]I met with my alumni writer’s group this past weekend. I almost didn’t go. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with other life stuff lately, and had a To Do list a mile long. I didn’t meet my goals of finishing the draft of my novel before our next meeting. My heart wasn’t in it. But then at the last minute I decided to go, and I’m glad I did.
Community is incredibly important for writers, and creatives of all kinds. Some of us work collaboratively, but most of us, especially early in our careers, work alone. Since we’re often not making much money yet, and don’t have deadlines to externally motivate us, it can be hard not to succumb to doubt, discouragement, or the call of distractions and life situations (job/family/other activities). We must persevere if we’re ever going to succeed, and having a community of people who are there to help support us and cheer us on is of incredible importance. Yes, you can get some external motivation and stimulation from attending conferences or classes, but a consistent group of enthusiastic, insightful people is more helpful than anything else.
As it happens, we didn’t critique each other’s work this time around. Instead, we talked about the projects we were stuck on and helped each other talk our way through it. Being flexible to the needs of the group is a hallmark of a successful one.
In my case, it looks like it means going back to the beginning, and rewriting. What I thought would be the last third (or quarter) of the book now needs to start much earlier, and take up as much as three quarters of it. So now, instead of being “almost finished” I’m “almost back to square one.” (I’m not the only one. Another writer in our group is changing the sex of her protagonist from male to female – which means many other changes as well.)
Rather than being discouraged by this, I’m excited. I feel as though I finally know what the book is about. I know the themes, the characters, and what has to happen. Yes, I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m no longer slogging through something that increasingly doesn’t make sense. Part of doing creative work is learning to trust your instincts, and although my gut was telling me it wasn’t working, I didn’t want to believe it. I thought if I just pushed on, it would work, even though I felt less and less enthusiasm for doing so.
So, I learned (or re-learned) three lessons this week that I wanted to share with you, in hopes they will be helpful:
1. Find a good community
2. Trust your instincts
3. Don’t be afraid to go back to the beginning
What are your go-to lessons for getting unstuck? Share in the comments!
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