I’ve been in a few conversations lately that remind me how much writers treat their works like their children.
I have a good friend who I’m sure will hit the publishing world in a big way at some point. There’s a fantasy he’s been working on for a long time. It’s the first writing project he threw himself into. He said this in our chat the other day –
“This fantasy is my baby but I’ve felt for a while I might need to try a few other ideas. I’ve felt a little stuck on this one but was afraid to set it aside.”
After a decade of attending writing conferences, I can say that I see this ALL THE TIME. And I’d like to add, right now, don’t be afraid to set projects aside. This helps give you time to grow as a writer, time away from the project so you can see it with new eyes, time to try other worlds, characters, and problems. That’s a GOOD thing.
But that idea we start with, or that idea we’re so excited about, can feel slippery and precious. We have this thing and we want it to go running out into the world before…it breaks? shatters? someone else does it better? a million other terrifying scenarios that print themselves on our thoughts when we’re trying to sleep?
In a conversation with Rachel Larsen (Host of the podcast HUMANS DEALING WITH HUMANS, which you should totally listen to) she said the following –
“Once you have a book, and you’ve worked so hard on it, there’s this sense of urgency, like – I have to get this out now. Otherwise, the idea’s gonna go stale, or whatever it is…The fact that you have words down on paper or you have this story or whatever, it automatically adds a ticking clock into the mix, when really, there isn’t one.”
At every writing conference I’ve ever been to, I hear some version of the following: You just have to keep pushing, and you’ll get there. Don’t give up and you’ll get there. Keep working, and you’ll be published.
And while those things are true, what they forget to say is that sometimes it’s GOOD to step away – maybe step away from writing altogether – it’ll still be there when you’re ready to go back to it. Maybe, it’s just that you need to set a project aside in favor of something shiny and new. Your process is just that, IT IS YOUR PROCESS.
If your process means that you work on fifteen different books in two years before you find one you love enough to see through to the end, so be it. If your process is working on the same project for ten years, own it. (Although, I generally think this is a terrible idea, which I may or may talk about in the future). And you may be like me, and need to have a few projects, in varying stages of completion, some of which will leave your computer, and some of which will not. That’s also okay. You may realize that your writing is causing more stress than you imagined, and LIFE IS SHORT people. Take a break. Taking a break isn’t failing, it’s being smart about how you’re spending your time.
So, there you are. For whatever it’s worth (this post is free), Jo says you can step away and feel good about it. You can start that new project and feel good about it. You can re-evaluate your publishing goals AT ANY POINT because they’re your goals. Your interests will shift. The amount of time you have for creative endeavors will shift. Things you thought you wanted out of your stories may change. Changefulness is SUCH an attribute. Use it. Own it. Do what works for you.
Also, take a deep breath, and enjoy the fact that you have the luxury of writing stories.