What If You Gave Up?

From Writer Unboxed:

NOT writing as a whole. Neither of us would be here if we wanted to give up writing. But what if you gave up an idea that is holding you back? Might it free you, your writing, your creativity?

I have to finish this manuscript before I can write the next story.

What if you didn’t? What if you moved on to another story? Just tested it out. You can still come back to the old manuscript. But what if the self-imposed idea that you have to finish something before you start the next thing is preventing you from working both on the old story and on the new story? Maybe you don’t like the old thing anymore, or the story isn’t quite working and you can’t figure out how to fix it, or it reminds you of a bad time in your life, or any other reason. If you gave yourself permission to put it aside would that be so wrong?

Would that make you a quitter? Or would that make you an adult who has looked at the options and decided to go another way? Laying aside a writing project that isn’t working / that you aren’t working on might be energizing. It might even help you make your way back to that project and finish it.

This is what I’m telling myself about the trilogy I’ve been working on for several years. I indie published the first book, fully drafted the second, and mostly drafted the third. And I’m just not working on them. But I won’t let myself move on, either, because I have to finish them. It was on a walk a few days ago that I asked that scary question: What if I gave up the idea that I had to complete the trilogy before I wrote anything else?

I’m close to giving myself permission to put them aside, at least for now, so I can start the next story idea. It might take until the end of this post, but I’m working on giving up this idea.

I have to find The Best System for Writing.

It can ease the anxiety of writing to put all your trust in an expert who has a system they say always works. But when that system doesn’t work for you, or it stops working for you, or some new expert comes with a Shiny New System that throws your system into question, or the novel you wrote using The Best System is rejected, that increases your anxiety. And you think it’s your fault–either for not following The Best System well enough or because it must not be The Best System and now you have to find the real Best System.

Writing is an anxiety-producing endeavor. No system and no writing advice will help you avoid it completely. And no system or writing advice can guarantee commercial success. Not even our own beloved Don Maass’. When I was in the Writer Unboxed Breakout Novel Dissection Group, every book we read violated at least one of his characteristics of a breakout novel.

Giving up the idea that there is a Best System can set you free to pick up and run with the writing advice that gives you energy and makes your imagination churn with ideas, and set aside writing advice that stymies you. Many multi-published writers who sell well experience self-doubt and anxiety at some point in the process of every novel. Remind yourself of this when you’re tempted to put all your trust in The Best System.

My only option is to be traditionally published.

This one was mine for many years. I was seeking the approval of a publisher and trying to avoid the insecurity and steep learning curve of indie publishing. Repeated rejection wasn’t fun, but I expected it, and didn’t let it stop me from keeping on trying.

But then a friend told me a story about raccoons: they love shiny things so much that they’ll stick their paw in a jar to get a shiny thing out, not be able to get their closed fist out of the jar, but they won’t free themselves because it would mean letting go. They’ll wind up in near starvation and all they need to do is drop the shiny thing.

Traditional publishing was my shiny thing. Letting it go meant a lot of work, and learning, and decision making. But I’m glad I chose myself. I might still try to get traditionally published in the future, but for now, I’ve written four projects that are out in the world, and I’m proud of that.

What if you gave up that idea that it’s traditional publishing or bust?

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

2 thoughts on “What If You Gave Up?”

  1. I’ve learned to give up quite nicely with my writing. To whit: I have roughly one dozen incomplete manuscripts that have mostly petered out in some shape or form; A planned trilogy that has one volume published, the second volume completed and simply waiting for me to work on it roughly 1 1/2 years after receiving it back from the editor and the last volume roughly halfway completed.

    I have three completed manuscripts waiting for me to tackle the next stage of the process; found one short story that I’m re-writing and found another eighty plus pile of glop that has me very intrigued.

    So yeah, sometimes, it’s just the point of simply weighing the pros and cons and making a decision about a particular story/manuscript. Which means that sometimes, you have to move on.

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