I’m horrible at following my own advice. I think we all are, but I really am, to the point where I don’t know why people ask my opinion on things. I can’t seem to follow the good advice I give to people, and when I do, it’s mostly for self-preservation. Not because it happens to be really good advice.
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you know I’ve been struggling with my writing. It’s not so much sitting down to write; it’s when I sit down to write, I have nothing. No ideas, no dialog, no bits of conversation, no interesting ‘what ifs’ flitting about. I can get out a paragraph, maybe two, but I’m displeased with it. It’s surface and stupid (in my opinion). I trash it and tell myself I’ve lost my mojo. I’m not a writer anymore. I don’t know what happened to my (so-called) talent but it went away.
And then I gave up on my novel, the touching story of three women who’ve been friends since childhood, now making their way through adulthood and testing the bonds of that friendship. I put it away, haven’t opened the Brunch at Ruby‘s folder in months, probably. I didn’t throw it away, but it’s not sitting on my desktop anymore, taunting me, telling me ‘I thought you were this awesome writer! You can’t even finish this stupid book!’
I have spent a long time languishing down in the pit of ‘I can’t do this, I don’t know how to do this, I can’t write anymore…’ If someone gave me the same speech, I’d probably roll my eyes and say ‘that’s ridiculous. Of course you can still write. Give it some time!’ I’d talk about how they basically wrote for three years straight, almost a half million words. How they just picked up a pen (figuratively speaking) and spun tales and people enjoyed them. And I’d tell them to take a load off, stop putting so much pressure on themselves, and go back to what worked.
GO BACK TO WHAT WORKED.
When I started writing a few years ago, I was writing fan fiction-fictional stories about a well-known real live member of a music group; enough similarity that you recognized who it was, but far enough away from reality that it read like ‘real fiction’. I wrote a few stories, some novel length, some shorts, some drabbles, until I felt I’d exhausted every corner of that person and I refuse to write the same story over and over. I decided to start writing non-fanfic, and it was a bit of a struggle from the start.
I tried to read all the right books and read all the right blogs but honestly they were just so confusing. I’m not a planner or plotter. I just write. I would do outlines, which would force me to think about ‘what happens next’… but then when I finished the outline I would feel like I already wrote the story and then I wouldn’t feel like writing it. I discovered that so much of writing, for me, is uncovering the story myself. Ever been typing away and then words just show up on the page and you think, ‘oh we’re going there? Okay, then.’ That happens to me a lot. Or entire chapters write themselves in my head. Characters speak to me so loudly I almost have to pull over to take notes, write it down so I don’t forget.
While I was trying to be a real writer, all of that magic disappeared. It just became work. I already knew what was going to happen in the story, I just had to write it down and then connect the dots and *yawn*. It was boring to me. Probably not to people who didn’t know the story, but I lost the excitement of not knowing what comes after the next couple of chapters… thinking about it, talking about it with other people and getting ideas and feedback.
The funny thing is, I get jealous when I see people releasing books and writing to their heart’s content. I never deleted Brunch at Ruby‘s. I haven’t opened it in a while but never deleted it. But I started writing again. I’m back to what worked– fan fiction. It always used to be my practice. It was fun and low pressure and I got almost instant feedback on the story. I guess I still need a cheering section. I still need to make it fun. I still need to create a bit of mystery for myself.
So if I had to advise someone on getting back to writing after being gone for a while, I’d be able to say I followed my own advice: Go back to what worked. Stuck? Go back to where you KNOW it was right, and go in a different direction. Getting back into the groove of writing is nothing more than just getting back to it. The mojo doesn’t sneak back… you have to go back and find it where you left it.
I found mine, and I guess I’ll hang out here for a while and eventually open the Brunch at Ruby‘s folder and take that story back to what was working, even if it’s all the way back to zero.