Friday, August 15, 2008

Dropping the Ball -- and Stepping Back from the Cliff

Oh, boy ...

Count on me to stay on top of things, right?

We all promised faithfully ... "We'll blog on our day, every two weeks ... "

And who was the first to break the promise?


To make matters worse, I thought about this last night and wondered, hey, is it my turn to blog?

Nice going, Susan.

And that, folks, is all the beating up I'm going to do on myself.

Yeah, I screwed up. I had made a commitment and broke it. But it was inadvertent, and unfortunately, there was no system in place to remind people of their blogging day. Hoping that just because I blew it, we can set up a system to remind us all. We're busy people. Something good could come out of this yet -- a better way to keep on top of things.

What pleases me about this situation is that I'm NOT beating myself up any more than what I wrote above. There's really no need. I'm doing my best, and carrying enough of a load.

Fortunately, for a writer, it's no trouble to sit down and compose a blog -- on almost any topic. It's what we do. Words are our best friends.

Another good friend of mine -- yeah, a writer -- blogged about how difficult writing can be. Well ... I suppose it can be. For me, for certain, I've had days -- weeks -- months -- of being terrified to even sit down at my desk, because I literally could not think my way around a writing problem and dreaded having to deal with it.

But the truth is also that there's practically no better feeling on earth than the feeling of mastery you experience as the pages begin to grow under your fingers. The feeling that you KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING, and things are turning out just as you hoped ... that you're communicating what you want to say in the best possible way you can say it.

For me, I've found that STEPPING BACK FROM THE CLIFF often solves my writing problem, the one that kept me blocked or terrified. Going to the point where I was stuck and stepping back from it -- then changing it -- almost always fixes things and allows me to move on.

Remember Billy Crystal in THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN? He was a writing teacher who also wrote novels, but couldn't get past the first line of his latest: "The night was ... " And to make matters worse, he ended all his classes with, "Remember, a writer writes every day."

Well, what if he'd NOT tried to write every day? And what if he'd dropped the impossible phrase altogether? How about starting with "Blah, blah, blah ... I don't know. Seems this is where things start"?

Terrible, I know, but who cares? I'll bet it would have gotten him to the next sentence.

I've found a lot of my writing blocks come when I literally write myself into a corner, and even worse, admire the corner (the phrasing or the sentence) so much I don't want to change it.

Inevitably, when I drop the last sentence -- or paragraph -- or even page(s), something happens to free me up. Maybe it just gives me more options, and more freedom to mess it up. But whatever it does, I usually am able to plow through, and if I wasn't connected completely to the right road before, I can usually meander around and find it within a few paragraphs.

You unhappy writers out there, consider trying it, if you don't already have some version of this in your toolkit.

Sometimes you just take yourself to a place where it's nice to admire the view, but you'll never be able to figure out a way down. It's okay. STEP BACK FROM THE CLIFF. Throw out a few sentences (or, okay, if you ADORE them, save them to a new document and take them out of your current manuscript). See where the story goes from there, when you're back at a place you've been before.

And trust yourself. You really do know what's best for your story.

So having messed up on blogging, I'm stepping back from the cliff and forgiving myself. And you know what? In future, I guess I can count on myself to blog more often -- and on my assigned day. So the stepping back accomplished what it needed to, didn't it?

Hope your writing day is a shining success!

Susan Sloate

1 comment:

Judy5cents said...

I find the hardest thing to write is transitions. I just hate it when I've got to get my characters out of one place and into another where the next major plot twist takes place. I admit, there have been times I've left them there because I just don't want to deal with it. But sooner or later I get them out.

I have found the Nike method (just do it) works best for me. I start writing whatever comes into my head, even if it's bad. Funny thing is that it always turns into something usable if not pretty darn good.