Recently, I saw a magazine piece on Gillian Flynn (is there any magazine without a piece about her these days?). She was quoted as saying that there are lots of talented, unpublished writers out there who gave up when the writing got tough. Personally, I feel reassured to know it gets tough for her, too.
I spent many sleepless nights as I struggled through multiple drafts of Shrink Rapt. I’m having quite a few of them now as I try to complete the first draft of my new novel, Tell On You. There are so many impasses along the way. Where will I find my subplots? Do my characters have distinctive enough voices? How will I pull off the ending? Is my protagonist likeable/brave/dark/convincing/funny/beset enough? How can I write convincingly about forensic or medical or whatever kind of procedures, when I’m clueless about them?
I call it Hitting the Wall.
You’re cruising along in your writing, and, bam! There it is. What do you do? Go around it? Can’t, it’s too wide. Over it? Too high. Hit your head against it? Probably. Walk away from it? Obviously, many do.
I’ve learned a writer must make friends with the wall. Accept the impasse. Give ourselves permission not to know how to solve the problem yet, but don’t give up, either. It’s okay to be stumped. Necessary, in fact. It doesn’t make us bad writers. It makes us writers.
Chew on the problem. Savor it. Play with it, research it, redefine it. Inch forward, and eventually something wonderful happens.
We discover how to problem solve, that it can even be fun to face the challenge. Befriend the wall, because it’s going to teach you how to grow as a writer. And then the next wall won’t be quite as intimidating.