When you’re in your zone doing your real genius work, time flies by and there’s very little thinking involved. All the pieces fall right into place and you’re done before you know it.
That’s how the writing of Loyalties went. Every Friday we’d immerse ourselves in the story, hours would fly by and we’d be astounded at day’s end how much was done. One day we looked up and realized we were on the last chapter. Talk about a rush. It was like we were nearing the end of a huge marathon, the crowds were cheering, the confetti was falling like snow and that finish line just gleamed in the distance.
Uncivil Wars is a different story. No pun intended…oh, alright, maybe it was. We found ourselves stuck in the mud a lot.
But we know that this kind of effortlessness doesn’t come easy. Before we could get to that point, we put in a lot of ground work to get there. We also know that with budding authors such as yourselves, you’ll go through a lot of struggle and wonder when or if it will ever get easier.
It does get easier. You just have to know when you’re struggling to push through a sticking point, or when you need to stop struggling and take a few steps back.
Back Up and Restart
As writers, and creative people in general, we all know when our work is not at its best. Your instincts tell you immediately when you’re phoning it in and not giving your all. Or maybe you are giving your all—just not in the right direction. That’s when the struggle happens. That’s when things turn to mud and you get mired in one mental block after another.
Sometimes pushing through is the answer. You get frustrated and angry enough you force your way through and come up with an amazing piece of work. Like Arnold said in Terminator 3: “Anger is much more useful than despair.” You definitely know when you’re on to something and it’s just a matter of hitting the right combination.
You also know when you are so far off the mark nothing is going to work. What do you do when this happens? What if you’ve already got half a book written? It’s hard to let go, isn’t it?
There are times when you’ll have to. You’ll have to back track a little bit and figure out exactly where the project started going off the rails. You don’t have to totally scrap everything. Some parts may be salvageable. But when you go back, look at everything with fresh eyes. Be your own critic and ask yourself if this is something you would want to read for yourself?
If The Answer Is No, Let It Go.
Whether you collaborate with another author or write solo, one of the hardest things to do is say when it’s not working. When you reach a point like this you have two choices. You can either keep struggling to get it right or let it go.
This is where letting go and starting over will work in your favor. The moment you decide to scrap part or all of what you’re doing, you’ll feel released. And when you feel that? You know you did the right thing. The creative fire will return and it will feel like opening a window on the first warm day of Spring.
In writing, and in life, we often hold on to ideas and habits that don’t work for us. We struggle and fight every step of the way to make it work because of the time we’ve already invested in it or because it’s safe and comfortable. But is that struggling really worth it? Sometimes, yes. Other times, not so much.
You really have to look inside yourself and ask which it is. Are you having a hard time because you’re on a learning curve, or do the issues stem from something that could be done better a different way?
Only you can answer that. So go ahead, start over if you need to. Get out of the mud! If the writing flows better than before, you know you’ve made the right decision.