We’ve all been there. Your story is just not working, but you’re on a deadline! You have to get the last 10 chapters done in the next two weeks, you just have to! But the more you try to force creativity, the worse it gets. Now all you’re doing is beating against a mental brick wall that refuses to budge. It’s big, it’s in the way and it’s size mirrors the enormity of your frustration.
Deadlines can be a blessing and a curse. Some writers flourish under the pressure of deadlines, others crack, while some are 50/50. Deadlines are good, they help us achieve our goals, but they can also become looming specters casting shadows over our work and peering over our shoulders, striking us with anxiety. When plot holes begin to swallow you and you’ve run down so many bunny trails you’re head is spinning it may be time to get up, put the story aside and walk away.
Everyone’s creative process is different. Some can whip out the stories. It’s as easy has mixing up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Each new batch brings out dozens of new and amazingly satisfying ideas. Plot holes are foreign to them, woody characters don’t exist and they’ve never head of this mysterious ailment known as “Writer’s Block”. Others are constantly plagued by creative blockage and instead of delicious chocolate chip cookies, they’re stories look more like old Swiss Cheese. Then of course we have those who are in between. They deal with plot holes, but it’s not too difficult for them to full. They may burn a few batches, but in the end they have a nice gooey batch of chocolate chip goodness.
I’m of the second group. Writing is my passion, it’s something I feel at home doing, something I was made to do, but it is also the hardest taste I have ever undergone. I love developing new stories, it’s my favorite part of the creative process and it’s also the most frustrating. I’m constantly falling into plot holes, frantically looking for new and better ideas to fill them. When I first started writing I got into the bad habit of blazing ahead and writing rough drafts even thought half my outline was empty. As a result I created more work for myself later on in the form of a cliched pile of Swiss Cheese instead of a golden chocolate chip cookies. It frustrated me to no end. (I’d rather of cookies then cheese any day!)
I blazed ahead because I wanted to have written. I wanted to be the person who when asked how many books I had finished, I could proudly proclaim “Oh, fifteen or twenty. I’ve lost count.” As writers we tend to look at the amount of things we have finished as our status. As Michael Kanin put it, “I don’t like to write, but I like to have written.” Walking away is not an option, WE HAVE TO FINISH IT RIGHT NOW.
Walking away may be the best thing you ever do for yourself and for your story. It was hard for me to finally admit this it and to actually take action on it. It’s okay if your writing process is slow, if it takes more than a few months or a year for a story to rise to it’s true potential. It’s okay to walk away from the draft, deadline or not. In fact, it’s okay to walk away from writing all together for a time if need be.
Whether it’s walking away for a day, a month or a year it’s okay. Walking away doesn’t make you a failure as a writer, it just means you need a break, a breather, some time to give your imagination a time to recuperate. Find a good book, spend some time enjoying nature or family. Ideas come from life and the stories we read. If you’re lacking ideas, take a break and look around you, the answer may be hidden under an old dusty cover or in a moment with a loved one. Where ever it is, you’re not going to find it by staring at your computer screen.