Wednesday, October 29

Doing What We Think We Can't

I've always been able to see the accomplishments that other people have made so much more clearly than I can see my own. That is both a blessing and a curse. I've never been a conceited person (benefit). On the other hand I think its important to self-esteem to really 'see' what we've done.

RadioMan and I started biking in the spring. I don't care what they say, riding a bike for the first time in ... well, too many years, isn't easy. Its hard. There is balance to be re-learned, peddling to master. That first ride I barely made it around the outside loop of our neighborhood (a 3 mile stretch). I had to stop once and I wasn't fast; I think those 4 miles took a solid 30 minutes. I liked biking but I wasn't at all sure I could do it.

The next day, same result.

The following day, same result.

I kept trying, though, because each time I rode there was a moment when I didn't hurt and when I remembered how much fun I had riding my bike as a kid. My goal was to be able to ride 20 miles per session by the end of the summer...I hit 18, and I think that is a good accomplishment, but next summer I'm going to hit that 20-per-session mark...and maybe more.

Obstacles aren't just in exercise programs. Obstacles can be anywhere - a particularly hard class in school, chasing a dream or making a change from Job A to Career B and most definitely in our writing. Every time I start I new book the same fear hits me: this will be the book I can't write.

Over the summer I really thought I'd hit the writing wall because I started a book that I just couldn't get a handle on. I started it, stopped it, re-started and stopped again so many times I wanted to scream. I tweaked characterization, motivation, goals and conflicts so many times I just wanted to toss the project in the trash. So I started something completely different...and the messed up characters from The Project That Wouldn't Let Me Write It bugged me until that new project imploded, too. So I started tweaking and fiddling and tweaking one more time.

No, there was no lightbulb moment and at no point did the heavens open and angels begin singing...but hard-fought-for-word after hard-fought-for-word made it onto my pages. Conflicts and resolutions came into that book that I'd never imagined. Good conflicts and good resolutions and eventually I was able to write The End - something that, had you asked mid-summer, I'd have said would never happen.

I don't have any great advice on how I worked through the block that was that book, but I have a little distance from the project now and I think it's good. There are some rough areas that I'll polish in revisions...but overall the book is good.

What is better is that I can look back at the battle of this book and I can see how this particular battle changed my writing process and how I approach a story. It changed how I look at writing, in general, in a good way. This book, as awful as it was in the middle of it, has made me a better writer and has inspired me to open another blank document and start the process all over again. This time, I'll remember the battles I fought to write that book. I'll draw on the strength that kept me on that bike for 18 miles and I'll remind myself that I can....even when I think I can't.


  1. some words/stories just don't want to cooperate. it is a battle to get it right. but when you do, wow, the story can really soar. nice post.

  2. Kristi--what an inspiring post! I bought a bike last summer--just a one speed old fashioned roadster and I have yet to get it on the road. For the reasons you gave--I do not remember bike seats being that uncomfortable when I was kid, what's up with that???

    But since reading this, I'm now thinking more seriously about it. I always loved biking as a kid. And I love that you fought back to win you book battle!

  3. What I've learned, Margie, is it's all about the seat - so you might check with your local bike shop...they'll probably let you try out a couple of different ones so you can figure out which is the most comfortable. Made ALL the difference for me. :)

  4. Super post, Kristi and man, oh, man, have I ever had those very same fears and concerns. I'm in revision now on WOWB book 3 and the wall seems to keep hitting me! But, I'm doing it. Each day, working...and yup, it's like riding a bike. Just keep doing it and you'll be surprised by how far you've gotten. Thanks!!

  5. I love this post! Sorry to be so late checking in. Off-line for a few days. What a great job, and I can't wait to see the book.