About four years ago, I started writing a romance story by accident. It began with a scene in my head that I kept developing until it became a draft about 100 pages long. In fact, I called the file on my computer “the scene in my head” because I didn’t know what I wanted to call it. I spent hours each day working on it. I dreamed about the characters and the story. I researched drugs, gunshot wounds and police protocol. I cared about these fake people I’d created. And then I just stopped writing.
It wasn’t a purposeful decision to stop. I read and re-read the parts I loved, like I would when reading a favorite book. But my story was never a complete draft. It had holes I didn’t know how to fill and when I tried filling those holes I didn’t like my story anymore. What would I do with the draft anyway? I didn’t even let my husband read it, except for when I had questions about cars and needed his input on a scene. (He only got to read that part.) And really, the premise was pure cheesy romance. Who, besides me, likes cheesy romance novels these days? My characters weren’t believable and I was just a mediocre writer. So I got discouraged and believed all the negative critics in my head. And I gave up.
Writing resources always say that it’s best to put a piece away for a time, even if you’re satisfied with it, to read it with renewed perspective. I thought if I did that, I could return to the draft and re-write it and complete it someday. I put it all in a binder, along with my research notes, my scribbled up notebooks and my books about writing and stuck it all in a box. I unsubscribed to all those writing websites. It felt like it was what I needed to do. There were bills to pay, a house to clean and my family that needed my attention. The box got shelved out of sight where I wouldn’t see it and be reminded of my silly attempt to write a novel.
I had failed.
But I didn’t forget about the box or my story, especially the characters. I’d see an actor on television and think of how he reminded me of one of my characters. Or I’d read a romance novel and think how my story had a premise just as good. Even with the job and the house and the responsibilities, I found a way to fit writing back into my life. I started remembering how good it feels when the words just flow onto the pages by themselves. How I love words and grammar and when a paragraph turns out just the way I want it to sound. Last week I found the box and I had the nerve to open it. And for the first time in four years I thought about taking out that story and looking at it with those fresh eyes I should have by now.
In the short time I’ve been blogging I’ve learned something. What I post might only get read by two other human beings besides me, but I’m a happier person for having written it. My brain works better when I have a creative outlet. In the case of the draft of my romance story, it’s not all about success or failure with writing; it is the process, and I genuinely love it, even those times when I think I don’t. Do I like having an audience for my writing? Of course. But while I enjoy when other people like what I write, I need to remember that it’s the actual writing part that makes me a “writer”. Not how well it’s received or by whom.
Will I ever finish this story of unrequited love that now sits in the box in my office? I’m still not convinced. But I now think it might be time to dust off the binder and at least take another look and decide. It’s time to take my writing out of the box and back onto the computer.
Comments on: "A Literal Story of Taking Writing Out of the Box" (5)
Writing is hard if you’re and extroverted person. Because the butt time spent alone or with your characters can be so consuming that laundry piles up and no one eats fresh food. When and old-unfinished story creeps back to life it kind of reminds me of that really great pair of pants that I refused to donate. “I’ll save you pants…because someday I will be skinny again!” We better ourselves when we believe in ourselves. No matter what–the love of something always wins. And romance stories are a multibillion dollar enterprise. Everyone loves sex and love.
You’re right about the needing the “butt in the chair” when you’re always happiest around people. Hey, at least summer’s coming so we can go with less clothes, right? Oh, and Kim, I keep the too-small pants/shirts also. 🙂
U made me laugh, Amy, when u said “I had failed”. How can n e 1 fail, if they’ve started the writing/notes, put in hours of dreaming (brainstorming), research, etc.? Sounded like a “To be Continued”, to me. At least you were far enough to “get off the pot”! I haven’t gotten as far as the first part of that saying, & have the laundry piles, “heat up” meals, etc. I’m not a “writer”, but n e time one spends – even journaling, seems like a new chance for growth & rediscovery… But then, I’m just a 51+ woman, who DOES all the procrastination, & “blaming” stuff you accuse yourself of!
*** I always see writer’s notes thanking those who’ve “helped” them get over stumbling blocks w/characters, or directions to take from one point in their book to another so the story still flowed… Who wrote that rule, “Amy must do the ENTIRE thing all on her own”?
I’d be thrilled to be one of “those people” at a books end! Even if u never quite finish it, get it published, etc. Just the opportunity for being able to “bless” you w/my perspective would help me feel productive, for once. Therefore, YOU’D be “blessing” me, too, right? Kristin
I love the idea of “To Be Continued”. And Kristin, I’d love to bounce some ideas off of you…you are always the person who thinks out of the box. Sorry, I know that sounds cliche’ but I it fits you perfectly! You can bring a new perspective for sure…and give me some sideways angles to see stuff. I promise when I have more of a coherent story you will be one of my go to people to get an opinion from. Maybe I should throw in a few ghosts for us, too, to liven it up! 🙂 Maybe a scene where the minivan in the garage’s lights go off and on? 🙂
Definitely the minivan sequence, if it EVER makes a good segue? Or a “stinker” like Charles w/Jay & Grant? Ooh! A fun loving ghost to whisper suggestive comments in the ear of the character in need of direction? COOL…