone's attention. That if I'm not super serious about the structure or writing "rules" or all that I'm supposed to consider in order to get a particular editor's attention, then I'm doing it wrong.
It's as if my brain says "Well, if you're writing for yourself and you're having fun, you're not going to be able to publish this story because you're just silly and if you're not taking the process seriously then nobody is going to seriously consider publishing your work."
WHICH IS SO FUCKING STUPID (and yes, I know there's some shadow work to do here)
You know why it's stupid? Because my best writing, the writing that sounds SO much like my natural self (which I think is sharp and crass and hilarious btw) is getting put on the back burner when it's probably the exact thing that will get me noticed (by someone other than my mother).
And I know I don't NEED permission or validation to write the way I naturally want to write, but sometimes the reminders are necessary in the midst of the incessant chatter that convinces us we're going in the wrong direction.
I also loved hearing Rachel and Agatha discuss honesty in writing and how much energy is required to really GO THERE in our work, which is something I REALLY struggle with.
"The honesty is as much a part of the dread as the monster." -Agatha
"Facing yourself is...probably more terrifying than staring into the eyes of a beast." -Rachel
(Truth bombs just kept dropping. This post could have just been quotes from the episode tbh.)
Both quotes are examples of what I think actually resonates with readers and what is most likely to come out naturally in your writing than anything you (I mean me) might be tempted to try and force. When I sit down to write and I find myself feeling like what's happening naturally isn't what I "should" be writing, I've also noticed that I try and adjust the theme or plot or something (anything!) to avoid having to GO THERE with whatever personal shit came up that created the initial idea in the first place. And when I go back and look at the stories that have received rejections, I can see those holes I left hollow instead of pushing the parts of myself into the story that would have made it whole.
Which, if I'm being honest, is a tough pill to swallow. I can't tell you how many stories I've reread after a rejection and wondered if it'd been accepted if I'd just been brave enough to trust myself to tell MY story.
I feel an incoherent rambling coming on so I'm going to wrap this up, BUT...I love Rachel Harrison's work because it's so full of everything I love and want people to love about my own work. And I love the podcast because I feel every conversation is so thoughtful and intentional and I could probably write a blog post after each one but time is not always on my side.
So, go listen to that episode because it's amazing.
And you know what I'm going to do today?
I'm gonna write my little heart out. I'm going to make a cocktail, I'm going to get my writing room put back together (story for another blog post) and I'm going to have heaps and heaps of fucking fun writing these stories. Do I know where they're going? Not all of them. Do I think they're wicked cool ideas that deserve all my love and attention? Abso-friggin-lutely.
Go forth and listen! And write! And have fun doing it!