Wednesday, October 29
Doing What We Think We Can't
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.