Writing is an amazing thing.
It allows you to get into character’s heads, creating them from nothing but your imagination. It allows you to bring new worlds or old times alive. It allows you to get all those pent up feelings out of your system. It allows you to really do something and feel accomplished.
Sometimes, though, a project isn’t cutting it. Many of these times you can push through and find a solution to the problem. You consult with your CP and brainstorm until your brain hurts and you finally get around that “block” you’ve been struggling with.
Those are the amazing times.
There are the exceptions, though, when you can’t find your way around the writer’s block. You’ve been stuck… and stuck… and stuck on this project for what may seem (or actually has been) ages and you feel like you are getting nowhere.
But you’re afraid.
You’re afraid to put the project on the shelf, because you don’t want to quit/give up. You’re afraid of stepping away and starting something new, thinking maybe the same thing will happen with the new project: you’ll start it, and then you’ll get stuck. You don’t want to create a pattern.
So you keep trying. And writing. And pushing, And prodding.
Still, you get nowhere.
This was me, my friends. I had been working on a project for about two years.
Yes. Let me say that again.
And I was so sure it was still going somewhere. I wanted it to go somewhere because it was such a good idea. It still is. But I couldn’t get it. I couldn’t get the layout how I wanted, and my characters weren’t progressing how I thought they would. Something just wasn’t right. It was lacking.
Finally, a good friend told me there was nothing wrong with shelving the idea. After a Skype session about how I had a new idea for a book, and how I wanted to write it but was afraid to step away from this other project, she said something:
“Write your new idea. Go back to your current project when you’re ready. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
After taking her advice, I have to say I feel such a relief. So, to follow up after all that, here’s some advice from me!
Write what’s calling to you.
Writing is hard work. It’s always going to be hard work, no matter what. Anyone who says anything differently is, well, dead wrong. In order to make it slightly less painful and a little easier on you, write what’s calling you. If you had an idea and started and you’ve been trucking away but you just can’t do it (I mean literally) then give yourself a break. Whether that break is for a short story, a blog post, or shelving it to work on a new novel– know that you didn’t fail. You can always go back to it.
Don’t be afraid of a new idea.
Let me first say that there is, of course, a healthy balance. If you are a chapter or few away from finishing your novel and you decide to put it aside to start a new idea because you’re afraid to finish your novel– that’s a whole different ballgame. But if you’re writing a book and you suddenly feel more pulled to write something else, you don’t need to be afraid of that. Write your idea down. Heck, write your new idea– you don’t want to lose it! Know that you are a writer no matter how many projects you have going.
Recognize a pattern.
The only word of caution I would put in here, is be aware. If you have written half of five novels and somehow can’t find the motivation to finish any of them, it might be time to reevaluate. Consider brainstorming with a CP, or finding a writing group that will keep you accountable, or make yourself write a synopsis or outline or something that’s going to get you to the end of a project. You don’t want to have all these unfinished books and wonder where you went wrong.
I can’t really say when YOU should set a project aside. Every writer is different. All I can tell you is that you should trust your instincts and gut when it comes to YOUR writing. Weigh advice, suggestions, new ideas, old ideas, and so forth with a grain of salt.
Above all, write for yourself. If you’re writing for everyone else, you’ll never get anywhere.
“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” –Cyril Connolly