“I was going to get back on that story, but I got so caught up in my workout that I just called it a night. I’ll get back to it tomorrow.”
“Duh! Went online and got stuck in a debate about Freddie Gray/Post Malone/all these Hollywood remakes/insert your personal waste-of-time here.”
“Did you see that episode of House of Cards/Game of Thrones/Orange is the New Black?! I just couldn’t stop watching!”
Crap. All of it, crap. But you already knew it. Let’s face it–you just didn’t, or still don’t, want to admit it.
So you’re a writer. You’ve got a new project you’re working on. Maybe it’s a novel. Maybe a screenplay. Maybe just a short story. And, you started it, and, you got going great guns, and, and.
And, you hit the wall. Maybe just for a night. Maybe it’s been a couple. But the bottom line is, you went off the rails, and you haven’t gotten back on track yet. Know why? Yeah, you probably do, you’re just uncomfortable about it. You got scared, that’s all. You got spooked for whatever reason and now you’re looking for excuses to explain your lack of progress. Truth is, you didn’t get stuck talking about whatever was trending on Twitter or Facebook, that’s just a convenient out. You don’t give a rat’s ass about Post Malone and most of you probably hadn’t heard of him until last night. You might’ve gotten caught up in an episode of somethingorother, sure. But.it’s the 21st century. You have NetFlix. Or a DVR. Or OnDemand. You didn’t have to abandon that idea that had you banging away at the keyboard until all hours just a few nights ago.
So what? Who cares if you didn’t know for sure where you wanted to take it. You jumped into the tale and got wrapped up in it and then, when words weren’t flowing like pot smoke at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, you hit the brakes. You. just. s-t-o-p-p-e-d.
Welcome to the club. Who hasn’t? You think King never tossed in the towel for a couple of nights when the Red Sox got into the playoffs and there was hope up in New England for a change? You think Dean Koontz never said, “Screw it,” and took off for a couple of days just to take a break? Wake up-this is writing. This isn’t Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy trying to stuff unwrapped chocolates down her shirt and into her hat and down her throat because it was success at that rate or failure, no in-between. Take it easy.
Good news is, there is a solution.
Take the night on. Put away the TV remote, give your stairmaster a break, pull the cord out of your router and just start going at it again. If it sucks? Who cares? You’ll know it soon enough. That’s part of the game. If you don’t know where you’re going, sit back with a hot chocolate or a cup of coffee and outline some possibilities. Just start thinking about the story again, that counts as progress. What brought you to the spot you reached before you ran aground will come back and want to play some more. That’s also part of the game. Don’t like where it takes you? No big deal. Unless you’re under contract, no one can force you to keep anything you write. That, my friends, is up to you. You’re 100% in control. Key thing is, though, being willing to lose control again and again and again at the keyboard to keep pushing forward. We all do this. I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t hit the skids once in a while. Pros get back at it right away, though. They know better than to let one day turn into three, then a week, and so on. If you haven’t been published, and keep letting things like uncertainty over where your story is going keep bogging you down? You’ll never be a pro. In fact, you’ll probably never be published. So, here’s advice from someone who isn’t King or Barker or J.K. Rowling, just a guy who’s been getting paid for the better part of 30 years, so I have some insight. Just clear the decks. No TV, no internet, no distractions. Just you and the keyboard and the expectation that you’re going to get somewhere. That tonight, your idea is going to wake up and come looking for you again, and you’ll be there to answer the door. Just believe that something is going to come of the session, good, bad or indifferent. That’s the only way to get to the end, folks, and reaching the end is the only way you’re going to know if you struck gold, or if you need to get back into the mines.
Put your helmet on, and make sure the batteries are fully charged. Happy writing.
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Currently listening to: “True Faith” by New Order