“Just Keep Writing” is a series of pep talks I’m writing for myself in hopes that it will help you as well.
So–I stopped writing yesterday.
I had great momentum for three weeks, wrote 20,000+ words, and then hit a wall in my story. I knew I wanted certain things to happen in the story, but what I’d written wasn’t leading there. I had to re-evaluate what I had written, mix up the timeline of events, and spend a lot of time brainstorming.
These roadblocks are inevitable, but the problem is when I allow them to steal my confidence and joy in my story. I get frustrated, and all those insecure voices in my head tell me to quit. This led me to sitting at my desk yesterday with a neck ache on the verge of tears. My momentum–and motivation–was gone.
Today, I wrote 2550 words.
To get there, I had to take some steps to get my momentum back.
First, I spent some time writing down possible ways I could fix the story. Then my husband caught me being down and told me to take a bath and relax for the evening, which turned out to be great advice. Sometimes I need a break, especially when I’ve been staring at the story all day.
This morning, I still wasn’t sure where to go. So I went through my options several more times. Again, though, I got stuck in analysis paralysis, not able to decide which solution to try.
Finally, I went to my go-to podcasts, because it usually helps motivate and encourage me to listen to other writers talking about writing problems.
I listened to The Writing Excuses Podcast’s episode on NanoWrimo because writers during National Novel Writing Month have to keep writing no matter what. I also listened to their episode on discovery writing because, while I’m not a discovery writer, I always stray from my outline and deal with many of the problems with re-writes that discovery writers deal with.
And they had some good advice. They suggested that writers just keep writing. (Hey, isn’t that the title of these posts? Why hadn’t I thought of that?)
So, what they mean by that is that, while it’s good to take some time to plan, sometimes the best way to get your momentum back is just to keep writing and see where it goes. You can always fix it in post.
That last part is important to me. To keep writing, I have to remind myself that it’s okay if I have to go back and rewrite it. It’s not a waste of time. I literally spent a week staring at an outline. It would be better–and more fun–to just write as many drafts as I need to if it means I’ll end up with the best solution. After all, if I were preparing to run a marathon, I wouldn’t beat myself up over the days that I ran.
As writers, we need to get more comfortable with the idea of rewriting, even if we have to do it multiple times. It’s my resistance to this process that makes me stress and lose confidence. I start to think I’m not a good writer because I can’t get it right the first time. Or I think I’ll rewrite and rewrite the same book forever, slowly destroying it in the process.
Maybe I need to think of this instead as an exciting journey of discovery. (Journey before destination, right?)
Outlining can freeze my creativity, but writing the story fuels it and gives me more ideas. I think that’s why I can never stick to an outline. The outline comes from a practical side of my brain, while the actual writing comes from the creative part. My creative part will always be better than my practical part, so if I want to get out of analysis paralysis, I really do have to just keep writing.
This is how I worked through my block this week. What about you? How do you regain momentum? Do you discovery write your way through, or can you work with an outline? Let me know in the comments!