#IWSG: Writing Career Regrets

On the first Wednesday of every month, members of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (open to anyone and full of great resources and information for writers) post their answers to a monthly prompt on their blogs.

Authors benefit from getting an insightful prompt for generating more blog content, and IWSG links all respondents, which is a way for writers to discover each other. Pretty neat!

January 5 question – What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

I regret spending three years of my discretionary writing time spinning my wheels on a project that I felt obligated to work on, while knowing the whole time that it wasn’t what I wanted to be working on.

The project was the sequel to Red Soil Through Our Fingers, my first published novel. While I was happy with how Red Soil turned out, I felt obligated to write a sequel for several reasons. Firstly, I had sort of left a few threads open and unresolved at the end of the book, and thought I owed it to readers to continue the tale. Friends and family who enjoyed the story also were highly interested in a sequel, and I didn’t want to let down their expectations or enthusiasm. Further, as it was my first novel project and first experience with publishing, I learned so much about craft, revision, and the publishing process along the way that by the end I didn’t feel like Red Soil continued to accurately represent who I was as a writer any more. Thus I also felt a personal need to have written the sequel.

Despite all these motivations to work on the sequel to Red Soil, I kept spinning my wheels on four separate from-scratch attempts at a draft. I felt that my ideas for how I would approach the story now, as a more experienced writer, were constrained by what had come before. I also had other story ideas and creative outlets (like running a Dungeons and Dragons campaign) that felt far more interesting and enjoyable to work on than a bogged down sequel. And finally, a variety of personal circumstances, including going through a separation and divorce, often prevented me from feeling like I had the emotional energy to write.

So my writing languished for three years, a time during which I produced very little in the way of new prose — except half-hearted, aborted drafts of the sequel to Red Soil. I’m glad I found my way back… I wrote about that process in a previous post, Getting Unstuck.

The takeaway? This is not a job to me. To the greatest degree possible, I believe it should never feel like work, no matter what the internet advice is for maintaining “writer discipline”. Yes, consistency is important — I have to show up and write. But to sustain that writing, I need to be writing what I want to write, when I feel like writing, about ideas and characters that engage me, on themes about which I believe I have something meaningful to say.

It seems heretical to type in a writing post… but if you’re not feeling like writing something, hey, maybe you shouldn’t be? Stop wasting your time and write something that hooks you and won’t let you go!

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