After I won NaNoWriMo this past November, I was excited to continue working on my new story. I worked on research and scenes for over a month when suddenly, I lost inspiration.
One afternoon as I was playing with my kids in the snow, my muse tapped me on the shoulder.
In a flash, a story filled my head, characters and problems and events ran through my mind like a movie trailer. I was stunned when I realized it was a story I had once wanted to write, one that had sparked while I was sitting at a bar, but that I’d never taken the chance to fully explore.
Two things happened simultaneously. One, I questioned the shift from my NaNo novel to this new book idea. Two, My muse and I were reenergized, inspired, and rushed by words.
What the heck was going on? Had I been struggling with the NaNo novel because it was the wrong book to write? At least, the wrong book to write at this time? Feeling the urge to write the new book idea then and there, I knew I’d found my way out of that writing darkness.
At first, I was irritated that I couldn’t jump on that story immediately. I was with my kids, in the snow, nowhere close to a writing tool. So, I had to sit with that story building away in my head.
But, looking back on that moment of inspiration, I’m thankful I was forced to wait to write. Something about letting the story marinate in my creative juices helped me to formulate a plot – a new experience for me, and one that made a difference.
As a traditional pantser, I have never before figured out the beginning, middle, and end before I started writing. The pull to get words written was always too strong, too intoxicating. I didn’t want to stop and plan when I could immerse myself in another world.
That’s how I wrote my first novel and all of my NaNo novels and my short stories. Pantsing always seemed to work. I mean, I got stories out of it, didn’t I?
The fact I couldn’t write this rediscovered story immediately is probably the only reason I started thinking about changing my writing ways. I mean, I could have started writing after we came in from the snow, or later that night, or heck, even at 4 the next morning. But I didn’t.
And that was the point I started redefining my writing self, even started this Writer…Uninterrupted series because in some ways, I became a new person, a new writer.
Before this life-changing event, I never knew that writers could get stuck because they might be working on the wrong story. This isn’t to say that I’ll never work on my NaNo novel again, but that I know now isn’t the right time for it.
As writers we need to pay attention to our muses, because they will revolt if they’re unhappy. We can’t force them, and while we can bribe them with IPAs or chocolate, the effects don’t last forever. The effort, the desire to write has to be genuine, rooted inside you. When we’re stuck, it’s important to step back and give ourselves space, time. If we trust ourselves, trust our creative centers, then we’re more likely to see where we’ve gone wrong.
How about you? Have you ever realized you were working on the wrong story?