Writing: Knowing When to Step Back

This is my note wall which houses editing ideas for my first novel, The Secrets of Womanhood. It also has filled in with ideas for my second novel, The Hunted & The Hidden. What you can’t see to the right is another wall full of sticky notes for all the other projects I currently have my fingers in.

Let’s just say it is all a bit overwhelming.

I finished the first draft of my novel The Secrets of Womanhood on March 31, 2020. This novel was over ten years in the making. It was something I pulled out every year, added a few lines, felt discouraged and put away. Last year when I started going to a writer’s group, I began working on it in earnest. The problem with this novel was that in its first draft is more fictionalized autobiography than fiction. The story arc isn’t where it should be. The characters under developed because of one personal issue or another.

By the time I started the second draft, I was no more sure of what I needed to do to make it better. The pandemic was in full swing and I used this time to write a collection of poetry with a friend, I took poetry workshops online, and I proposed a fresh novel idea to my small writing group. The proposal went well, and it fell into a brainstorming session that set me on fire.

For seven weeks, I wrote a chapter a week. Sometimes a chapter in two days if that was all the time I had with a busy summer schedule of work, new kittens, and disc golf. This week I hit a plateau in my desire to produce anything. I think my over productive tendencies have finally caught up with me in the worst way. I spread myself too thin, and now I lack the momentum to get going again.

Much of the problem comes from not wanting to be a disappointment. I love my small writing group because they elevate my writing and they are two tough cookies with editing. They don’t let me get away with anything. We are brutal with each other and then also caring and tender.

(Shhhhh, don’t tell Jerry I said that. He hates feelings.)

Another part is I think the pandemic is finally taking its toll on me. I can do more social things, but not the social things I want to do. It has taken me a long time to curate friendships and I miss the human connection and the freedom to connect that we had before all of this started. We are all staying safe, but it makes me feel lonely sometimes. I find it very difficult to produce enjoyable work when this happens.

Today, I passed out on the couch for an afternoon nap. I rarely allow myself to “waste” free time, but the air was cool in front of the fan and I had a kitten curled up behind my knees. The sky was brilliant blue with cotton candy clouds. The recipe was right for recharging. It is hard to recognize in this age of instant gratification, perfection, over-production that we all need to slow down and take a break. Re-cooperation is what drives meaningful work. Go ahead, give yourself a free pass. You deserve it.