Sometimes you find yourself in some sort of sticky situation, or dark time.
Everything seems impossible or improbable. The odds seem to be against you, and no matter what you put to the page, you just hate it. You’re hard on yourself and don’t give yourself the breathing space to realize it’s just a first draft and you can always make changes later. You’re so busy with all your obligations, and commitments, that when it comes to this part of your life, whether you wanted to write just for personal stuff or in hopes of getting published one day, it feels like it’s unimportant by comparison to everything else, or you have to push it off repeatedly, or you’ll never find the time you want to get those ideas down.
I’ve been going through something like that these days. I try to write, and for some reason, it’s difficult to get this story I’m working on out of my head and onto the screen and the page. I’ll stare at it, and try to write about it, and write stuff and then erase it, and so on.
Of course, everyone has something that works for them, but I’ve been finding, as I’ve been stuck on this piece, that talking to people about it has helped tremendously. Having a conversation is a form of collaboration, and it also happens during writing center appointments.
Every time I’ve made an appointment or spoken with a friend or a mentor, it helped me to center my ideas for the project and focus on them, reevaluate and assess them, meditate on them, make changes, etc. Being asked different questions about the story and also being given a chance to vent about it has also helped me consider how plausible some things were and ask questions about the logic behind events and setting, characters, etc.
This is not something that I would have been able to accomplish as effectively on my own. There’s just no real adequate substitute for encountering and listening to another person’s perspective. You can try to write it out for yourself, and have a conversation with yourself, record it, and that can work to an extent, but in all of that, you’re still working with just your perspective. You can try to pretend to look at it with another’s eyes, but being the closest person to your story, you’ll see things differently than the people with whom you share it.
That’s just a distance thing– it’s like looking at an art piece in a gallery– if you see the canvas up close, you see details, expressions, fine lines, color variation, etc. However, from that distance, it’s also hard to see the entire composition. When you step back, you see the whole of what’s going on. The figures whose contours looked stretched from where you stand now become straighter. There was a boat there– from where you stood, you didn’t even see it. Out of the corner of your eye, it looked like a rock.
When you’re stuck in this kind of situation, it can be tempting to put the piece away for a while. Out of sight, out of mind. You can try to find distance from it, and some people find this successful. It can be okay to occasionally step away from the problem.
But sometimes, this is just plain running away from it. The story got hard to work with, so you begin to make excuses. Suddenly your job becomes a bit more interesting. You start to do more homework instead of procrastinate with it.
But if you’re a writer, and the kind of writer who wants to finish their writing, no matter what they choose to do with it in the end, you are also an artist. And artists, by definition, are also problem solvers. If they make a mistake on the canvas, or whatever medium they are working with, they have to find a way to make it seem like the mark was intended all along, or hide it so that it blends in with the rest of the piece, becomes a harmonized part of it.
That will take work. Staying away from the piece won’t change it. As a writer, if this is really a part of you in general, it’s also your job to stay true to it, to spend time with it, work with it, try to understand it, nurture it, grow from it until something finally clicks.
Then you walk away with more experience. And an accomplishment. You finally pulled through, you made it, the storm passed, and you can move forward.
But in that moment, when it gets tough, and you feel lost, and are unsure how you want to go about it, who knows? Maybe just one conversation will help you get back on track.