Losing My Religion

Disclaimer: As a reader of blogs, I prefer the uplifting, supportive, and/or educational variety. I’m not so sure this particular post will be any of those. In fact, there may be whining and pleading. Use your discretion in proceeding.

“Consider this, The hint of the century;

Consider this, The slip that brought me to my knees, Failed;

What if all these fantasies, Come flailing around?

Now I’ve said too much…”

~Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Michael Mills, Michael Stipe (Losing My Religion, by R.E.M.)

by Gustave MoreauLiterary Gods and Mere Mortals: As most of my posts do, this one came about because of cosmic coincidence. This time it was the juxtaposition of hearing the song referenced in the title after reviewing the Writer Unboxed newsletter, and while pondering my circumstance and unloading the dishwasher. My head was swimming with Donald Maass’s Column, and his brilliant (as always)  advice about being the god of your own work, and acting like one. I was also mulling my own column, in which I reference the courage it takes to write. While I can’t link to the specific content of the WU newsletter, if you aren’t getting your own copy, you can click here to remedy that situation.

I’d just opened the doc for my rewrite of book one of my trilogy, and I wasn’t feeling very godlike or brave. Which may explain why I was unloading the dishwasher at 10am instead of actually working.

Courage/Encourage: As I was unloading the dishwasher, I was suddenly struck by the word trust. I’d just reread my most recent version of the book’s opening, and (can you guess?) was instantly convinced it sucks. I was telling myself I just needed to do as my column advised, and have the courage to simply forge ahead. I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement of late, from my incredibly supportive wife, my mentor extraordinaire, Cathy, and my great writer friends and tribe mates.

In other words, I know there are no few people who believe in me. They trust that I can pull this off, and I trust that they believe it. All I’ve got to do is trust myself, right?

“That’s me in the corner, That’s me in the spotlight;

Losing my religion, Trying to keep up with you;

And I don’t know if I can do it,

Oh no I’ve said too much, I haven’t said enough…”


Pantser Parishioner: When I started writing, trust was not an issue. I didn’t have high aspirations for what was then a hobby. Then, as the work progressed, it became something larger than I could’ve imagined when I started. I became amazed, as many new writers do, by what some call the gift of the muse. It’s truly an awe-inspiring thing to have story and characters take on a life of their own—to be left wondering ‘where in the heck this stuff is coming from.’ Even though I’d started with a rough little outline (that now makes me laugh), and long before I’d heard the term, I became a pantser.

For years I trusted that if I worked hard every day, and gave my all, I would be rewarded by the muse. So I kept writing, and story kept coming. I laughed and cried with my characters, and poured myself onto the page with (if I do say so) fearless abandon. I prayed at the Parish of Pantsing and it seemed my dedication was rewarded, to the tune of four large manuscripts.

I wasn’t naïve enough to think they were anywhere near good-to-go, but I knew there was substance at their core. My muse does not bestow fluff. I just had to polish, cut away the excess, to get the work into the proper form. It would take hard work, but the manuscripts would ‘get there.’ And anyone who knows me knows I’m not afraid of hard work. I still trusted myself to get the job done.

Oh Ye of Little Faith: There’s nothing quite like a bit of rejection to knock the faith out of a pantser. And it’s a slippery slope.

I knew I needed help. So I joined a new writerly religion, and knelt at the Parish of Plotting. The message made sense. The evidence is clear: good characterization through the development of their internal and external goals, motivations, and conflicts, laid into a sound story structure, works. I’m a bit of a closet pagan, still believing in my muse, but I willingly dedicated myself to the study of plotting and story structure. I am actively seeking to adapt.

But for me there’s a problem, and it was Donald Maass’s WU newsletter post that pointed me to it. Don says “You are the God of your work—Act like One.” Good advice, except I realized: if I’m not trusting my old work ethic and my muse anymore, what’s left to be trusted? Just me! It comes down to my ability to make sense of a complex story and its adaption to story structure.

And honestly, most days I feel like a chimp with a Rubik’s cube.

In Me I Trust? Not So Much: In spite of often feeling chimp-like, I have forged ahead. I recently finished a Scene Outline, wherein I analyzed each scene to determine how and why it fit, whether or not it applies to the Story Question, and how it advances the characters into ever escalating conflict or toward the resolution of their now well-defined goals. And honestly, I felt like I could’ve made a case for and against every friggin’ scene—old or new. Since the outline, I have a new opening. I’ve discarded some old scenes, kept others, and created a few new ones. But I haven’t got a clue if any of it’ll work.

Part of it might be the nature of rehashing scenes that are now nine years old. Some days I feel like I’m merely recycling stuff that didn’t work the first time. G-M-C questions arise and swirl in my head with every paragraph. I wonder if I’m losing readers with every sentence. Is this too much description/too little? Too much world-building/too little? Does this distract from or conflict with the Story Question? And I realize there are no ‘right’ answer. Everyone would have a different opinion on each issue.

I’m Close, But I Still Can’t Reach the Damn Cigar? Don’t get me wrong. Thanks to the help I’ve gotten from the aforementioned Cathy and the feedback from some really super beta-readers (thank you all very much!), I feel like I know the story and the characters better than ever. I feel like the trilogy is worthy of becoming something special. It’s so close! But that makes this all the harder.

It’s tougher than ever keeping a fresh perspective, and thereby difficult to trust that I’m a good enough deity for the world I’ve created.

I realize the onus is on me. No muse, no muscling through on hard work, a la butt-in-chair/write, write, write. Nope, this is a tougher nut to crack. I’m going to have to think, think, think. But even that won’t do it. At some point, I have to trust. And then I’ve got to get it on paper and put it out there again. A frightening thought for someone who’s lost his writerly religion.

Anyone still there? If so, here’s where You come in: Have you ever lost faith in your writerly self? If so, did you regain it? How? How do you keep an old project fresh? Any tips on finding ways to trust yourself again? Thanks!

46 comments on “Losing My Religion

  1. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    It’s an interesting journey — a long one. We often hope it ends with someone saying, “overnight success” before our name. Then, we can laugh, because they just don’t understand. I’m still here as many others are. I regained my spark on an older project this year. I’m glad I did.


    • “Then, we can laugh, because they just don’t understand.”

      Isn’t that the truth! I appreciate that you’re still here with me, and I know we’re not alone. It’s hugely uplifting to me that you regained your spark for the older project! Thanks, Stacy!


  2. I lost my faith last weekend . . . no surprise after I received another editor rejection via my agent. It wasn’t this particular editor; it was just the proverbial straw that broke that poor camel.

    I lost my faith in my own writing and in the publishing world as a whole. Yep, that’s right. When I go, I go BIG.

    But then I asked myself what the alternative is. (Write or stop writing.) The first sounded bad, but the second sounded really terrible. So I allowed myself to wallow for a weekend. A weekend wallow. And then, weary of wallowing, I reminded myself of these facts: I write because I love to write, and I write so that my work can be read.

    The next time that happens, I will remind myself of those facts. I may not be able to trust my talent or the greatness of my stories, but I can trust the fact that I love to write and I want to share it with others.

    Hang in there. Trust that you are not surrounded by idiots who would be encouraging you to do something stupid. Trust that you are not someone who would spend years writing these stories if there weren’t something valuable (maybe invaluable) in them.



    • First off, hugs back on the rejection. I know they’re part of the game, but they never get easier.

      I love that you go BIG, Sarah! And framing it in terms of choosing between ‘write or stop writing’ really puts it in the proper perspective. (Really, only a weekend wallow and you were already weary? I can outdo that! 😉 ).

      I really do trust those around me–including friends like you. It’s the best thing I’ve got going for me–my greatest asset. Those who support me are the opposite of idiots, and the fact that I have so many anti-idiots/super-smart people supporting me keeps my hope burning bright. Being reminded of it even helps me to regain a bit of faith. Thanks for that, Sarah!


  3. ddfalvo says:

    I love this song, so your title struck an immediate chord with me. There’s a haunting ache in the words and lyrics that connects to that place, simmering just beneath our flesh, where raw emotion lurks. Writers know pain. We turn it on. We turn it off. And sometimes we forget to lock that door and those feelings become more than words on paper.

    For a long time I couldn’t write– for different reasons than what we blog about. When the green light finally came, I was ready! So ready. But something was wrong, something was broken. Like you, I reigned in those pantser tendencies, and thought maybe I’m getting stuck, and then– maybe I’m a fraud, maybe I really suck at writing. :/

    Working harder didn’t cut it. Then it finally hit me. I was stuck in the habits I created while trying to find my way to the green light. I was trying to fit my discipline into my life, when what I needed was to fit my life into my discipline.

    This morning, I woke at 5 AM, like I used to do eons ago. No one else is awake. No one’s on FB. The phone doesn’t ring. The dark whispers secrets the day won’t give up, and the muse wants to know what the hell took so long. Everything felt new. I just needed a change.

    You are an amazing writer, Vaughn. And you *know* you’re even better at it now than you’ve ever been. Trust yourself to figure out what you need, and don’t be afraid to turn it all upside-down while you’re looking. You might find something new. 😀


    • “The dark whispers secrets the day won’t give up, and the muse wants to know what the hell took so long. Everything felt new.”

      And you thought you sucked at writing?!! My God, that’s beautiful. Your beauty shines through in everything you do. I also love ‘fitting my life into my discipline.’ And you’re right, I know I’m better than I’ve ever been. And I need to open my heart to the possibilities, including turning it on its head.

      Thank you, thank you, D, for your wisdom, expressed so very beautifully (as always).


  4. Vaughn, my brain is fried so I won’t be remotely eloquent, but here’s the deal: If you can’t trust your judgment, then you can’t trust your judgment. Feeling like a failure is no evidence you’re failing, because your opinion isn’t valid. You will have to put your faith in the other people who’ve read your work and are solidly on your side.

    On the other hand, if you can trust your judgment, then you’ve got no choice but to carry on until something in you says it’s done, or it’s toast and you’re moving on to something else.

    Either way, you’re a writer, so you’re doomed to a sense of inadequacy. Fall in love with the doom.

    /inspirational speech illustrating why I’m not Mom of the Year


    • I beg to differ–Moms of the Year must frequently dole out the blunt truth.

      This morning is so very far from last night. I posted this an hour before we left the house for the night, and I awoke to such an outpouring of support here and in the social media.

      To top it off, a friend of a friend is reading the trilogy, not so much as a beta, just as an interested genre reader. I had an email waiting from her this morning that said, “Next! Finished Book II last night late. Need Book III right away! Loving these, keep it coming!”

      I guess that’s what makes being doomed to a sense of inadequacy pay off. I think I’m falling in love. You’re right, Jan–nobody ever promised me an ability to judge my own work. It’s part of the gig. I can trust my judgement well enough to know I have no choice but to carry on. Good, tough-love, Mom of the Year-type advice, my friend. Thanks!


  5. Embrace the doom! No really. The insecurity never goes away. It’s always nagging, nagging, nagging the back of your mind, no matter how successful you become, that terrible knowledge that others are much better than you will never leave you. Sorry, I’m not being very helpful here … but Jan has it right … neither of us will ever be mother of the year, nurturing is in Jan’s make-up, not mine.

    HOWEVER, I do have one teensy bit of advice, it might help, it might not. Put the manuscript away. Walk away from it for at least one week, two is better. Don’t think about it. Read other people’s books, start a new novel, write a synopsis for a completely different book. Then after a week or two weeks, or if you’re really smart, three weeks, then go back and read the manuscript again. You might be surprised to find that it’s not half as sucky as you thought it was … you might be surprised to find that parts of it are pretty damn decent. Then go from there.

    Other people’s esteem is a lovely thing; however, in order to get yourself through this, you’ve got to love your work and yourself enough to keep going.

    That’s all. Now I’ve got to go off and see if Ican’t squeeze some words out of my brain. Keep the faith, Vaughn. 😉


    • Another Mom of the Year here, eh? I’m sure the insecurity is part of what makes us all what we are. If we were over-confident, we’d just throw the first draft out there and blame everyone else for not ‘getting’ it, right?

      My wife read your advice to step back, and said, “Aha! See? Teresa, an author whose work you admire, is telling you what I’ve been telling you!” She has. But in fairness, I doubt you are at all motivated by wanting me to redo our bathroom, and someone… *ahem* has an ulterior motive for wanting me to take some time away from writing. 😉

      I love your advice to ‘love’ rather than ‘trust’ myself in order to keep going. Very smart advice, all around, and I so appreciate your taking the time to dispense it, Teresa! 🙂


  6. I’ve lost my religion a dozen times over. And found it again!

    Juxtaposition, coincidence, providence, my place in the universe. Don’t know what it is, but your blog was, coincidentally, just at the time I connected with a new person via social networking. I clicked over to this new person’s blog, and it was all negative! What’s wrong with writers, what’s wrong with publishing, what’s bad about … well she just went on and on about what’s broken. While I do what to learn about what to avoid, I don’t want to read blogs that project all negative feelings or remind me of the hard road. I know it’s a hard road! Give me something I can use – like you Vaughn. Your blogs are uplifting and give me a sense of what to look forward to. Your blogs are inspirational.


    • You got me this morning (got a bit teary reading your comment). I posted this and felt like I was being a bit too whiny, but I think it’s just something we all go through. This outpouring of support shows me just how positive the writing community CAN be. I believe we choose our tribes, and I’m so honored by who has chosen to take the time to stop by here–including you, Karen! Even when we’re down (read: having negative feelings) a positive group like mine can help me to pull myself up by the bootstraps.

      I’m glad you feel connected here, as I do over on yours. Thanks for your ongoing support, Karen!


  7. liz says:

    I’m in the doomed camp with Jan. (I’m pretty much anywhere Jan is, just cause she’s good company, but I’d be here without her as well.) I think many writers are like that — we lose our faith in ourselves every time we sit down at the computer and start to write. Sometimes looking at the whole road is overwhelming. Looking at just the page you are on, and then the next one, and then the next, making each page as good as it possibly can be, has to be enough.


    • You’re right–Jan is great company, as are you. I want to hang with you two, even if it’s in the doomed camp, Liz! God, I love your advice to focus on the page. It’s alot like my own advice (I’ve called it Forward Focus–as in being on a roof when afraid of heights). Now, to heed it. You’re right–it has to be enough, and I know it can be. Thanks for your friendship and support, Liz!


  8. Arizona says:

    Oh absolutely, Vaughn. I have been in that kind of hell for a couple of years now and I am slowly fighting my way out. I lost my faith in my writing and the publishing world too. But I miss the writing part. I have been trying for some time to swim back from the brink. But…

    It’s the sitting down part and yanking the words out of the mind onto the screen that I have been having the trouble with and it sounds like you are in the same boat. Peas in a pod, mate.

    Perhaps we should form our own support group? Marooned Writers R Us, and stagger around a lost island with an old fashioned typewriter a la Fear & Loathing style and see who else is marooned there with us?

    I’ve done the BICHOK thing, I’ve done Nano and Script Frenzy things, and taken so many classes my head is rotating like a rotisserie chicken. And I think that was the mistake. We got away from what worked. We let others convince us that we just had to take such and such class and try such and such plot method and before we knew it, all they really did was undermine our faith in our own writing.

    What I am doing about it: getting my website up and running. And Rebooting. I am also starting to do book reviews.

    If you would like to discuss this phenomenon further, and I mean anyone currently suffering this dastardly chronic writer’s malady, then please do contact me and let’s discuss it, and try uprooting the whole darn thing.


    • Oh, I’m sorry you know the feeling and have struggled too. Marooned Writers R Us made me laugh. I think you’re right about listening to too many other voices, and about getting back to what works. I wish you all the best on the Reboot. Doing book reviews is a good positive step–it always helps me to reconnect with what I love about books and story. I’ll stop by and check you out! Thanks so much for stopping by here, and for reading and commenting, Arizona!


      • Arizona says:

        Glad I made you laugh, Vaughn. ;o) And thanks. I hope so too. And wish the same for you, no matter how you tackle it. It just must be tackled.


  9. deedetarsio says:

    Time to get off the pot, Vaughn!


  10. kimbullock says:

    Vaughn, I’m been in that place before and it sucked. There was a time I actually stopped writing for about six years and worked a corporate job. That was even worse because I completely lost who I was. Writing is part of you are – you know that – so push through the gloom. It could be that you are trying to hard to go from one extreme to the other – extreme pantser to extreme plotter, and that neither will work for you. Maybe what you need is simply to learn how to relax and have fun with writing again. That may take stepping away from your current series and writing something completely different (maybe a short story or simply a random scene that doesn’t have to go anywhere or turn into anything.

    Don’t give up on the muse entirely! I think, for you, that may be a mistake.


    • I knew you went through a time without writing, Kim, but I didn’t realize it was for six years! You are so right–it’s part of who I am. I think you’re also right that I’m pushing to extremes, and have driven myself a bit batty. Relax and learn to have fun with writing again is brilliant advice. Don’t worry, not giving up just yet. Down but not out! 😉

      Thanks, Kim! Don’t know what I’d do without you! So glad you are a part of my day to day! 🙂


      • kimbullock says:

        I also hope you are saving those scenes that you decide to rework in case you change your mind later. Sometimes you can have a ‘brilliant’ idea and go with it only to discover the next day that it was better the first way. I’ve learned that one from experience.

        I credit Sasha for bringing me back to writing. I did not want her growing up watching me go off to a job I hated every day and ignoring a big part of myself. So I stayed home to be with her and write during her naps, and now I’m back!


    • I never actually ditch anything. I just shuffle it from file to sagging file. 😉

      I love hearing that Sasha brought you back to yourself, Kim! Thanks again, for everything!


  11. First — oh, hon. Hugs and hugs and more hugs. Because it sounds like you need them.

    Second: I regularly go through writer’s block. Longest lasted two years and I didn’t write a word of draft, just putzed around with some notes and ignored the rest. And that was after I was published. Actually, it was *because* I was published, I think.

    Best I’ve got is — when you lose faith, hang out with people who will believe in you until you get your faith back. And who are willing to listen to you when you feel that everything sucks. 🙂


    • Thanks for the hugs–they are appreciated. I honestly appreciate everything you’ve done for me, Cathy. I know it sounds like my bitterness is rooted in plotting, but it really has opened my eyes. It’s like taking a big piece of driftwood and knowing it can be a lovely piece of art if you know how to work the grain, and shave it just right here and there. I appreciate that, so much! And I learned it–saw its possibilites–in your teaching.

      The feeling of amazement I describe above is still there, and talking to you always reminds me of it. Our last phone session really awakened it. It’s just, as I say above, being so close actually makes this stage all the more frustrating. I want it to be what I hear in your descriptions so badly, and I think I was so focused on that, it shook my trust that I could take it there.

      I keep giving myself the crazies. I’ve been in a sprial, and I know I can break free of the current with a little help from those who believe! Thanks for being one of them. I appreciate you, more than you can know.


  12. I’m here! (in response to your question if anyone was still here)

    I was thinking about thinking last week, as a matter of fact. My decision – be it enlightened or not- was that I can think a story to death. I can change and fix and move and analyze and then the fun is gone, and maybe the magic of the story, too. There has to be some balance.

    I have been worrying (partially because of great thinking people like you and Denise) that I haven’t worked long enough on Finding Meara. “What if I’m sending it out too early.” But the other part of me is ready to be done with it. I don’t want to spend any more time thinking about it. I guess I’m ready to let it go out and if it’s flawed, so be it. All my thinking and learning is ready to get put into a new story. And maybe it’s not any good either, but at least I’m enjoying writing. (when I’m not beating myself up about the imaginary problems with the Age of Stars, of course :))

    So I guess I’m agreeing with Kim up there. I think Heather told me the same advice when I wrote a cry for help on Facebook. She said “find the fun in writing…just write.” It’s good advice. 🙂


    • I agree, you can ‘overwork’ a story–revise the heart right out of it. I think that’s part of my fear. And I know I worked myself to such a state that the joy I always found it the process is hard to find. I think you are very smart to see where Finder Meara goes, but also starting this new story. It’s a smart way to keep that joy alive while you are going though the submissions process.

      I’m glad I took time to rant here, because you (and Kim and Heather and others here) have all reminded me of some important things I had forgotten. I want to reconnect with the joy, and I am determined to do so! I wish for all the best for you during submissions. We’ll both get there, Lara! I know it in the marrow of my bones! Thanks for your ongoing support!


  13. Normandie says:

    Vaughn, I knew we were friends for a reason. There’s not a writer out here who hasn’t felt as you do now, not a one of us. And sometimes we have to do as Teresa suggests and walk away for a while. Do something else.

    I know. That manuscript will still be sitting there, whistling at you. You’ll peek over your shoulder and try to shrug, but it will beckon like the girl you’re trying to ignore who finally notices you–because you’re ignoring her and talking to someone new.

    Just there, in front of you, is a new face with some interesting things to say. Take a few hours or days or weeks to get to know her. She’ll boost your confidence, because she’s new and so are you. I can see your grin now. Hey, hey, you’ve got something going here . . .

    Now you have possibilities. You’ve stretched and reconsidered. Now you can choose the one with whom you’ll spend more time or you can go back and forth, enlarging your tent. You know a little more about the new friend and her potentials, and the old doesn’t have that same power to hold you in thrall. You can return from your new place of strength and see with new eyes. She may be the love of your life, but then she may turn out to be only another well-loved friend. One whose qualities you enhance–as she enhances yours.

    But now you’re freer, because you know that you’re more than just this one relationship. You’ve got a lot to offer to all those other words waiting to break free.

    I’m back with one of my earlier stories after getting to know her (much) older sister again. Professional reader comments suggested a revamping, and I hid from these for almost four months. Now I’ve taken them out, dusted them off, and I’m ready to do the work to improve our relationship. The reader was right.

    Let’s forge ahead. Rejections will continue and continue and continue, but so will the good words of our tribe. They’re like Aaron and Hur, holding up Moses’s arms when Moses got too tired. And as long as those arms were raised, Joshua and the troops could win the battle in the valley. Look at all the Aarons and Hurs you have surrounding you, pushing up those arms, Vaughn. Just as you do for each of us.


    • Oh, what a lovely metaphor you create with a second project, Normandie! It’s really great advice. I’m so glad you’ve reconnected with one of your earlier stories. Isn’t it funny how right a critique can be given time? I’ve experienced that, too. Sometimes they sting, and you just don’t want to look for a while, but time heals the sting, and you can parse the truth from earnest critique.

      I’m with you–let’s forge ahead! I agree, the support of our tribe is such a balm! I look around and am truly amazed and feel so blessed! Thanks for the lovely comment and for being part of my support system, Normandie!


  14. Erika Robuck says:

    Vaughn, this is a moving post. I have absolutely been there. Do you know what I worry about as my first book with a publisher launches: that people will call me an overnight success. Ten years…ten years of losing my religion. One year of “success.” I still get a thrill when I see my agent’s or editor’s name in my inbox. I hope I always feel that way.

    That word, “trust”, comes from somewhere bigger than you. It also means faith, of course. Faith in the process and in timing. When you find success, you will be able to look back at the journey and see exactly why everything happened as it did, and you will see that it is good.

    So go be the master of your universe. Show up for the work. The muse needs your hands as a vehicle to make the magic. Trust….


    • It means so much to me that you took the time to weigh in on this, Erika, on your week of weeks! You are truly an inspiration! I know you share some of my spiritual feelings regarding the process. Your comment is very moving to me. I know I’ve got to find that faith, and I trust that I can. That’s a start toward regaining trust in the process and the timing.

      Thanks for sharing the view from where you are right now! It’s not only inspirational, but a real comfort. 🙂


  15. qathy says:

    I have hit that wall numerous times. What gets my behind back in the chair is remembering why I write at all. I started writing, because when I write, God works in that process to clear up a lot of fog in my head. When I write, things that look fuzzy start to take on a sharper focus. But most of all, God always gives me something I must share with others. I get all bent out of shape when I think that not enough people are noticing what I write, but then I remember that it isn’t about me anyway. So I keep writing. I’m not my own god, however. God is God. He gave me the gift. He gives me the persistence. He keeps revealing himself as I serve him. That is why I can’t stop.


    • Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Qathy! I really appreciate your insight into remembering why we write and for getting in touch with faith again. Religious faith can be a powerful blessing, and I’m so glad it gives you, and so many others, strength to persevere! Please stop by again! 🙂


  16. Great post, Vaughn. I think I lose faith in my writing self about once every six months or so. It’s a horrible crisis, really, because writing is my passion and the thought of not doing it anymore is akin to never breathing again. As others have said, walking away is sometimes the best thing to do. Distance can be a beautiful thing.

    It always amuses me when people who are NOT writers say, “Oh, I’d like to write a book sometime.” They have NO idea of the true angst involved in being a writer. I suspect if they did, they would run far, far away.

    My advice: take a break. There is more to life than writing (though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it!). Pick up an old hobby. Discover a new one. It will all be grist for the mill!


    • I hate to think of it as a routine, but I regularly have a crisis about it, too, Melissa. I got just a bit of distance today (had to make a long car drive). Don’t ya love when people so blithely say, “I’m thinking I’ll pop out a book one of these days”? There’s no way you can tell them, either.

      Between my mini-break today and all of the support of my amazing friends, I’m feeling so much better! You’re right, maybe it’s time for a carpentry project. 😉 I appreciate your the insight and comiseration, my friend.


  17. I’ve no idea. I’m struggling at the moment. Problem is I spend far too much time wondering why I am struggling instead of tackling the matter head on. The big difference for me came when an Indi publisher came along and said “great we’ll publish this.” Everyday now I am crippled with the idea someone is actually going to read this and so I spend far too long agonising. I spend all day wasting time having conversations with myself, telling myself to get over it, sit down and write. To be fair when I do sit down and write the words do come – it’s just I don’t seem to get to that position until it’s bed time.
    The mantra I keep in my head when I do actually sit down is – “you can’t edit a blank page.” So with that in mind I’m going to open my word document and start to type, knowinh I’m not alone. And just knowing that helps. So thanks for the blog and all the work you do with unboxed.


    • Great to see you here, Maria! I’m guessing for you spending a bit of time seeing the world from the saddle helps, too, eh? (I’ve seen the pics on fb.) It’s really great that the words come, and you know it’s just a matter of reestablishing the discipline (and you know you’ve got it in you, because you’ve done it, right? 😉 ). Thanks so much for sharing. You’re right, it does help so much knowing we’re not alone. Please stop by again!


  18. Call me crazy, but do you have to choose? Does it have to be either pantser or plotter? Is there only one path towards a muse? You’re a storyteller, Vaughn. You make stuff up. So make up your own method. And when that way stops working, make up another one.

    You know I’m in a similar place, going back over THE NOVEL (which has taken on this weird capital letter weight) for the umpteenth time. I wrote, like you, in “panster” mode with lots of joy, got squashed by rejection, and decided to adopt a more structured approach. But I’m still just making it all up as I go along. We all are. Even people who plot out the whole book in elaborate color-coded outlines are still just making it all up, piece by piece.

    I stumble hard when I think someone else has the answer and I just . . . can’t . . . reach it. Take a sprinkle of panster, a dash of plotter, throw in a carpentry project to get your mind in a different gear, read a good book in a hammock, write a short story that has nothing to do with the larger project.

    Make it up. It’s what you’re good at, and such talent shouldn’t be confined to fiction. 🙂 Let it grace your life.


    • Ah, you are a wise friend indeed, Lisa. “Make it up” is genius! And I love ‘THE NOVEL’ and think I’ll borrow the idea when I talk about THE TRILOGY, which has also felt a bit ponderous of late.

      Since writing this post, I’ve sort of stumbled my way toward your wisdom, ignoring the troublesome parts of my plotting trial, and utilizing my good ole pantser storytelling to move ahead. And I’m getting work done again, for the second day in a row! It feels great!

      Thanks for sprinkling your brand of warm wisdom and support into my life! Have a great weekend! 🙂


    • 😀 Don’t we all. Seems like all the good writers I know often feel the same. I think it bodes well for us. 😉 Thanks again, Lisa!


  19. Bernadette Phipps-Lincke says:

    Wow. I’m coming across this blog late, been living in my head a lot with the WIP. As for your question about self-doubt? Absolutely. Always. A permanent part of my psyche. I used to fight it. Now, I use it to make my work stronger. What are the words from that Cheap Trick song?–“Surrender, surrender, but don’t give yourself away.”

    My characters are all infused with quirks resulting from battles with their own demons of doubt. Write about what you know?I know self-doubt, I know about losing faith–and believe me so do the characters that inhabit the worlds I create. And if somewhere down the line one of them gains a little ground against their demons–I do too.

    When I lost my religion–I lost the security of my complacency–and writing without that safety net is a hell of a lot scarier–but it also set me free. I was free to delve deeper into myself — and ask the dark and lurking questions my blind faith refused to even acknowledge existed. And that is what being a writer for me, is all about.


    • Wow back atcha, Bernadette! That is the most eloquent description of carrying on as a writer in the face of self-doubt that I have ever heard! (And I was a big Cheap Trick fan as a teen–saw them live twice).

      It’s interesting to look back on this now. I’ve made a lot of progress since writing this, and I think part of my success since has to do with just that: surrender to the process of writing without a safety net.

      Thanks so much for coming up from your WIP for air, and for sharing your awesomeness and wisdom while you did, my friend! All the best to you and your work–I know it’s gonna be as amazing as you are! 🙂


  20. Bernadette Phipps-Lincke says:

    I’m excited for your progress, Vaughn, Your story is going to be an amazing one–the one you were meant to tell. Do us all a favor, will ya? Let your inner pagan outta the closet to enhance the architecture of your new post-pantser work. Amazing things happen when pagans build plotted structures…Stonehenge, the pyramids…what Mozart composed, what Poe wrote, what Carl Jung deduced…the list is wondrous and endless–pagan hearts all.


  21. […] know quite where I’d be without the help and support of my tribe. Last week I struggled, and even admitted to it in this space. The outpouring I received in response to my call was astonishing and humbling. It […]


  22. […] experienced my share of self-doubt. I’ve even written a post admitting (okay, whining about) my occasional lack of faith in myself. If you asked me when I last […]


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