Writing is a solitary pursuit much of the time. While this keeps me pretty happy most of the time (not having to depend on anyone, being alone with my thoughts, having no one to answer to), sometimes it can be a real drag. Sometimes I need to reach out and ask for help, which can be difficult. But when I get to these points, I do:
- When Inspiration leaves
Sometimes inspiration can be fickle. It flits through the window late one summer evening, only to trudge out the door the minute I turn my back. That idea that sounded amazing yesterday? Yeah, that was just a rock. And now I’m worried that it’s becoming a stone around my neck and Ill drown any second (I have a flair for drama.). So I reach out. Find someone. Breathe. The truth is, inspiration is probably still there. My inner critic probably just beat the crap out of it when I wasn’t looking, like Cinderella’s stepsisters. Now it’s hiding like a wild animal, and I need some help coaxing it back out again. So what would you do to recapture a frightened animal? You’d ask for help! So call a friend. Tell them you had an idea and you think it sucks. Talk it through. If they’re your friend, they’ll help you bring it back out from the shadows, make any necessary repairs to it, and release it back into the wild of your imagination.
- When I Don’t Know Enough
I know someone who is writing a script about competitive roller skating. Yep, you read that right. When she told me about this idea, I felt my heart beat faster with excitement. It was a fantastic idea! And then as a knot grew in my stomach, I became grateful that it wasn’t my idea or my project. Because I already knew I knew nothing about it. Knowing nothing (or not enough) can be death to momentum. You find yourself, staring at a blank page, wondering what the difference is between an Asian Swallow and an American Swallow, and why it’s important to your character, and how that shapes your plot, and why you wrote a swallow into your book in the first place. Why did you have to get all fancy and call it a swallow in the first place? Why couldn’t you just be normal and say it was a fucking bird?! Stop. Breathe. Reach out. If you don’t have a friend who knows about birds, try the Google machine. Try a zoo. Or a university. Or another book! Just try to find more information. You may decide the difference is not important, freeing you up to write whatever you want. Or you may learn that there are marked differences, which will affect your story in new and exciting ways. Either way, knowledge has given you the permission and the ability to move forward.
- When My Character Gives Me the Silent Treatment
Now and then, my protagonist stops talking. I don’t know if it’s because they don’t like the clothes I gave them, or if they’re too ugly or too short, but they just stop telling me what they want to say and do. And I feel like I’m dead to them, which is a horrifying place to be. If you find yourself here, call your buddy. What would they do if said story circumstance happened to them? What would another person they know do? Or how would they react? Talk about your character as if they are real (because really, aren’t they??) and work with someone else to talk through their problems. It’s like gossip, but without the harmful side effects.
- When I’m Tired
Sometimes I type a word and think, “What’s the damn point? No one’s going to read this crap anyway.” This is the height of self-deprecating crap that indicates I’m tired and cranky. I may be writing words, but I’m not feeling them. I’m drained, and I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. So, when your farm truck gets stuck in the mud up to the rims (or deeper), and you’re not going anywhere, and mud is just spewing in every direction, what do you do? Well, you don’t keep spinning. You go have a beer. I’d have bourbon. But the point is, find someone and unwind. Unburden yourself while the mud congeals and dries. When you come back to the truck, you may just see a new solution as if you’re looking at the problem with new eyes. Only then can you get unstuck.
- When I’m Almost Done
This is a two-fold time. It’s time to start celebrating, and time to double down on the seriousness of what I’m doing. Why do people always hang out at mile 25 of the marathon instead of mile 1 to cheer? Because that’s the hardest mile. It’s the place when people need the most encouragement. Their bodies are about to give out, they’re shaking and wobbly, and seeing that cheerleader yelling away and clapping is the ultimate transfer of energy. So find it. Use it. Finish, and celebrate.
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