Writing fiction has been hard. They say writing is like a muscle - the more you do it, the stronger it gets. But I've always found no matter how much stronger you become, you always end up lifting weights that get a bit heavier.
Before last year's big challenge, it had been over a decade since I'd written fiction in earnest. Poetry and lyrics, yes, but a big meaty story - even just a small story - escaped me.
If there is a fiction writing muscle, I imagine it's closely related to the part of your brain that dares to imagine. Non-fiction, technical writing and web copy are all safe - there's a frame of reference, there are constraints like in bumper bowling.
When you author a piece of fiction, you're in control of all of it. You set the rules of your universe, then work your arse off not to break them. You'd think it'd be easier to stick to your own rules than to someone else's, but when you have the power to make rules, you can also change them. On purpose or by accident. Many times over the course of a first draft. Oops!
In real life, I get nervous controlling the destiny of others. Throughout my career, people would urge me towards leadership, but I never wanted it. I felt guilty all the time about telling people what to do, even when it was my job. I can tell someone, from experience, what will and won't work, but I don't want to tell them what choices to make. I'd rather give them the tools to figure things out for themselves.
You can't do this with fictional characters. Obviously. So the same 'leadership guilt' fears bubble up when I write. How weird is that?
The human brain has trouble discerning fact from fiction. Input is input, even the input it generates itself. Consciously, you can comprehend what's real and what's not, but at the hardware level, it's all impulse and circuitry. To a writer's brain, the characters are as real as your mum.
So that's why I have trouble bossing them around, interrupting them when they say something boring, and why my first draft, after three months, still sucks a bit. :)
But I'm making progress. I'm two reboots in, and have finally found a direction I think I can make work. I'm writing in 30-minute sets every day - well, most days.
I've also joined a new tiny community of fiction writers. It's a slack chat group, which is perfect because you can drop in and out at you need to. You're not obliged to talk, like you are on forums. Just seeing that little green light next to someone's name makes me feel like I have a gym buddy. Message me on twitter or facebook if you want more details.
Today, I'm writing non-fiction. Flyer copy, a short article for a magazine. But if I get all that done, I may look for short story inspiration at /r/WritingPrompts.