I visited author Kaye Dacus's blog today and in commenting on her post I realized I had a subject to blog about. Always a happy discovery.
In answering the question she posed (you'll have to visit her blog to find out what that was), I got to nattering about not giving in to laziness in daily writing, staying sensitive to my relationship with the WIP (work in progress), and with what the Lord might be leading me to do in regards to it, which sometimes isn't according to my plan.
Because I usually do have a plan. I work better if somewhere on a scrap of paper I have a jotted list of goals to carry me through the next few months. Not a daily word count. More like:
~ Finish the section of story that ends with Anna making that big discovery across the creek in the woods by the end of May.
~ Finish the section that ends with William's return by the end of June.
~ Finish final section by end of July.
But what happens when The Plan breaks down (the story feels off, the characters' motivations are muddy, I can't see my way forward (any number of reasons why this could occur))? I'll tell you what. At first a sense of frustration and panic starts to build in my chest and I begin having unpleasant flashbacks to the years I spent creatively lost in chemo fog, after my cancer was cured. This is not a comfortable place to be.
But here I am.
See that last goal listed on The Plan? I thought I'd blaze through and finish the first draft of the WIP by the end of July, but over the weekend just past, with 4-5 chapters left to write, I realized that some serious issues of character development need to be addressed before I can write a fitting ending to the story. My gut (and a couple of encouraging writer sisters, and the Lord too, I am convinced) was telling me I needed to stop, set the project aside for a cooling off period, turn my focus to something else, or nothing else, for a little while.
I've been writing long enough now to know that if I do this, I can come at those issues needing to be addressed objectively, and with an inspired game plan. I could have plowed on and written those chapters just to meet that goal and call it a finished draft, but I would have been a frustrated mess by the end of it, and no doubt would have had to rewrite the ending anyway to fit the changes I know I need to make, and will make, so what was the point?
Instead, I'm filling my creative well for the next couple of weeks. I'm starting the early research and story weaving for a new book that I'll write maybe next year. There are other projects I can turn to as well. Proposals that need polishing, synopses that need writing.
It's never easy to be in this place. This not producing 1000-2000 words a day place. This seemingly sitting idle place. Even for a day. There are slightly panicked, urgent voices shrilling at me that I mustn't stop producing words or I'll have tanked my career before it even starts. I wonder if most writers have those voices harrying their souls, or is it just me?
If these seasons are something you've experienced, do you have a hard time accepting them as a natural part of the writing life? What do you do in those non-writing, down times, to silence those voices pestering you to keep pushing on no matter if it's unproductive? I have my fingers in my ears, chanting, "La-La-La-Can't-Hear-You!"
Figuratively speaking, of course. Hard to read or watch films otherwise. :)
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photo by Hey Paul Studio via Flickr Creative Commons, used in accordance with the Attribution License