Just keep... writing?
Just a note about being stuck and connecting with friends
I accidentally had a great conversation with a friend yesterday. She’s also a writer and a mom and we just happened to be the only ones who dialed into a weekly group call we have scheduled with mutual friends.
I say “just happened to be” yet the uncanny timing of our talk makes me think my guardian fairy goddess-mother sprinkled a little kick-ass dust in my direction.
So I’ve been working on a novel for the last several months. In stops and starts obviously, as is all the self-directed, self-benefiting work of a mother. At the beginning of the summer I hit a major goal for me; I made it to 50,000 words in my first draft. It was the first time I’d written anything of that length so I felt like I’d really accomplished something. But sometimes I am a sweet and delicate flower budding with naïveté. This was one of those times.
My 50,000 words were (and still are) a pile of nothing. It was a warm-up to the real work. I was able to come to that conclusion on my own. What I couldn't seem to do, though, was move on.
If you are unfamiliar with the word-length of contemporary novels, I have a surprise for you: for something like I am writing a finished draft should hit between 80,000 and 100,000 words. So the thing I knew for sure was I needed to write MORE. Much more. But as a skimmed over my 50,000 words I realized how little I’d written. The story wasn’t there.
I started to brainstorm the scenes my story still needed, where they would go, and where they would take my main character when I had an Oh Shit moment. As in, “Oh, shit. I can’t use any of this.” But I couldn’t trust a thought that had me essentially trashing 50,000 words of work, could I? The time it had taken to get those words, the commitment, the focus — they were valuable. They were part of me.
The day before my scheduled group call I sat at my desk and stared at my document of 50,000 words. Then I stared at the second document I’d already started to add specific bits and pieces to that 50k. And finally I hovered my arrow over the “New Document” option. Not nearly the same as deleting my work, I know, but it felt like a betrayal. So I closed my laptop and moved on to laundry and all the other mom-stuff that waited for me on the other side of the house.
Say what you will about laundry, but I always feel confident about how to approach it. Writing, not so much.
Enter: our group call yesterday with our “group” of two.
My lovely friend had also been working on a large writing project over the last few months. In the beginning of our projects we spoke often to keep each other going. Once the summer hit and the kids were out of school our lives were less orderly and so was our work. During our call we discovered that we’d both been wrestling with nearly the same issues, project-wise and life-wise.
The power of hearing “me too” is incredible. I hear it almost every time I put myself in a position to connect with a friend. So not only did I fix my writing issue, but I also was reminded that I don’t have to solve all my problems by myself. That I have friends for a reason.
Today I have the courage to start over; I won’t trash the work I’ve put in so far, but I will give myself permission to let go of it in order to create something better. For my novel, yes, but also for whatever.
This pandemic monotony is a tricky bastard. I won’t let it get me down. Well, I might. But my friends won’t.