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!