by Linda Rodriguez
I have fallen prey to the very thing Emerson warns against for writers. Frantically collecting and reading book after book, absolutely sure in my insecurity about my haphazard education–the bane of the autodidact–rather than my talent (about which I'm both too confident and too humble), that I must learn more and more and more before I can write the correct thing in the correct way. Time to stop that!
I have stumbled into this trap many times before and had to drag myself out by the scruff of the neck and the order to just write. And so I must do once again. Of course, it's easier to read all the books about writing. I must have read hundreds in my life. And all the books on various subject matter. There, the total must be in the thousands. So when will I deem myself educated enough to write?
I took extra courses during my two degrees (late in life) in creative writing and English literature and graduated with honors. When will I know enough to write? I've written and published over 13 books in various genres and hundreds of poems, stories, articles, and blog posts through the years. I've won awards, grants, residencies, prizes, not to mention the top New York agent and a three-book contract with one of the Big Four trade publishing conglomerates. Am I worthy enough to write yet?
Why do I still willfully plunge into this debilitating trap, which sabotages my career and the thing I love to do most in the world? I know from discussions we have had that other writers have the same problem. Obviously, it has troubled writers for more than a century, if Emerson was warning himself and other writers about it.
I must dust off the old techniques and strategies that I have used successfully in the past to circumvent this obsession. Such strategies include timed freewriting, brainstorming on paper, setting up writing challenges, journaling and practicing writing exercises (much like playing the scales on the piano daily), and allowing myself to write badly, if necessary. Also, I must not forget setting up rewards for myself, especially time allowed on some secret passion project.
If reading about writing or researching topics rather than actually writing is a problem for you, what techniques do you use to get past this and create words on the page?
Linda Rodriguez's 12th book, The Fish That Got Away: The Sixth Guppy Anthology, recently published. She also edited Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriqueña Poets Look at Their American Lives, The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, Fishy Business: The Fifth Guppy Anthology, and other anthologies. Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery featuring Cherokee detective, Skeet Bannion, Revising the Character-Driven Novel, and Unpapered: Writers Consider Native American Identity and Cultural Belonging will be published in Spring/Summer 2023.
Dark Sister: Poems was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, Every Last Secret—and earlier books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. She also published Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.
Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Native Writers Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Learn more about her at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#%21/rodriguez_linda.