We all experience difficulties at one time or another. At some point we all struggle to write and the reasons for this can be varied, obvious and/or unknown. Sometimes we sit down to write, having carved out the time to do so, and we are faced with a blank page we can not fill. Occasionally our writing time is taken over by crises and unexpected happenings. And on the odd occasion we just don’t feel like writing at all.
I am stuck in one of these periods myself at the moment. It’s linked to a multitude of potential sources from doubting my ability, weariness for my story and the fear that this process will never, ever end. I’ve been ill and I’m still suffering from this. Work is busy and I’ve been spending a lot of my spare time attending Literature Festival events. When given the opportunity to sit down and write, therefore, I’ve ignored it – or at least procrastinated until the moment has passed.
At the core, I suppose I would have to admit that I am frustrated that this novel isn’t over yet; that I’m struggling with the re-write because things keep on changing, enlightening me to another idea or plot point that I hadn’t considered before. The more times I look over my work, the more I realise I have to do and the more work I create for myself. I try and make a plan – outline my chapters and their significance, try and define what it is about these set scenes that move the plot forward – but then when I sit down to write it, something unexpected happens: like my character will suddenly decide they want to talk about possible adoption plans, when this was never the point of the dialogue to begin with.
In turn, this causes me to doubt my ability to keep my story in check and on-point. I know there has to be some creative license, but I should be capable of steering it in the right direction. However, I’m also too tired to fight the doubts at this point. So when I take a break, I chastise myself for not being strong enough to plough onward and see where it takes me and for being too impatient to allow myself – and my characters – this freedom.
As a result, I’m getting a bit fed up with my story and the characters I’ve created. They won’t do what they should – what I expect of them, what the story necessitates they do – and I don’t trust them (or myself) enough to just let them go ahead and lead. I feel like I’m trying to coerce a cat into a bath – and the cat is winning by miles. It’s a vicious circle I can’t seem to escape and it’s causing me to doubt myself and sulk during my writing time; meaning I’m not really enjoying it right now. And, what’s the point if I don’t like doing it?
Writing this book isn’t a job for me, I’m not getting paid to do it, it’s all my own time and there’s no promise of anything more that self-satisfaction when I’m done. What will it matter if I don’t write for a few days, weeks, months…? What will it matter if I put this novel in a metaphorical drawer and don’t get it out again? What difference will it make?
It will indicate (to me) that I’m not capable of finishing a novel to a high standard. It will suggest (to me) that I don’t know what I’m doing and that I might not really want that dream I’ve been so focused on the last couple of years. It might even prove that I don’t believe in myself and that I don’t have the stamina to make it as a published author.
Or – it might just mean I need some time.
I re-read my NaNo #3 (November 2013) novel earlier this week – all 50,000 words of it. And you know what – I forgot I was reading a novel I’d written. I thought it was fast paced, absorbing and had interesting characters and a strong plot. When I got to the end of what I’d written (about half way through the actual story) I was disappointed I didn’t have more to read. Even though some of these characters appear in NaNo #1, it felt fresh and exciting and different. I’m actually looking forward to April when, thanks to signing up to CampNaNo, I’m hoping to finish off this story.
So yes, sometimes we need a break. Sometimes we don’t have to justify why we don’t want to sit down and write because what we really need to do is just change what it is we’re writing. We face difficulties and we don’t give up. We rest, re-evaluate and find something else to focus on, something that will energise us. Occasionally that energy we get from writing won’t go back into writing – because life happens, and we have to use our time wisely. But, sometimes, the energy that we have, we have to use wisely and not just keep banging our heads against a brick wall, writing ourselves in circles and not listening to our muse.
What do you do when you hit a writing wall? How do you cope with the doubts and the challenges of everyday life?
Let me know in comments. Or Tweet me some encouraging words!