Letting Go Of The Flail

I read a lot of stuff about nutrition and fitness and food allergies and…all kinds of stuff.  This is not actually a post about that, but it’s inspired by an article that hit my inbox yesterday while I was in the midst of my personal Broken Book Flail.  Nia Shanks, one of my FAVORITE fitness experts, wrote a post about letting go.  In her case it was obsessive anxiety and disordered eating.   She talks about how she asked herself, finally,

“What’s the worst that could happen, if I… [do the thing I’m freaking out about].”

She couldn’t come up with any serious consequences for that behavior.

I got to thinking about that in the context of my own flail.

Claire said several times yesterday that maybe I need to learn to slow down.  Which promptly put me on the defensive and be all “I’M ALREADY WORKING AT A DAMNED SNAIL’S PACE!”  “By whose standards?”  To which I had no response because they’re my own standards.

Because I work two other jobs on top of writing, because I have to do all the irritating, responsible grown up crap that nobody tells you about when you’re a kid being all “BUT I WANNA BE A GROWN UP!”, I have very limited time to devote to the thing I WANT TO DO.  Having 152+ hours of my week taken up with ALL THAT OTHER CRAP (okay…sleeping is not crap, I like sleeping and would like to do more of it) means that I permanently feel like I am BEHIND, like I don’t have TIME, like every second HAS TO COUNT.   The time I carve out to write feels like it’s stolen from the rest of my life with a blade and a shield and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.   I am the QUEEN of spreadsheets and creation of production schedules, tracking things, setting measurable GOALS and deadlines.

I’m always seeking to improve and find ways to better my craft and be more efficient.  The idea being that it’s more productive to take longer to plot and figure out the plot screw ups in that phase than when I’m way into a draft.  To a point that’s true.  It IS more efficient to do that (for me) than to have to write 3 or 4 drafts (also the idea of writing 3 or 4 drafts of anything basically does to me what my master’s thesis did–makes me HATE what I’m writing about).  But there’s a fundamental breakdown somewhere in my process, where I’m not GETTING something I need out of my plotting on longer works, such that I get to some point in the writing and realize something is messed up in a big way and then start the flailing, desperate, going down for the third time because I DON’T EFFING HAVE TIME.

Which brings me back to Nia’s question.

What’s the worst that could happen?

I have to start over.  I lose 3 months of work.

And why does that matter?  Apart from the personal insult to my self imposed deadline?

The answer?  It doesn’t.

The whole reason I’m doing this is a) because I have a deep and driving need to tell stories.  b) Because I ultimately want to build a long term career out of this.

Losing 3 months in the grand scheme of a decades long career goal isn’t that much.  Not taking the time, not fixing things and putting out the best book possible (in particular this one, since it launches what will, hopefully, be a long term and popular series) will do me far more harm than taking the time.

Running into the wall is not a failure.  And better to hit it now than after I finished 100k or more (which is what happened with DOTH year before last–the project that effectively shattered my self confidence as a writer).  I JUST told somebody to reframe an experience they perceived as failure as merely one attempt.  Not the ONLY attempt.  I should learn to freaking listen to myself.

So.  I’m working on that whole letting go, thing.  It’s hard.  I despise anything I perceive as wasted time (due to that whole 152 hours of time suck), so my personal goal here is to find a way to reframe this so that it’s not wasted time.

And I’m off to go kill my little darlings.  :polishes sword:

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4 comments

  1. That’s a great question to ask. I’ve had two stories (albeit short stories) with plots that fell apart after the first draft. It’s frustrating to lose those words, but far better to make this story the best I can make it. So hello, rewrite!

    Hope all goes well with the new plotting plan. Best wishes and hang in there, wonderful writer!

  2. I know what you mean about the wasted time. You work on something for so long, and then you think “Was it all for nothing?”. I had a story that I had to totally abandon because I couldn’t figure out where to go with it. But we have to decide what to do…kill it or make it better.

    I agree about slowing down. You’re in this for the long haul.

  3. I’ve been where you are, both with not feeling like I’m working fast enough and with having to delete a large chunk of work (it was 60K for me). I don’t have any sage advice other than you will get through it and your story will be better for it in the end, even though it royally sucks while you’re doing it. If you find any ways to slow down, please blog about them because I (and I bet many others) would benefit. Keeping you in my thoughts.

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