The past doesn't predict the future, or at least not always. Though it's good to learn from the past, on a global as well as personal scale, it can place limits on us, too. We have to look at the past with a critical eye, looking past the surface to what worked and what didn't. I think, too, we also have to move beyond the idea that A + B = C; just because we had a horrible breakup with a musician in the past doesn't mean all our future relationships with musicians are doomed; failing your driving test once doesn't necessarily mean you're meant to be a pedestrian and public transit-goer forever. There are other factors at play.
Why is it sometimes so hard to remember this?
I think we like having "easy" answers to things. The world is so confusing, that we tend to glom on to anything that appears to shed light on our questions - and there are so many, many questions! Even as writers, we who create worlds from our imaginations, we look for wisdom and certainty in every article, book and mentor we can find about our craft, trying to learn what others have learned before us so we don't repeat their mistakes.
And what do we do instead?
One thing I try and encourage in myself as a writer, as well as each and every one of my coaching clients, is to trust my instincts. It seems that no matter how accomplished writers are or how confident they seem to be in a project, this concept always needs a little bit of reinforcement.
In the past, when I've written scenes out of order in a novel, writing them as they occur to me or plucking whichever ones feel most interesting from an outline, I've crashed and burned. It left me feeling wrung out and uninspired. I decided writing out of order wasn't for me, that the next time I worked on the rough draft of a novel I would write it straight through.
Flash forward to the present, and my current WIP. I've written about the first half of it straight through; a few tidbits of later scenes snuck in occasionally, nothing too big. Now that I have about 30,000 words of my 50,000 word goal (subject to change, but this is, as I constantly remind myself, a first draft), I'm a little hesitant about what comes next, so I'm taking on what I do know: the ending. Or rather, the last quarter-ish. I was reluctant at first to go back to my non-chronological ways, nervous that my progress - the furthest I've gotten on a novel in way too long - would slip down the drain.
This time, though, things are a little different. I have a good chunk of the story written already, straight through; if I write the end now, I can bridge the two pieces and wind up with a solid rough draft, rather than trying to force myself to trudge ahead sequentially and work myself into a creative block. I don't know yet if this leap of faith is going to pay off, but I think it will. Going on instinct, here.
How else could this apply to writers?
While a few writers seem to find a routine and stick with it from project to project, little to no adjustments necessary, most of us are not so lucky. We struggle with:
- writing alone or with company
- outline or no outline
- middle grade or YA
- self-publish or traditional publisher
- edit as we go or wait until the draft is done
The list feels endless. As long as we don't put ourselves in tidy boxes, scared to try something new for fear of it backfiring on us, we'll get along just fine. With the right attitude, those articles and books on writing, and those mentors we learn from, can introduce us to new methods and give us new insight on old ones. Have you spent your writing time in complete solitude for months because, the last time you tried it, you got absolutely nothing done? It happens. But why not give it a try with someone new, or in another location, or with a different project, or all of the above? It never hurts to explore a little outside the box when it comes to our craft.
Looking for something to jumpstart your creativity? Get back to basics (and find out how much they can teach you) with your characters. Click here or the image below to learn more!