Greetings fellow writers and bloggers. I haven’t participated in Fandango’s Flashback challenge for a while, so please enjoy my angst filled ramblings from December 4, 2018.
Writing that Novel: Block, Break, or Bail?
November was NaNoWriMo. And many people in my sphere (be it virtual or irl) participated. Me? I went another route. I didn’t add a single word to my novel-in-progress. And as we enter December, I continue to not write. If this not-writing goes on much longer, it may necessitate a designation change from novel-in-progress to novel-not-in-progress. Seriously, how long can I say I’m working on it, if it’s sitting untouched in a drawer?
One week? One month? Six months? One year? Forever?
The most frustrating aspect of my current stall is that I’m not really sure what’s behind it. Am I having writer’s block? Did I just need a break? Or am I trying to tell myself it’s time to bail (or bale for my UK friends) on the project?
It (the stall) started innocently enough. I’m nearing the end of the first draft and I know it needs some work. Among other things, I’m not sure whether my original narrative structure is working. So in late October, I did two things to address these concerns. I asked my writing accountability partner (and published novelist) to read and comment on the entire manuscript. And I submitted some pages to a writer’s conference. In early-November, I was rejected by the conference, so no help from them. But that same week, I got an excellent critique from my accountability-partner reader. Her comments, criticisms, and suggestions were spot-on. But they also reaffirmed some of my concerns. Bottom line: it still needs a lot of work.
In my pre-fiction (and let’s be honest-my younger) writing days, I immediately would have been fired up by the feedback. I am (or was) one of those weird writers that really enjoys the process of editing and rewriting. Pulling apart, restructuring, fine-tuning—love(d) it all! But this time, the thought of all that ripping and rebuilding left me a bit exhausted. So I keep putting it off.
Thanksgiving. Magazine assignments. The weather is nice. Read blogs. Write haiku. All perfectly good reasons not to start back TODAY.
Tomorrow. I’ll start back tomorrow. I promise! (I said just last night.)
So this morning was going to be that tomorrow. I absolutely was going to open up my novel and get back to work. The timing was perfect. My magazine assignments were submitted. Today’s calendar was completely empty. It’s foggy and rainy outside. I was READY to go! Then I saw Teresa’s picture prompt. I am obsessed with monkeys. I LOVE them. They make me happy. And that fabulous photo was all my brain needed to “forget” my original plan. Monkey thoughts filled my mind. But even as the monkey endorphins pumped me up, I caught sight of the manuscript pile on my desk and guilt flooded out my happy monkey vibe.
Doubt returned. Seriously, was tomorrow ever going to come?
So I’m back to my questions.
- Am I just dealing with a bit of writer’s block? If so, I should just sit down and WRITE! Even if it’s crap and I delete it all, it will get my juices flowing. Just WRITE has always been a winning strategy.
- Did I just need a break? That’s possible—I had been on an intense streak the prior few months. Lots of writing hours at the expense of other things. Maybe my brain and body are forcing me to reevaluate the notion of BALANCE. A lesson I’ve never been able to master. If so, I should stop beating myself up. Enjoy my leisure time. Write for my blog. Read for fun. Binge watch The Great British Baking Show. Happy ho ho ho and all that. And jump back into it in January.
- Am I ready to bail? No! Or maybe yes. NO!!! I don’t know. Quit avoiding the question Tina! Which is it?
- OK. I’m such a pain in my own a$$. I’ll try to answer.
If I’m being honest (one of my fave Paul Hollywood phrases), I can’t claim to have writer’s block when I haven’t even tried to write. It’s not as if I’m staring at the screen with a blank mind. I haven’t even opened the document in over a month! But am I seriously thinking about bailing on the whole project? Do I really think that I could let it go? I don’t think so. (?) I’ve been working on it for over a year. I don’t think I’m ready to just dump a year’s worth of effort.
I think (or maybe feel—not sure which is dominate at this point) that I’m committed to finishing it. I still like my basic idea. And I’m not afraid of hard work. But I have to be honest, I’m just not ready to jump back into right this minute. So maybe I’m just on a break?
I guess we’ll see in 2019.
UPDATE: That “break” has extended into what may be defined as “bail.” And again, I have abundant reasons (excuses). But, honestly, I’m OK with it. I’ve been enjoying the other writing I’m doing. And if the last few years of Trumpian hell and the last nine months of Covid-19 stress have taught me anything, it’s … well, hell I don’t know what it’s taught me except maybe to be kind to myself.
Plus here’s that awesome monkey picture that started the whole thing!