By Andrew E. Kaufman, author of psychological thrillers
I’m reaching a point in my current manuscript where I feel as though I’m starting to get a handle on things.
Well, that’s a relative term.
One never truly has a handle on things when one suffers from what is known as Not Good Enough Syndrome. You may have heard of this affliction. It’s non-specific, widely undocumented, and for the most part, difficult to diagnose.
Symptoms may include:
- Self doubt
- Second-guessing everything.
- Not liking anything.
- Lack of inspiration, ideas, or sanity.
- Isolated episodes of global panic (with intermittent aspirations of world-building).
- Private, self-contained tantrums, which can range in severity.
And there are subcategories, and of course, I have a few of those as well. Currently I’m in the throes of, There Aren’t Enough Damned Twists in this Book! (Yes! There is an actual exclamation point at the end! A demarcation of severity!)
Here are how my symptoms express themselves: If you have a thriller, then you’ve got to have twists. The problem—at least for me—is they never come easily. Hard as I try, I’m never able to simply think those up. Usually, they must arrive on their own terms. What this means is, there’s a lot of waiting. Some non-secular praying to nobody in particular. Perhaps what might even resemble a highly specialized, ancient ritual (translation: A lot of stomping and often loud, nonverbal communication).
This is my process, and as weird as it might be, and as hard as I’ve tried to change it, I’ve come to accept that I can’t. In some ways, I suppose, this has benefits, because it doesn’t often allow me the luxury of resting on my laurels—that’s another condition known as, Good Enough Syndrome (or in the layman’s vernacular, Just Plain Lazy).
So, what’s the prognosis? The treatment? How does one manage such seemingly unmanageable symptoms? After years of intensive study and observation, I’ve found a few tactics. Just in case you, or someone you love, suffers, I’ll share my detailed and highly non-scientific findings:
- Allow the ideas and words to come, and DON’T PANIC when they won’t—they will. They always do.
- Know that the harder the struggle (and if you don’t give up) the better the work.
- Never (Never!) compare your work to someone else’s. You are not them, and they are not you. Doing this will only take you to the Dark Place. I’ve been there. Trust me, It’s ugly.
- Exercise will clear the cobwebs and help hasten the muse.
- Externalizing your thought process is like breathing fresh air. It can be as easy has having someone sit and listen while you ramble on.
- Music can stir the emotions and ignite ideas in ways few other things can.
- Understand that anxiety will distort things and take you to Crazy Town. Another ugly place.
- When you’ve reached a clear impasse, it’s time to stop.
- Don’t forget why you write.
Onward, brave soldiers.
Some great advice here, Andrew.ReplyDelete
I think we all need to figure out what our process is and then allow it to happen. It's when we begin doubting the thing that's worked for us in the past that we get crazy. A little angst is natural, paralyzing fear is not.
Second Guess City is the place I call home. Like a double edged blade, it tears me up in some places, but in others, builds me up.Delete
If it didn't build you up, if it didn't work, you'd move on and find something that did. You're good at using what you've got, and using it well.Delete
Oh dear. I think we can all relate Andrew!ReplyDelete
I've just returned from visiting my family and friends in Mauritius, where my best friend introduced me to the Dale Carnegie's Golden Book. It can be downloaded for free from the Dale Carnegie website. It contained some great advice on worry. These are the quotes I liked and which I'm going to pin to my wall:
1. Live in "day tight compartments."
2. How to face trouble:
a. Ask yourself, 'What's the worst that can possibly happen?'
b. Prepare to accept the worst.
c. Try to improve on the worst
3. Remind yourself of the exorbitant price you can pay for worry in terms of health
4. Keep busy.
5. Don't fuss about trifles.
6. Decide just how much worry a thing may be worth and refuse to give it more.
7. Don't worry about the past.
8. Cooperate with the inevitable.
9. Once a decision is reached, act!
I agree with what Peg and you say about process. We each have our own way of doing things. I'm trying to improve mine to be more productive as I know I procrastinate too much sometimes. The Nuclear Option on StayFocusd is proving to be my best friend! ;)
All of this is excellent advice--now, if I can just remember to apply it ;) But you are so right. We get caught up in the small things and end up sabotaging ourselves in the process.Delete
Hi Andrew, For me the best thing I can do is get away from it for a while. My best ideas come while I'm swimming. It's like when I'm struggling over a crossword clue. As I sit and study it, I can't think of a thing that works. As soon as I walk away and it goes out of my mind, boom, there it is!ReplyDelete
That's what happens to me with writing fiction. In writing psychological thrillers the twists and turns came as I wrote and more came when I wasn't writing. If I try to force it, nothing happens.
Our subconscious is amazing!
Right there with you, Joan, on all counts. Trusting the subconscious mind is key and what I use to guide me through stories. The moment I try to force it, is the moment I get in my own way.Delete
What excellent timing to come across this today! I had a crisis moment yesterday and had so many of these thoughts you outlined above. Thanks for the great advice :).ReplyDelete