Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fix It and Forget It: A Confidence Process

Fix-it and Forget-it does a lot of things right. Did you know the creator of the popular cooking series, according the website, is "especially concerned for those who don't have enough time to cook, as well as those who lack the confidence to cook."

I was thinking that we as writers fit this category. Subsititute "cooking" for "writing" and the sentence looks like this: "especially concerned for those who don't have enough time to write, as well as those who lack the confidence to write." Pretty fitting.

Fix-it and Forget-it prides itself on the concern it has for those who don't have enough time. Writer's never have enough time. There is always something that comes up to distract us--and we are easily distracted, even by our own thoughts. The other goal, the lacking confidence one, is so valid. We doubt many of the words we write--that's why we do so many revisions before we share it. Or we share it as we go so people can give us encouragement. I'm guilty of both areas, depending on the project.

Confidence to writers is a double-edged sword. If you have too much, you aren't as willing to listen to advice. If you don't have enough, you could find yourself face-down in a corner somewhere, your words in shreds on the floor.  Confidence is something every author needs to suceed (whether you are writing book #1 or #101) and it is the first thing to be lost at signs of trouble.

Fix-it and Forget-it is on to something. I'm sure that once Sally (our new pretend friend) cooks a few successful dishes, her confidence increases. Sally will branch out and try new things. If she ruins the dish, then she will probably feel like she will never be able to cook anything, ever. Sally has two choices: eat fast food until she dies OR figure out what she did wrong.  So, Sally will retrace her steps. Maybe she will re-read the ingredients. She can check the timer. She can even just try it all over again. There are many other options but the point is that Sally can figure out what happened--but she has to try to succeed first. And sometimes, she has to fail.

The same can be applied to writing. If you write a good scene then you are ready to write another one...and another. If you write a bad scene, it's so easy to go to Twitter instead. It's this time when you need to figure out the problem. Maybe your character is off or a motivation is missed. Maybe she the last sentence she said was completely wrong. Maybe he wants to go here instead of here. You can always figure out the problem--but you have to write something first. Life is a series of trial and error but eventually, Sally will cook something that tastes good and you will figure out where you need to go next.

What if you have tried--and failed? What then? Well,  Fix-it and Forget-it still applies.

I love my crockpot. I love finding recipes and adjusting them--or making up new ones with whatever I have on the shelf. When I use it, I gather all the ingredients and throw them in the pot. Let them simmer, cook all the way through and then go with it. There's no fear of messing it up, because you're just experiment. Maybe you should try this. Take your plot, characters, arcs, ideas--let them all simmer together. Play around with them. Toss in other things. Remove some things. See what happens. You can't mess it up, because you have the original recipe. The worst that happens? It doesn't work. The best? It does.

Is this post instilling confidence in you? It should. (At the very least you should be getting hungry!)

The whole purpose of this Fix-it and Forget-it franchise is to show people who don't know how to cook that they can, in fact, cook. The plan isn't that they will always use the crock-pot to cook every meal, but that they will have the confidence to grow and move beyond that and to something else.

When you have the confidence and drive to start writing, eventually you should have the confidence to continue writing. And to grow in your writing skills, pursuits and challenges. It's like learning to walk. It doesn't start there. We scoot, we crawl, we walk, we run. If we didn't have all the other steps before it, we'd never have the confidence to run. Confidence is slow building, but totally needed if you want to succeed. One great way I've found to build confidence is in other writers, through being challenged and encouraged.

Christina and I became CP's as I finished the first draft of my first-ever-official novel. She was so good at all the things I struggled with. She could pull a description out of something I wrote and ask me to go deeper and explain things I didn't even see as relevant. "It's so awesome!" I would say. But it wasn't. I could look at Christina's WIP and show her the things that weren't adding anything to the story. We both learned from each other and now I can (usually) write descriptively with more ease. (Note: Ease isn't always confidence. I tend to make Patricia read the really descriptive scenes as I write them. When you struggle with something, it's always worse in your head. I still think they suck and need the encouragement that they don't! Confidence is a slow process, just like with the crockpot!)

Chime in! 
  • What are some areas in writing you need to build confidence? 
  • What are some areas you are confident enough in? 
  • Are their people around you struggling in some areas that you excel? 
  • Can you help each other build confidence in these areas? 
  • What are some things in your project that you can apply the "fix and forget" method to?

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