Wednesday, August 11, 2010


There comes a time when all you want to do is walk away. It happens to all of us, at one time or another. In life, it can mean major changes are ahead. But, for writing, it may be a necessary part of the process.

Presently, I am in a career situation that has brought me to the precipice of wanting to just up and walk away. No longer treated as a human being, I am now merely a cog of some inconvenience. I would argue that we're all cogs in someone else's machine, but that could be a whole blog of its own. But, I've certainly reached the point where I am saying, "To hell with it!" What stops me from taking that next step and actually walking out the door is a variety of reasons…money, benefits, and family probably being tied for the lead. How satisfying it would be, at least temporarily, to just up and leave. What burden would be lifted…only to be replaced with the threat of extended unemployment and its related burdens.

As a writer, we all reach this point from time to time. However, we're allowed to get up and walk away and say, "I've had it." It's our right. Unless you are on deadline and writing the piece for money, you have nothing to lose. And, why do we do it? What pushes us to this point? The frustration of the lack of brilliance in the words that are landing on the page? Your apparent inability to translate the story in your head to the page before you? But, perhaps, you aren't ready to move forward yet. Perhaps you need to get up and walk away, as if you'll never see it again. By all means do so, just don't do something rash like burning it in effigy. Put the notebook in a drawer. Remove the file from your desktop. Allow your anger to subside. It will, trust me. Give it some time. It won't fester…and it won't yell at you for leaving without giving it 2 weeks notice.

In the meantime, move on. If you're working on a novel, I imagine your ideas don't end there. Write the next chapter. Heck, write the last chapter. Write whatever is coming into your head clearly. Sometimes, you need to see where characters are going before it becomes clear how they got there. And, don't worry about consistency between nonsequential chapters. That's what editing is for. The Writing Police will not break down your door if you write chapter 13 before you finish chapter 10. What matters is the finished product.

When you do finally return to the problem, whether it's been a day or a week or even 6 months (hopefully, if it's this long, you've hooked up with another story line and kept writing) read through the entire thing. Take an outsiders view of it. Don't let the frustration return. Assess it for what it is. Recognize where your frustration came from. Identify the key points that need to be changed or adjusted. If you are still stuck and frustrated, enlist the help of a trusted, honest reader. Let them have a go at it. Sometimes a second set of eyes can see what the author does not.

No matter how frustrated you get, understand that there is no such thing as wasted writing (repeat several times followed by "Ohm…Ohm"). Writing is a process of constant learning. The day I feel comfortable with every sentence I write is the day I know I've become stagnant. If you can't accept the bad with the good, then you should stop now. Writers write, but more importantly, they keep writing, no matter what. It's the only way to grow as a writer.

If you read enough "Tips from Successful Authors" blogs you'll eventually want to curl up in a ball and throw every notion of becoming a writer out the window. Successful writers write every day, are prolific readers, and spend years editing and re-editing their work. Well, as Christian Bale once said, "Oh, good for you!" Talk about building an insurmountable wall of intimidation! Oh, and, by the way? They also don't have full time jobs or a family. As I've said before, don't let the opinion of others influence whether you write or not. Don't let that become a source of your frustration. It is one thing to listen to your inner writer and be frustrated with what you are writing. It is completely different to allow the voices of others to overwhelm your desire to write. Be strong. Don't allow the machine to run your writing life. Get up and walk away for a bit. It's ok, your writing won't mind. Just make sure you go back to it. Bring it some flowers. Maybe a box of chocolates. Ask it for forgiveness and promise to love it more than anyone for what it is: a part of you.

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