On November 1, I set out to begin what I’d been promising myself I’d do before the year was over. At the birth of a new year, I made the resolution that I was going to start my first novel before 2018 was through, even if it meant just writing a sentence or two to get underway. But there was a problem. I had no idea what to write about. I had so many different characters running around in my head, but no idea what to do with them. I had spent most of 2017 getting back into writing as I had taken hiatus from the short story. Aside from blogging, I hadn’t really done any creative writing since high school. And I knew that 2018 was going to be my year. I was going to do it this time. I just knew it.
And so for months, I struggled with finding a concept, a theme on which to base my story. Would I stick to something I had written about the year prior. Would I rearrange some of my fan fiction to make it more publish-able? I knew I could use some of my characters, but in what way? Every idea that came to mind became gibberish once I jotted it down and got to see it for what it was. It was either too simple or too complicated. And because I struggle with being too much in my own head, I worried that I’d come up with a great idea, something I was super excited about, but it had already been done before. Most ideas for novels have been done before, and I knew that it was all about creating my story in a different way, telling that story in a different voice. But I was worried. I deeply wanted to create something unique, something moving, something special.
They say that everyone’s life is their own story to tell, that every part of our lives is a chapter in our book. And so I decided to look inward. Was there something I had experienced, something I was dealing with, something I had learned that could lend itself to a little creative mix-up? Could I use my own life as inspiration? It felt scary because I didn’t want to become vulnerable to just about anyone. I was deeply afraid of writing from a place that hurts because I didn’t want to affect anyone whom I loved. This was something I had to pray over, to mull over. I needed to be sure that it was a good idea, and I needed to find a way to be okay with telling a story very personal to me. I needed to know it would do somebody some good, even if it brought about more pain for me.
And so on November 1, I started. I started writing. It was amazing how it suddenly just happened when a few weeks ago, I still was so unsure of what I wanted to do. The writing process in that first month was freeing. It was therapeutic because in those moments, as my fingers hit each key, I found myself letting go of all the hurt and pain I’d experience. I found my inspiration of telling a story that someone else will definitely relate to. I was relieved in knowing that perhaps this tale hadn’t been told before, and even if it had been, I was confident in my ability to tell it in my own unique voice. There was a place for my story. I just had to finish.
I cruised along for most of the month, the words just seeming to flow seamlessly. I blogged about it, bragged about my writing journey and how this story was pretty much writing itself. I joined several dozen writing groups online and connected with countless other writers on social media, other posting about my daily word count totals. I was so excited that I was finally hitting the goals I had set for myself, and that by at least the end of February, I might possibly be done with my first draft! I had never felt more like a real writer than in those moments.
But then something strange happened. A interesting wind of change blew through my daily forecast, disrupting all I had set out to do in my writing journey. Suddenly, the words were harder to come by. The writing seemed to drag on. I felt as though I was struggling to reach my daily goal. And I wasn’t happy with the product I was putting out there. The self-doubts came. My personal life was crumbling it seemed. And my writing had stalled. Just like they said it would.
So here it is, February, and I am still sitting around 40,000 words in my first draft, barely making it over the climatic hump, if I can even call it that. I came to a point when I had no idea what I was even writing about, and although I knew how I wanted my story to end, I didn’t know what to make of my characters. My antagonist didn’t seem so bad now. My protagonist’s love interest was getting to be more and more of an asshole than I originally intended. And I feared that would screw up everything that I had planned for this story. I was at a crossroads. Which way am I to go now?
So here I am, taking a long break from this first draft that I am not all that excited about anymore. I still long to write, and to find ways to practice and hone my craft, I’ve dived even further into my blogging. I still find ways to interact with other writers online, although I’ve scaled back my participation in groups just a tad. I’ve started reading for fun again, as most of my writing was accompanied by “how to” books. I buckled down on my job search and began interviewing for positions outside of the home. I started a new volunteer opportunity. I started watching the news again. And most importantly, I parent with my whole heart and my whole being.
I have found ways to deal with this disappointing turn of events in my writing journey. And I am convinced that the time will emerge once more in which I will take to my keyboard with the same fervor that got me 40,000 words deep. A stall in inspiration is not the end of the writing journey, my friends. It is just your compass telling you it might be best to head another way.