Writing is like dealing with a toddler
Posted on: May 26, 2018
Writing a novel is much like getting a toddler ready to leave the house.
Patiently staying in the moment and focussing on one step at a time is key:
Putting on one sock at a time.
Writing one sentence or (hallelujah!) an entire scene at a time.
Being consistent and repeating the same things all over again is essential:
To a child: “We’re going to put on our outside shoes now.”
To the resistance monster:“We’re going to sit down and write now.”
Accepting the chaos of random gloves, toys, and the exciting remark (after you just finished putting on their snowsuit with your last bit of strength): “I pooped!” …
…compares wonderfully to the unpredictability of writing, the zillions of notes cluttering notebooks and the desk, and ideas dancing around in a writer’s mind…
… happily, but out of control.
Instead of getting overwhelmed by the chaos and the mess, you have to trust the process, trust that all will come together in the end:
Toddler and mom will eventually leave the house, yes, fully dressed! Eventually it will be accomplished.
I often remind myself of that, though at this stage of my writing, it sometimes seems impossible.
When I started to commit to writing my novel about two months ago, I created a strict schedule, which worked fine to start out with. I needed the constraint to get me over wanting to run away from the challenge, cry, hide, or eat lots of French apple crêpe with vanilla ice cream.
The more meaningful an endeavor is for our personal development, the stronger the resistance.
Soon I realized that my strict schedule as well as my rituals were beginning to stifle me, like a corset. What first supported me was now paralyzing me, and it was time for a new strategy. So I allowed myself more freedom with how and when I write.
But sometimes, writing just doesn’t work.
Crickets instead of creativity, inspiration on vacation. (Ha!)
The muse can be moody!
Sometimes, I write at night. Sometimes, I write a whole outburst in a heartbeat. And sometimes, I don’t write, but rather draw, or heaven forbid … do laundry!
Also, writing is happening in the head most of the time, while doing completely unrelated things. That definitely counts as writing time.
Traveling into this other world can be exhausting. It’s like passing through a membrane. The way into writing, and even the way out can feel uncomfortable.
When I’m stuck or my head needs a break (picture an orange being squeezed), it usually helps to walk the dog. Wolfi always has the best ideas anyways. (Listen to your dogs! They know what’s good for you in each given moment, even when you resist it.)
Nevertheless, I’m amazed that writing is going as well as never before in my life. Instead of just writing in (rare) phases, I’m sticking with it now, not abandoning the story over lengthy periods of time. The longer you stay away, the harder it is to pick it up again (like picking up the phone to call a friend you haven’t contacted for too long).
In the past, resistance would win, causing me tears and suffering for decades. Now, its voice is much smaller, because I’m determined and committed, and the resistance monster knows that. It’s still showing up on a daily basis wanting to hang out (like an ex who just doesn’t get it). It’s a new battle every day. When it tries to get me, I usually approach it with this mindset:
“Oh, you’re here, too. Hush, I’m writing! Yes, you may sit next to me, but we’ll talk later.”
I might not always be mentally strong enough to push resistance over, but it’s pretty amazing how often I can, by now.
And the piles of collected snippets in all forms and shapes are slowly decreasing!
(Missed this? Read here about the crazy mess where I picked up my novel pieces!)
But yesterday, I got stuck and doubted everything. And I told my husband about it.
The next time I went into my study, I found those two tiny reminders I want to share with you:
I think it’s true. Sometimes we just need to hear (or read) it in the right moment, because we tend to forget. Especially when the going gets tough.
Believe in your endeavors.
Many blessings & a shovel full of love,