WRITERS AT WORK – Obstacles to Writing (Part 4), also featuring Guest Author Amie Brockway

Greetings from WRITERS AT WORK, the ongoing chat between Sandy Asher and David Harrison about the nitty-gritty of being writers. Rules are simple. We select a question that is often posed and take turns (two each) responding to it. We invite others to join in the conversation and will post longer efforts as Guest Authors on future WRITERS AT WORK slots. In addition to today’s guest, Amie Brockway, we have Kristi Holl on October 26.

October 19, 2010
Topic 2: Obstacles to Writing
Response 4: Sandy

Hey, David –

It’s nice to know I’m not alone, even though it’s the answer-all-your-emails-first club I belong to. Not only answer them, but hop to it and deliver anything anyone asks of me in those e-mails. But, like you, I get a lot done in spite of my e-mail addiction, so I guess we club members could free up at least a little of our time if we spend less of it feeling guilty!

The internal obstacle I’d like to talk about is something like a taped message that goes on in my brain during the writing of first drafts. I start out each project in a state of high optimism: “This is a fabulous idea. It’s going to be easy, too! And everyone’s going to love it.” Off I go, then, scribbling or typing away with a big smile on my face. Roughly halfway, maybe less, into the first draft, the tape begins: “This is not going to work. This is garbage. Whatever made you think you could write? This is awful. Stop! Give up! STOP!”

I don’t know where that message comes from, but I do know other writers hear their own version of it. Another club we joined unwillingly, but there we are, in it together and wrestling with another obstacle to our writing. Some writers do stop and give up. As for me, I’ve come to think of that moment when the negative message clicks on as something like the wall that marathon runners talk about. Somewhere in the race you feel as if you will drop in your tracks if you take another step. But if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, sooner or later a “second wind” will kick in and carry you to the finish line.

So I keep putting one word in front of the other, with the message repeating on a relentless loop in my head, and eventually, I get an entire draft done. That entire draft, I’ve found, is a critical milestone. It’s easy to throw away the first few paragraphs of a story or even the first couple of chapters of a book. But an entire draft? Uh-uh. I’ve lived with the characters too long. I know them, I care about them, and I’m not going to toss them in the trash without at least trying to do their story justice.

The taped message in my head hates it when I get on with the second, third, fourth, or nth draft of a piece. It slinks away. Until the next project. It’s been visiting me for decades now, with no signs of weakening — a formidable foe, but not an unstoppable one. I just write it down!

My turn to go first next time, David. I’ll be taking on “How do you deal with rejection?” And do I ever have experience in that area!

Thanks, Sandy. I’ll look forward to your opening remarks. But before we change subjects, we have two other Guest Authors on tap. Today we feature the witty remarks of Amie Brockway and next Tuesday we feature Kristi Holl. Here’s Amie.

Hi Sandy and David,

I would love to figure out how to make use of your new venture. What gets in my way?

Today, it’s 327 e-mails that have to be answered, deleted, or otherwise dealt with. I keep meaning to tell you, Sandy, that I’m reading your book about writing and rewriting. I read it while I eat–that’s multi-tasking, right? It’s a wonderful book, and I’m sure it will help me.

I’m trying to get to my two writing projects, and I thought I had pretty much the whole day today to focus on them. But, here it is 4:30, and I still have 21 unread e-mails and a whole stack of e-mails for which I have promised to try to get this or that done today.

I don’t know.

I made up a time budget, and it has 34 hours in a day. I tried multiplying that times 5 days and spreading it over 7 days, and if I remember correctly I ended up with 4 spare hours.

Guess I won’t be trying to blog anytime soon.


Amie Brockway is producing artistic director of The Open Eye Theater, Margaretville, NY. Her plays include adaptations of THE ODYSSEY and THE NIGHTINGALE (both Dramatic Publishing Company). From: Open Eye Theater. Here’s the link to Open Eye Theater: The theater’s website is www.theopeneye.org.  

7 comments on “WRITERS AT WORK – Obstacles to Writing (Part 4), also featuring Guest Author Amie Brockway

    • You’re welcome, Mary. I took an intensive workshop last weekend, which got me into a new space and pretty much uninterrupted time. Allowed me to attempt something I wasn’t sure I could write. Felt good. Guess we have to keep trying to find the way.

  1. Thanks to both for sharing your obstacles, the voice in your head foe is a real enemy, glad to hear how to slowly tune it out as the drafts pile up… Thanks David

    • You’re quite welcome. Yes, that voice in the head is more common than I realized — until I started talking about it. Thanks for chiming in and adding to the forces united to keep it under control. Sandy

  2. Oh, Annie–to have a 34 hour day! Do you think we’d use the time any better or just clutter it up with more email? Email is definitely a time sink. It is necessary, even enjoyable, but let’s face it–not everything requires an immediate answer. Like many of the rest of you, I’m trying to ignore the Siren call of the email inbox and get some work done!

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