Lately we have had a lot of obstacles in my household. Namely: stomach flu and then pneumonia and vacation (which was fantastic and is only an obstacle in terms of work productivity). These got me thinking about the four literary conflicts we all learned in school and how those might translate into the modern world and our modern work. Before I dive into the seven conflicts that keep us from our work, a few quick things.
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Now, let’s talk obstacles and conflict!
Listen to Create If Writing – Episode 021
My Publishing Journey
The long and short of my story is that I went to graduate school and got my MFA in Fiction, left with a mostly completed novel. Got an agent who loved the manuscript and sent it to publishers who loved the manuscript…and then they didn’t buy it. This is basically the death toll for a manuscript in terms of traditional publishing, but the publishers did want to see more from me.
My first agent got pregnant and passed me off to a second agent who also got pregnant and retired and convinced her husband (also an agent) to read my work. Which…I still haven’t sent him. He is still out there, waiting, and I touch base with him every so often. But because of two obstacles, I haven’t worked on my newest manuscript, which is 80% done. Those obstacles? Kids and the mental space they take away from my ability to really write fiction and FEAR. I’ve already gotten so far in publishing and had all these things line up only to fall apart. It makes me a little gun-shy.
This got me thinking about conflicts and obstacles. It brought back memories of the literary conflicts—you know the ones! Man vs nature, man vs society, man vs man, and man vs self. Some of the conflicts I thought of fit into those categories, but I decided to make my own that are a little more specific to our modern life.
The Seven Conflicts that Keep You from Your Work
1. Man vs Relationships. For me, this is my kids. I DO have enough time to work, but it’s more that I really dive down deep when I write fiction and it’s hard for me to surface and be a decent person and mom. This could be friends, a spouse, or some other relationship that cuts down on your work productivity.
2. Man vs Distractions. For me, this is Facebook. I open my computer and if I even glance at Facebook, I snap back to attention two hours later, unsure of who I am, where I’ve been, and what’s happening in my life. I also get sucked into trying to watch TV and work at night. Not REAL writing, but scheduling things and photo editing. I can do those things while watching the Vampire Diaries, but I am not nearly as effective or fast.
3. Man vs Technology. Though both distractions I mentioned were technically technological, I mean here things like your computer crashing, your phone screen breaking, or programs failing to work correctly. I feel sometimes like all my tech conspires against me.
4. Man vs Ability. Often I run into something I want to do online, but CAN’T. Then I’m faced with the choice to either hire someone or learn it myself. An example of this is launching the podcast. I literally launched from conception to first three episodes in two weeks. (Read how HERE.) But every time I edited and produced, I ran into issues that I couldn’t fix. So I went from YouTube videos to hiring an editor to taking a session with Meron Bareket that solved all my problems. But it took TIME. Sometimes we dream and just don’t have the ability to achieve our dreams. Just ask all those tone-deaf American Idol hopefuls.
5. Man vs Busyness. Do I need to explain this one? We are busy people. The end.
6. Man vs the Bank. Sometimes we have the flexibility to work undeterred by the need to pay bills. I am in a great position in that I don’t HAVE to do the work I do. I would LIKE to make a full-time income, but for the moment, I can work in the off hours while my hubby brings the bacon. And the eggs. And the coffee. No, we don’t have a huge budget, but we have enough. This can be a big issue for people who are side-hustling while working a full-time job. We have to eat. And live places. So the bank matters and can be a legit conflict.
7. Man vs Self. This is the big one. Some of the others we cannot change. We can’t control if our computer crashes. We cannot choose when or how our kids get pneumonia. We will always need to pay bills. But we DON’T always have to be subject to our own fears or our self-doubt. Even though we do have control here, I think this is sometimes the BIGGEST conflict or obstacle to our creative work.
YOUR TURN! What are the conflicts that keep you from your creative work? Which of these seven is your main conflict with getting your creative work done?
Claudia Emerson’s Late Wife
Michael Parker’s If You Want Me to Stay
Craig Nova’s The Good Son
The NaNoWriMo Site
Danny Nguyen Photography