A Writer’s Trust Revisited

I’ve been here before. Writers, we all have.

You’re completely submerged in your current WIP. You’re knee-deep in research, waist-deep in ideas, and neck-deep in a rough draft you’ve smiled at for months. But then . . . something happens. Something changes. Your beloved WIP isn’t writing itself with the same vivacity it was when you first started—when the scenes were fresh and the goal was clear. When your intentions were coursing through blood so thick all you had to do was just sit down, lock-in, and play that lettered keyboard like a fuckin’ piano. And it was fun! Every sentence, gold. Every scene, a winner. You didn’t worry about creative hiccups because you, good sir, are infallible to mythical terms like “writers block” or “cold feet”—it doesn’t apply, no, not to you. You know the book you’re writing, and by God, you’re gonna finish it faster than a coked-up Harvard row crew, sailing down the Charles.

But alas, a hiccup arrives.

For some, it’s just a matter of life getting in the way. For others, it’s writers block or a lack of confidence that stops them in their tracks. For established writers, I would imagine that pressure plays a huge part in the temporary paralysis of creative efforts. For me (right now), it’s uncertainty—uncertainty that the direction I’m going is the right direction for this particular story. Are my choices correct? Am I in love with this story arc or am I trying too hard to please the reader?

I’m a firm believer in the popular literary saying, “write the book you want to read.” But when you’re writing, you aren’t necessarily writing the book you want to read, but rather exploring it. Taking a concept and seeing if your vision translates on the page. I would equate it to how a scientist approaches an experiment: A potential hypothesis leads to testing, followed by an analysis of the result. But this isn’t science; it’s art. It’s subjective. We don’t analyze, we self-criticize. Is the book I want to read in fact the book I’m writing? Self-criticism leads to self-analysis, which leads to over-analysis, which leads to bad writing and the conclusion is: You’re fucked.

As I said, I’ve been here before. Back when I was working on my first novel, I wrote a blog entitled Trust, and in it I expressed the need (and fear) of stepping away from one’s work and trusting that the issues—whatever they may be—will work themselves out naturally, and in time. How much time? Well . . . that’s where the trust part comes in. Typically when I “walk away” from a WIP that’s stuck in the mud, a fresh idea or resolution will pop up within 2-4 weeks and ALWAYS at night or while I’m driving. Always. And when that moment of clarity arrives, within minutes I’m back on my computer, pounding note after note into that instrument, making that song work. But I always have to trust that that moment will come, and that gamble isn’t an easy one to stomach. Novels take time and the last thing you want to risk is WASTING time. You have to make peace with the reasoning that stepping away isn’t a procrastination, but an evaluation. A subconscious one playing in the background of your mind while you carry on with day-to-day life.

You’re a writer; risks must be taken. These choices must be made.

So with risk in mind, I’m gonna step into December without my WIP latched at the hip and I’m going to trust that this hiccup—this uncertainty—is part of the process. And will always be part of the process. And I will use it. Embrace it. Rock it. And when that moment of clarity arrives, I’m gonna write the shit out of it.