The good news is that I am rewriting or editing at least a little bit on my next book just about every day. The bad news is that after just a couple of days I found myself totally stuck. What I wanted to do with the book and what the book seemed to want to do were at odds.
This book that I am revising (from rough draft to first draft) has a couple of big challenges to the material that I haven’t completely figured out yet. On top of that, some new resources have become available since I started writing, and I need to find ways to work that new content into the book, which, in its rough draft state, is already way too long.
Probably the biggest problem, though, is that I was trying too hard to get too much done too quickly. My best way of writing is to gradually immerse myself into the work itself and into my writing process. And I didn’t really take the time to do that. I’m also very out of practice doing it because the short-form, quick-turnaround, online writing that I have been doing hasn’t allowed for any kind of immersion.
Whenever I have stepped away from writing for a significant amount of time, I seem to always forget:
* Taking deadlines away and pulling the pressure off enables me to write better and faster.
* I am a slow starter when it comes to writing long projects.
So, this past week was essentially a tug-of-war between trying to write fast and on deadline, and slowing myself down to fully enter into the work. And I think that I have finally succeeded. I am not stuck, but am working on two levels: revising a short piece each day and then also stepping back and looking at the work as a whole, so that I can start figuring out how to integrate or interweave the various elements (old and new) that I want to include.
I would like to note the concrete steps I took to slow down and focus, so that next time, I can enter into a project and my writing process more smoothly, thus avoiding getting stuck, freaking out, or plain old running from the blank page. So this list here is for myself for the future. I hope you find elements on this list helpful, too. (Plus, you may have other suggestions to share with me—and please do so!) Here they are:
- I stopped running from writing, but wrestled with what I was stuck with until I had a grasp of what was wrong (although not how to fix it)
- I read some short writing encouragement during the week to encourage me to let go and have fun while writing.
- I stopped worrying about how much I got done each day. (For this project, I don’t have a hard deadline, just a desire to finish. But it is still hard to let go of deadlines!)
- I went back to my original inspiration and desire for the book, focusing on the project and its (future) readers.
- I brought it to prayer every day, either in my meditation or in my Hour of Adoration, asking the Lord, “What do You want to say in this book?”
- I started listening to the work itself, to become an obedient servant of the work (as Madeleine L’Engle so eloquently describes in Walking on Water.) Ultimately, I have been praying to the Blessed Mother to help me become a listening servant to the Holy Spirit to “put words to” the mystery of grace at work in our lives.
Do you have other ideas that help you get back into creative mode?