Tips & Tools for Battling a Common Affliction for Writers — Especially During NaNoWriMo

by Lizbeth Finn-Arnold

Do you suffer from —

  • Writer’s block or excessive procrastination?
  • An aversion to taking creative risks — resulting in writing that feels stale, imitative, or flaccid?
  • A shortage of ideas that feels original, authentic, brave, or compelling?
  • An overall feeling of creative lethargy, melancholy, or ennui?
  • The absence of a playful, loving, and kind muse?
  • The presence of a cruel inner critic who keeps you in an endless feedback loop of fear, criticism, resistance, and doubt?

If so, you might be suffering from Generalized Writer’s Perfectionism Disorder (GWPD).

According to data compiled over the last four hundred years by the Office of Fairy Queens, Mermaids, and Witch Doctors, thousands — and possibly billions — of writers live with a loud, critical voice inside their heads. These voices were often implanted in early childhood by a well-meaning but often unstable or narcissistic parent, teacher, or coach. Most often, these voices insist that the writer is not good enough, smart enough, talented enough, or special enough to succeed in their endeavors. In longitudinal studies, respondents referred to these voices as persistent, screeching, and demonic in nature.

Related Condition: Weltschmerz

Those suffering from GWPD are often highly-sensitive and may also suffer from ‘Weltschmerz’. In the 1790s, German author Johann Paul Friedrich Richter coined the term, which means — melancholy and world-weariness. This melodramatic world-view permeated the works of many romantic writers, including Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, William Blake, and Marquis de Sade.

Symptoms of GWPD

  • An inability to finish what you’ve started.
  • Lack of spontaneity or joy in writing.
  • The inability to handle rejection or constructive criticism.
  • Disconnection from your voice, your muse, and your inner child.
  • Periodic moments of mastery that are disrupted by sudden hysterical bouts of despair, unworthiness, and self-sabotage.
  • An overwhelming desire to abandon or burn your unfinished manuscript, so you can crawl into a hole and die.
  • Referring to your work as ‘a masterpiece of dog feces.’

Complications Due to NaNoWriMo

Be prepared for excessive symptom flares during the month of November a.k.a NaNoWriMo. Take solace in knowing that come December you will never, ever (truly never) revisit, review, or revise, any of the pages you wrote furiously during NaNoWriMo. And trust us, nobody will ask to read your incomprehensible scribblings. While your abandoned NaNoWriMo project may continue to haunt you for years, that doesn’t mean any of the writing is salvageable. For your own mental health, be like Elsa, and ‘let it go’.

Treatment for GWPD — Embrace Creative Imperfection

While there currently isn’t a cure for GWPD, there are tools to help manage this affliction. By embracing ‘Creative Imperfection,’ also known as SHITTY WRITING, the writer learns to set realistic goals and comes to recognize the value in creating what author Anne Lamott calls ‘the shitty first draft.’ The writer gains awareness that all writing goes through several thousand stages of revision before it is ready to be published.

The writer is eventually desensitized to the point where she gets over the nonsensical idea that she is either a born genius OR an utter piece of shit. In time, the writer realizes — she can be both!

“A shitty first draft, while not a thing of beauty, is a miracle of victory over nothingness, inertia, bad self-esteem. Secret? Butt in chair.” (Anne Lamott)

Tips & Tools

  • Write the shitty first draft. And embrace it in all its glorious shittiness.
  • Then write the shitty second draft. And third, and fourth, and fifth.
  • Understand you will never be satisfied. You will think the 75th draft needs work, and you will agonize over it until the day you die. True story.
  • Don’t complain about the millions of hours lost to shitty unpublishable writing. This is your job, your passion, your raison d’etre. It’s not like you’re shoveling shit. So STFU.
  • Join writing classes and critique groups. These help you set writing deadlines, and provide feedback from actual writers. Stop asking family for notes. They will not be honest, and frankly, they don’t know shit about good writing.
  • A good critique group can also function as a support group. You don’t need other writers pointing out where your writing is shitty. You need them to point out your brilliance. Don’t compete or compare. Put your petty jealousy bullshit aside and watch your writing drastically improve.
  • Sometimes wing it. Don’t get bogged down in the minutia of complicated plot points or procrastinate with extensive research. Keep the momentum going. You can fill in all the small bullshit details later.
  • Get your butt in the chair and do the work. Stop logging in 800 hours on facebook or Candy Crush. Admit your attention wanders. Put away the shiny objects.
  • Write wherever and whenever. Doing prework in your head makes it easier to face the blank page. Work on your story in the shower, or while driving to work, or even while sitting on the crapper.
  • When your story wants attention, give it attention. If the muse isn’t showing up, don’t force it. But if the muse wants to play, by all means, drop everything and PLAY with that bitch!
  • Spend just as much time with real people as you do imaginary people. Seriously, relationships are essential for your health. A healthier writer is a more productive writer.
  • Don’t sacrifice your present happiness with the belief that once you are published, your life will be perfect. It won’t. You will still remain a frustratingly slow work-in-progress, in need of many revisions, just like your next novel.

Repeated application of these Tips & Tools should result in a significant reduction of symptoms as related to Generalized Writer’s Perfectionism Disorder.

If GWPD is diagnosed early, self-sabotage may be contained. See a specialist if symptoms persist for longer than a decade.

Weltschmerz is a condition of melancholic romantic pessimism and should not be confused with Nihilism or Solipsism.


Lizbeth Finn-Arnold is a freelance writer, blogger, and independent filmmaker. She received a degree in Communication at Rutgers University and a Certificate in Film at NYU. A New Jersey native, Liz describes herself as a seeker of truth, an incorrigible writer, Netflix junkie, nature-lover, dog whisperer, mother, healer, teacher, warrior, crone, and explorer. This article first appeared on medium.com,and we’re going to do our darnedest to get her to write more for TVWriter™.

LB: Latest News from the Writers Guild of America-Talent Agency Battlefront

by Larry Brody

Last night, members of the WGA received the following email about a situation with ramifications everywhere. (P.S. This seems to me to be a Good Thing and, I hope, a harbinger of even Better Things to come:)

November 18, 2019
Dear Members,

Today the WGA signed a negotiated franchise agreement with the Rothman Brecher Ehrich Livingston Agency. This comes on the heels of last week’s agreement with Abrams Artists Agency, which means both agencies can now represent WGA members again for covered writing services.

Under the Rothman Brecher agreement, packaging fees are banned after a sunset period ending January 22, 2021. In order to induce more agencies to sign, the sunset can, under certain circumstances, be extended.

The agency also agreed to information-sharing with the Guild, including contracts and invoices, which will aid the Guild in enforcing late pay, free work, and other MBA violations.

The agreement includes other modifications to the most-recent franchise agreement, including allowing the agency to have up to a 5% ownership interest in an entity engaged in production or distribution. This limitation protects writers from the egregious conflicts of agency-owned production companies outlined in our recent video, while allowing a minimal ownership share.

You can read the agreement here. Redlines reflect changes made to the Buchwald Franchise Agreement. The most-favored-nations clause means any franchised agency may choose to adopt this agreement if it chooses.

Our goal remains to move the negotiation process forward with the remaining unsigned agencies. We will keep you updated as progress is made.

In Solidarity,

WGA Agency Negotiating Committee

Chris Keyser, Co-Chair
David Shore, Co-Chair
Meredith Stiehm, Co-Chair
Lucy Alibar
John August
Angelina Burnett
Zoanne Clack
Kate Erickson
Jonathan Fernandez
Travon Free
Ashley Gable
Deric A. Hughes
Chip Johannessen
Michael Schur
Tracey Scott Wilson
Betsy Thomas
Patric M. Verrone
Nicole Yorkin
David A. Goodman, President WGAW, ex-officio
Marjorie David, Vice President WGAW, ex-officio
Michele Mulroney, Secretary-Treasurer WGAW, ex-officio
Beau Willimon, President WGAE, ex-officio
Kathy McGee, Vice President WGAE, ex-officio
Bob Schneider, Secretary-Treasurer WGAE, ex-officio


WGA Statement of Purpose: Why Agencies Must Change

Our agents work for us. Every dollar they make must be generated as a percentage of the money we make. That is what it means to be our representatives and our fiduciaries. Agency-based studios and packaging fees make a mockery of that and are in violation of the agencies’ ethical and legal obligations to writers. We have taken too long to demand that these practices end. But the persistence of a corrupt system does not make it right. And putting things right does not blow up the business. We do not owe our agents their wealth; they owe us their loyalty. That is what we pay for. In a complex, changing, yet immensely profitable time in our industry, writers need true allies, not deeply conflicted ones. It is for this idea—simple, old-fashioned and un-revolutionary—that we stand—and for which we come together as a Guild again today.

In solidarity,

LB

The Best TV Pilots of the Decade, Ranked

More than anything else, the very successful pilots discussed in this article all had a certain wonderful magic at their very core – which is to say, in the writing.

by Steve Greene, Ann Danahue, LaToya Ferguson, Libby Hill, Ben Travers, Leo Garcia

Each of these 20 series expertly built worlds of their own, breaking the rules to make them feel all the more relevant to ours.

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #72 – “Itchin’ Like a Man on a Fuzzy Tree”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

I’m covered with bites today and, as Elvis put it so well, “itchin’ like a man on a fuzzy tree.” Which means I’m ready to rant about one of the most maddening aspects of living in Paradise.

Ticks!

Wherever you find beautiful greenery you also are sure to find Earth’s most obnoxious little bloodsuckers.

Step outside on a beautiful summer day, and the odds are good you’ll step back in with a tick somewhere on—or in—your clothes.

Over the years I’ve learned how to deal with chiggers. Stay out of the woods. Wear boots and long pants and tuck your pants inside your boots. Keep moving. Deet up.

Ticks, however, are another story. Pick up a rake and presto! There’s a tick crawling up your arm.
Walk past a shed and wham! That’s a tick fastening itself to your neck.

Trim a tree branch and pow! That ain’t no aphid clinging to your leg.

I can Deet myself to death and still find a little bump in an inappropriate place, scratch at it…and splatter myself with my own blood, courtesy of one fat, well-fed tick mom.

I remember as a child plucking off a tick and continuing on my merry way. What I don’t remember is the welt the size of my mountaintop and the Big Itch afterward that I feel now. Have ticks mutated into something far more powerful than before?

In Paradise, common wisdom says there are two ways to beat the ticks.

The first way is to move to the city and spend your life on concrete and asphalt, insulated from nature’s miserable little sucks. Since my neighbors and I are all about living where we can touch and smell and listen to the land, that’s not an option.

The second way is to spray all around with the strongest possible poison. But that’s got a downside too. Everyone’s livestock would pay a high price for grazing on chemical-soaked grass.

Yesterday, as I pondered and scratched, Brannigan the Contractor came by to ratchet up our sagging back deck. After a couple of sweaty hours he came inside to take Gwen the Beautiful up on her offer of sweet tea.

After pulling up a chair, he noticed a two foot long feather on my desk. Brannigan eyed it curiously. “What’re you doing with this?”

“Admiring it,” I said. You don’t see an eagle feather every day.”

Brannigan snorted. “Eagle feather?! No way! It’s from a turkey vulture. Eagles are noble. They hunt just like real men. But vultures? They’re the lowest form of bird life there is. Good for nothing but stripping roadkill!”

After Brannigan left I picked up the feather. When I’d thought it was an eagle feather I’d seen it as beautiful. A prize. But now?

Now I felt like a jerk.

Which got me to wondering. Why value eagles over vultures? Is killing food automatically a “better” thing to do than eating what’s already dead? Wouldn’t it be easy to argue exactly the reverse?

I called Johnny Lee, Deputy Game Warden at Paradise County Fish and Game. Asked him what he knew about vultures.

“Vultures are awesome,” he said. “I’d want to be one if I was a bird.”

This was a surprise. I asked Johnny Lee one question. “Why?”

“They’re the ultimate team players. They know how to make everything around them work for them. They’re not made for hunting so they depend on others to kill. When the hunters are finished, the vultures eat what otherwise would rot and be wasted.

“And they share it with other animals. Everything in the woods knows where to go for supper when they see vultures circling around.

“They’re great flyers too. Most efficient gliders of any bird, and they’re just about the healthiest. They’ve got special bacteria that knock out most disease.”

Which, believe it or not, brings me back to ticks and the itch I’m still scratching. Vultures are in tune with the world, and they’re big on sharing, right?

Well then, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m taking that big feather outside and waving it at the next turkey vulture I see overhead. And I’m asking it the Question of the Hour:

“How can I get along with ticks? How can I get something good out of them? What should I do?”

And I promise that when that vulture tells me, Brannigan the Contractor will be the first to know.

LB: Hey, Trekkers, Have You Seen the Official Star Trek Timeline?

by Larry Brody

For reasons so personal that it’s embarrassing, I admit to being thrilled to learn that startrek.com, which is a genuine, real life CBS-owned official Star Trek site, has issued a timeline for the entire Trek universe, including all its alternate dimensions and casts.

This in itself is a very cool thing for Trekkers and even casual fans, but here’s what’s so wonderful to me:

STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES
IS NOW CANON!!!

And as canon, its stories now are genuine records of events that happened during the last year of the 5 year mission to go where no man one had ever gone before of a certain star ship called The Enterprise, commanded by this dimension’s Capt. James T. Kirk.

And the icing on the cake here is that although over the years I’ve been employed (that means paid) to write several episodes of different versions of ST, the only one that ended up getting shot with me being the sole writer was an episode of ST:TAS called “The Magicks of Megas-Tu.”

And, yeah, I fucking love that!

All my thanks to the CBS/StarTrek.Com powers-that-be.

The 2-minute timeline video can be seen HERE

The full episode of “The Magicks of Megas-Tu”, albeit with terrible sound quality, is HERE

Info on some of my ST work including the background of how “Magicks” came to be is HERE

LYMI
LB