(A blog by Paul Sating, Executive Director of Subject: Found)
"Okay, that is nonsensical."
I can see those types of comments and reactions coming, but I swear it makes sense ... at least in my head.
My perception-my reality, right?
But what do I really mean when I say if you want your writing to be 'fresh' that you need to stop writing?
Please allow me a moment to explain my preposterous reasoning. I am currently writing episodes for two complete seasons of two different audio dramas, the one you are reading this blog from and Atheist Apocalypse, which is a satirical comedy (regardless of how much that title might scare you). In between those projects I am also a father, husband and a slave to the system. Oh, and I'm 50,000 words deep into a manuscript which will hopefully be a neat accompaniment to the Atheist Apocalypse story. Basically, I'm saying, I'm doing a lot of writing.
But I love it. I have the bug. I wake each morning at 5:15 excited to be alive, knowing that in a few minutes I'll have a cup of coffee in my hands and a keyboard at my fingertips. Essentially I'm saying that I get off on this stuff.
I just love to create.
But there comes a point where I run into metaphorical walls. No, not writer's block; I have more ideas than time to flesh them out, never mind starting on the writing out of said ideas. That is not one of my walls. What does act as a wall, though, are those times when I've found myself falling into those same, jaded, tropes or walking down the same damn dead-end alley I've taken a hundred characters before. Sure, a quick brainstorming session usually gets me out of those sticky situations, but not always ... and they're not always pain-free either.
Recently I found myself in that exact spot with Atheist Apocalypse's wanna-be-novel-that's-still-a-manuscript. I found the story-line and one of the critical characters to be doing the predictable and I hated her for it. Which is unfair, when you think about it, because, uh, she's not real and it isn't her fault that I was making her do something a million writers before me made their characters do in order to create conflict in the story. That's when I knew it was time for a breakup.
It's not you, it's me.
I didn't hate that character, her individual story arc or the manuscript ... though there are times ... boy, are there times! No, I was numb to where I'd led her and had to fix it quickly or risk added this work to the slush pile of works I've dumped over the years.
So I did what all smart writers (theory unproven) do; I walked away. That's right; I was going on vacation anyways so it was the perfect time to set that work aside, do some relaxing, and not write a damn word.
And let me tell you, that was tough. Just like an addict needing a fix, I made it two whole days before sneaking out the laptop I'd brought along with me. Oh, don't worry, my family was too busy being distracted by the beautiful, new and fresh sights around us to notice I was cheating on them. But, in my defense, I didn't work on the manuscript, instead I punched out a rough draft of this audio drama in just under two hours. Four thousand words later I was able to set the computer down with a satisfied smile and spent the next six days enjoying my loved ones and the new places and things we were seeing.
No writing happened.
I didn't touch the problematic manuscript for 11 days, all told, and when I came back I saw not only the corner I'd painted my character into in a new light, but I saw her differently. I saw a separate, minor character differently. And I'd come up with a new ending that blew the old ending out of the water. All without putting a finger on a keyboard!
I'll be honest, that new perspective came without thought or planning. It was as if those 11 days reset my brain. And when my fingers went back to the keyboard the next morning new life was breathed into the work.
I can't guarantee you this will work for everyone but I challenge you to give it a try the next time you feel that momentum slowing or you feel the tug of taking that banal path with your story and its characters.
Put down your work for a few days or maybe even a week or two, if you have the fortitude to do so, and see what it looks like when you pick it up again. (Hint: just remember to pic it up again!)
Who knows? You may just find that it (and you) are re-energized, re-inspired and on the NYT Best Seller's list.
If you'd like to follow Paul Sating you can also find him on Facebook, Twitter andInstagram. He is on Snapchat too, but mostly uses that to screw with his kids.