Have you ever just felt stuck? Not just writer’s block, but the sensation that you’re standing at a crossroads, and you don’t know which way to go. That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. My first “completed” novel has been worked about half way through with peer comments, and I’ve got no desire to go through them and make the changes just yet. A new idea sits, a few chapters in, and I’m hesitant to make the same mistakes on this novel that I made on my last.
So, I’m stuck. Just staring at my work and wondering how I can move forward. And then, a voice comes in my head, the same voice that has gotten me this far. How will you improve if you don’t keep writing?
I want to argue with it. To tell it that there has to be an easier way to do this, a careful map that gets me from Point A to Point B. I start to think about all the things I’ve had to work at in my life, thinking that these examples will prove that there is easier way.
I think of my first year of teaching, and how hard I worked to be the kind of teacher my students deserved. But even while teaching I had times I seemed to take steps forward, and times I seemed to take steps backwards, and I realize that even teaching wasn’t a careful map. It was more like having a blank piece of paper and creating a map as I went. And isn’t this what writing is? Taking a blank paper and creating and creating until we have something.
Even though I’m still feeling stuck, I take a deep breath and move a little forward. Because, no matter how well I plan my stories or my characters, growing as a writer requires writing. And I think it’s a normal part of the process to look back at old work and feel that your writing has improved, to maybe even feel a bit embarrassed by how you used to write. It might make me feel like I wasted my time, but the truth is, it’s a good thing my writing improves with time and practice.
So, this writer might have to refocus things a little, to turn her attention back to the writing itself, and not so much on the end result.