If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you that it’s been just over a month since I finished the first draft of my big novel project, and I am stuck.
I thought I might start working on a new novel project, but I couldn’t seem to make the story and characters come together. I thought maybe they just needed more time on the backburner, so I shelved that project and started to work on a second draft of my original project. There were some backstory elements that needed work, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the pieces to fit. Nothing I was doing seemed to be working, and soon I was beyond frustrated and mentally exhausted. It felt like I was trying to punch through a brick wall with my bare hands.
Teddy kept telling me to walk away for a while, to come back to it later, but I kept pushing and pushing to make the story work. Walking away felt like admitting defeat, and I was terrified of failure. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 12, I thought. How can I give up this early when I haven’t really accomplished anything?
But then I read Minerva Zimmerman’s Five Things I Learned Writing Take On Me, and her first point was: Failure is always an option. I didn’t know what to make of that, but when I kept reading, a lightbulb finally went off in my head.
“I spent over seven years working on an epic fantasy series only to realize in a moment of clarity I wasn’t a good enough writer to write it yet. Moments of personal clarity suck. It’s pretty rare to have one that makes you realize that you’re doing everything right. No, you have moments of clarity when you’re able to give yourself enough distance from the bricks you’re bloodying your knuckles on to realize it’s part of a wall with a gate in it — a gate that isn’t even locked. I could see where I was, and I could see that if I kept writing I would steadily get to the place where I needed to be in about five years. What made the most sense was to set aside seven years of work and work on projects I knew I could finish as the writer I already was.”
After reading her post (which you should definitely go read, it’s all really good), I felt this huge sense of relief. I don’t have to try to force my way past the roadblocks. I can stop and come back to it later. So, I did.
It’s still a little scary, because this is basically the opposite of what you’re supposed to do, according to every writing blogger/ writing book I’ve read. I told some writer friends that I would do NaNoWriMo with them and I feel a little guilty that I’m not participating. I feel frustrated and restless and cranky, because I always have some sort of project in the works, even if I’m just in the planning stages. Waiting for an idea does not really suit me, especially when I don’t know what I’m waiting for. Or when I’m overcaffeinated from drinking too much coffee on our coffee date.
At small group on Sunday, one friend said that her husband had been talking about starting an MBA program off and on, but before he made the decision to do it he was really restless for months. That was so encouraging to think that maybe I’m just in a transition phase, even though I have NO IDEA what I’m transitioning toward. For now I’m just going to try to read and daydream a lot, while ignoring all the motivational writing tweets. (Usually I love them, but they make me suuuper antsy when I’m not working on anything.)
Have you ever stumbled over a roadblock? What helped you deal with it?