Break through your writing ceiling with KILLER POM POMS!

by Ksenia Anske in


Photo by Cindy

Ok, this is the weirdest analogy ever and I don't know what crazy corners of my brain it came from, but it seems to be fitting the picture. And the picture is this - we writers set our own ceilings and then we don't dare jump through them. We're like flies that have been trapped in a jar with a lid, but when the lid is removed, we still don't dare to fly out because we've been trained by hitting our heads against it to not even try. Wrong. We should. We need to learn how to jump through our own limits. Guess who set your ceiling? YOU! Who says you can't write a novel?!? YOU ARE! Here is a laundry list of the most common excuses I hear. 

I can't write a novel, I'll start with a short story. What? Why?!? Oh, it's because I have to practice on short stuff. I'm a nobody, I don't really know how to write, I will practice, I will submit my story to competitions. Maybe one day, if I win something, I will get the courage to write a novel. Wrong. You can. You don't need to write short stories first to practice, you can practice while writing a novel. For example, I haven't written a single short story, not one. I haven't submitted anything anywhere. So what? If you have a book begging to get out of you, begging to be written, you should let it out and write it. It will take care of itself and it will come out in the length it wants to come out. So don't be scared if it's long, it will be as long as it wants to be. Please, write.

My writing is not perfect, and it has to be perfect for a novel. Bullshit, it doesn't. In fact, it has to be as un-perfect as you can possibly make it. The secret to a great story is to reach into the deepest, messiest corners of your soul and pull out a bucket of terrible grime that you haven't shown anyone before but that gives you nightmares some days and incredible highs on others. It has to be as untangled as you can possibly get it - to be real, to be you, to be uncensored and pure in its un-perfection. Now you have to keep pulling this stuff out of yourself day by day until you finish Draft 1. Don't worry about plot or characters or storyline. None of it matters. What matters is that you write how you feel. Everything else will form itself, and then in your rewrites you WILL make it perfect.

I'd like to write a novel, but I don't have the time. Yes you do. You can stop watching that TV show, stop eating breakfast (it's better not to eat in the mornings anyway), start riding a bus and write on the bus (and save on gas and insurance). Here's the problem - a novel seems like such a large beast that it almost feels impossible to be able to finish it. But you can if you set yourself a goal of writing for 1 hour a day. That's it. And set yourself a word limit. Write what you feel, weave it like a thread out of your deepest cavity and put it down on paper. If you slipped on your neighbor's dog poop that morning, write into your story how it made you feel. You know why? It took me months to get this trick. And the trick is - trust your subconscious. No matter how irrelevant your daily events to your story are, your brain is working. And it will give you the right material. I mean, you should have seen my 1st Draft, it was atrocious. Little by little, draft by draft, I cut away the nonsense and tightened the story further. But if I didn't write that 1st Draft, there would be nothing to cut stuff out of, you get my drift?

Nobody will care for my story, it's boring. It is only boring (and will be boring no matter what you do) if you write logical conclusions to events instead of writing about pure emotions between people. Here is an example, Twitter. Many times people ask me, why do you tweet so much, what do you tweet about, who would care to read it anyway? Who would care about me tweeting about riding a pony? BORING. Right, it's only boring if I state it as a fact. But if I say how it made me feel, I will connect with someone else who just rode a pony too. Let's say, I rode a pony for the first time in my life and I fell face first into mud. It hurt but it also made me laugh because it was ridiculous. There, did you just smile? I know you did (totally tell me in the comments if you didn't). Write about the stupidest thing ever if that stupid thing made you feel buckets of grief or joy or some other strong emotion. We will connect with you, and we will want to ride a pony too.

Here, I give you a pair of KILLER POM POMS (fine, a pair of mittens with KILLER POM POMS), it's my cheerleading gift. Stop being comfortable, get your pom poms ready and start climbing the stairs, break through that ceiling and write what you want, how you want, as long as you want. Shake those pom poms at the ceiling, it will run away and hide in terror! The most important thing is, keep writing, shoot for the starts. And then one day you will reach them (with the help of killer pom poms, of course).

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