I fell in a writing rut for a while--ok, the last three months. I tend to get really hard on myself when I don't make my goals--whether they're writing goals, fitness goals, academic goals, or personal goals. I believe that setting goals is a powerful tool.
Sometimes it's a tool I overuse. Because with this writing break, I believe several things were happening.
1) I am transitioning mentally from this year-long sabbatical I was given into pursuing another big, challenging goal (going back to school for physical therapy).
2) I was letting all of the things I have learned about writing novels and publishing them congeal and sort out in my mind.
I did so much research, through reading books and blogs and attending conferences, that my brain overloaded a bit. Not in a bad way, but enough that when I sat down to write, it felt like my head would explode from all of the things that I was "supposed to do." Three-act structure, motivation-reaction, characterization, show-don't tell, goals, conflict, raising the stakes--all of the things that make great novels. When I sat down to write, it felt like all of those things needed to fit into my first draft or I would be a terrible writer. More than that, I didn't really feel like I had a story to tell.
I'm beginning to realize that I will never really have an idea for "THE STORY"--you know, the one that's so fabulous it's sure to be published. "THE STORY" is a myth, and it's a dangerous myth. If a writer was indeed blessed with the perfect story idea, and executed it flawlessly, and it was published to great acclaim, they would be up sh** creek if they didn't have the skill to repeat their success.
I don't want to be that kind of writer. I want to be the kind of writer who sits down consistently and writes stories. The better I get at telling stories, the closer I will be to publishing. But I don't want to make publishing my end-all. If I want a writing career, the long, profitable kind, I need to be consistently good at what I do. And I'm not there yet. I'm accepting that it's going to be a long road, and a joyful road, if I can keep the process fun.
Which brings me to my point: If I'm going to sit down most every day to write a book, there are going to be lots of days where the writing's no good. On those days, I need to keep going, because I can't afford to only write when the writing's good. If I keep that up, I'll end up with another three month dry spell. I need to write like no one is reading. And when I remind myself that, in fact, I'm not a published author and there really is no one reading, I feel a kind of weight lift off of my shoulders, and it feels good--I'm free to write as much c-r-a-p as I want, and it doesn't hurt a thing. That makes me smile.