On Writing, Ranée

Here It Goes Again

In a previous post, I wrote about how I’d made a complete mess of the story that I was working on with my disorganized, haphazard approach to writing. Well, as it happens, I wasn’t just plagued by my chaotic storytelling; in RPG parlance, I not only got too caught up in creating my characters’ backstory but also got distracted by a silly side quest.

It’s taken me over a year and a half to realize what this story is actually about—not what it started out as or what I intended for it to be—but what it truly is. It didn’t really hit me until I wrote my book pitch for Paper Cuts a couple of weeks ago. When I did that, I realized that the book I was pitching wasn’t the book I was writing. So what do you do when you find yourself faced with such a realization? Well, after cursing yourself (a lot) and vacillating between pressing on and giving up, first you reevaluate and then you take action—reboot.

During meditation yesterday, I asked my guides if I should continue with this book and they said yes. I’m not gonna lie; I wasn’t fully on board with that right away. So, I spent much of yesterday evening reevaluating this project, including talking through my dilemma with my husband. He asked me what I liked about what I’d written so far and that helped me to get to the heart of the matter, to see where the real story lay. If you find yourself lost, then I highly recommend you take a moment to analyze what you’ve got and, if necessary, ask a trusted soul to help you with this process. Most likely, there’s something that’s worth salvaging, but, often, we are too close to our work to see it objectively. Once you determine what those salvageable pieces are, do some further examination to see how they do or could fit together. That, fellow ink-slingers, is your real story.

The story that you’re actually writing may not be the one that you set out to tell. If you find that’s the case, then the next step is to decide whether or not you’re OK with that. For me, realizing that the story I thought I was writing wasn’t the one that I wanted to write was like finally breaking the surface, lungs burning, and gulping in fresh air; I’d been under water for far too long. I feel a huge sense of relief just accepting that the story I told myself I wanted to write wasn’t what I was really interested in writing and I’ve decided to continue with it. If, however, you’re not OK with a realization like that, then it’s probably best that you put your project aside. DO NOT TRASH IT! While present you might be 100% positive that you never want look at it again let alone try to fix it, a future you may feel quite differently some day and could approach it with a fresh perspective, so, trust me, just put those pages somewhere out of sight for now and move on.

If you choose what I feel could be the harder path and decide to press on, well, then you’ve got some work to do in terms of regrouping. You can keep everything you’ve written so far together in the same place (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and just continue on with the new aim in mind or you can start fresh with the pieces you’ve decided are the keepers, tucking the others away to keep for future use. In the name of clearing the chaos, I’ve decided to do the latter. I’m also beginning some focused journaling to help me gain further clarity (huge thanks to one of my best girlfriends for this timely gift!). Some ways to get reorganized include creating a new outline and/or mind map with the true story in mind, engaging in some focused freewriting to flesh out plot points, and taking a little break before diving into your project again.

In addition to regrouping, I’m giving myself a deadline. My goal is to spend the remainder of winter working on this draft and, if come spring, I find that figuring out the real story hasn’t made any difference and I’m still struggling, I will move on. Deadlines are always a good idea.

In any case, if you find yourself in a similar position, I hope that you won’t despair (at least, not for too long), but that you’ll carry on and take another stab at it.

On Writing

One Way or Another

This post came about because I’ve grown tired of the oft-repeated but rarely-expounded-upon non-advice of “just write.” It goes without saying that to write anything you have to actually engage in the act of writing, but telling some to “just write,” is unhelpful to say the least. Yes, you have to do the work, but for some people, especially those for whom writing isn’t a main job (or even a source of income period) or who have never attempted to write something before, that act of “just writing” can seem downright impossible or terrifying. Just write? Easy for you to say, I can hear them thinking. Where will they find the time? Assuming they’re able to carve out the time among all of their other responsibilities, how will they even get started? And when they’re stuck for ideas, how are they going to get over those hurdles? Telling people to “just write,” is dismissive and flippant. I want to help writers and would-be authors actually solve the very real issues that make it difficult for them to “just write.” As your coach and creative partner, that’s my job.

In workshops that I’ve held and in previous posts, I’ve offered some practical advice and suggestions for how to do things like make writing a regular habit, get started on a project, and combat anxiety and other blocks. However, I always strive to do so with the caveat that these are not the only strategies you can use because that’s the truth. I want to help you find the strategies that will work best for you.

What image comes to mind when you hear the word “writer”? Do you picture someone sitting at a desk scribbling on paper with a pen and ink or imagine someone typing away on a computer? When you get an idea in your head, do you think “I want to write a book” or “I want to tell a story”? The fact is, ink, pens, pencils, paper, journals, notebooks, typewriters, word processors, and computers are just some of the many tools available to you as a writer. If writing by hand or typing isn’t your thing, you can tell your tale using dictation or speak-to-text tools, make an audio recording, or use visuals like pictures, drawings, film, and animation. You can also do combinations of any of the above. Use the tools that are most accessible and useful to you based on your unique needs, preferences, and skills. The same goes for the medium or format that your story takes. That does not have to be a book. You’re a writer whether you write poetry, a personal blog, research papers, an advice column, film scripts, or graphic novels. There are as many ways to tell a story as there are storytellers and all of them are valid, so a one-size-fits-all approach to helping writers just won’t work and you won’t find that here.