On Trying Too Hard

Sometimes we hear something in one context, that has meaning in another. I was in karate class when one of my instructors said, “Stop trying so hard”. He was right. I was the least experienced in the class and was focusing very seriously on not being the slow learner and trying to earn my keep.

I connected this with my writing tonight after reading a comment someone left about me on one of my favorite stories. My best stories, the ones I’ve published, the ones that are getting the personal rejections, are the ones I had the most fun writing. Sitting down and enjoying the characters, enjoying the trouble I’ve thrown at them.

I’m constantly seeking improvement; what to work on next, what to study, etc. While it’s not that I should stop trying to improve, but every now and again, I need to step back and just let it go. This is timely for me, as February was tough on me writing-wise. Life required me to be fully present and not off in Dawnworld creating stories. Little writing done, no editing done. And that’s ok. It had to happen. But I’m pushing to get my schedule back this month, and when I do it, I’m going to start back in with the stories I love.

What about you guys? Do you ever find yourselves trying too hard? Does stepping back work for you?

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One response to “On Trying Too Hard

  1. I agree. My best writing also happens when I’m not trying. Sometimes, though, I find that I need to push myself, even if it ends up with worse writing, because sometimes that’s the only way I can get back to the good stuff. Then later, of course, I need to revise it, but by then, I have the whole story in my mind, so I can let go in those parts. I also think that there’s a stage when you’re learning something new where you have to try. For your karate example, you had to develop the muscle memory for you to be able to let go. I think that happens in writing, too. Last year’s book was a young adult mystery, where I really focused on the issue of her having a life outside the plot. It was very forced and many of my readers said it looked like I was trying too hard. But in the past, my characters have been totally separated from their lives. The novel I wrote this year went much more smoothly, particularly in that area. Her life and the plot just sort of came together naturally. But I don’t think it would have happened without the first book. So, I think we have cycles of forcing/trying and then letting go. The “letting go” stuff is always better, but it wouldn’t exist at all without the forcing/trying part.

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