Thursday, August 12, 2010

Who's Scared of "Revisions"? Removing a Block

For those who may not know, I am writing a novel.  My story got its start as a NaNoWriMo project and for the month of November 2009 it was great.  We were best friends.  We laughed together, we cried together, we bit our nails at the scary, dramatic bits together, heck, we even went to work and wrote on scraps of paper when no one was looking together.  Our relationship was an open book (pun intended) and we daydreamed about having/being a completed novel and getting published.  By December we both agreed we needed some time apart and we went our separate ways, fully intending to reconnect in January and pick up where we left off.  Only it never was the same.

January and beyond became fully focused on "revisions."  And I say that with quotations because within the span of those quotations is this weird, adolescent period where you're caught between writing and editing and not quite sure which it is you are truly doing. Like, is going back to fill in the plot holes and smooth things over writing or editing?  It's both, right?  Hence my calling it "revisions."

Since transitioning from "writing" to "revision", it has become more and more difficult for my story and I to find time to connect.  We tried the whole butt-on-chair routine, but it never felt as thrilling or playful as that first, whirlwind month of writing.  What's worse is that I've found myself beginning to doubt this story, it's potential, and my ability to write it.  I began to wonder if I really wanted to keep spending my time trying to write something that didn't seem to click the same way it did before.

For the past few months, one of the few things other than guilt that could get me into butt-in-chair mode was my publishing fantasy.  It goes something like this: At some undetermined and increasingly far away time, the novel will be finished and queried out to agents and after several hard, tear filled months of agent shopping it will be picked up by a kindly agent who will help polish it into a great YA novel that will be published by a respected publishing house and read by millions of teenage girls who will love the characters as much as I do and everyone will live happily ever after.  *deep breath* The end!

Then, last night while reading Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, it hit me: The reason my story has been frustrating me is not because I can't write nor that my story is bad, it's because I have been so focused and worried about having the details of the story laid out just so that I am no longer playing with the story.  In short, the pressure I've put on myself of produce, connect, and polish the storyline has made me lose track of the joy of  writing

I am a process person.  I like being in the middle of a knitting project more than finishing it.  I enjoy drawing and coloring my art much more than planning it out.  I like being in the middle of things because ends involve so many details that my detail oriented mind becomes overwhelmed and can't focus.  "Revising" has made me feel like I'm finishing my novel rather than still writing it.

Here's what I am telling myself now: I am not finished.  Far from it.  There's plenty of time to play, I just need to give myself the premission to make mistakes and trust that I can fix or incorporate them at a later time.