Lessons Learned Yet Again

Writing has been a struggle for months now. A few weeks ago I turned to three friends and one husband. As always, they listen.

And then, as always, I turn to music. The Arran Boat Song (also know as The Aran Boat Song) is one of my favorites. It’s a lament that was around in the 1700s although the exact age is unknown. Feel free to listen while I chat, especially if you need some quiet music in this crazy world right now. It’s a song that always allows me to drift off into stories.

The Arran Boat Song

I’ve spent months trying to write a new story and every single word felt wrong. I’ve started it over four times so far. I then moved to working on the fifth book in the mystery series only to fight every single word there, too. So what helps?

Friends who can gently ask the questions that you already know the answers to.

Especially when you’ve been here before and when you’ve faced the same questions before, and by now should really know the answers.

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Can’t see the forest for the trees?

One friend asked ‘what has changed?’ My writing. I’m trying to write the way I always have, and it just isn’t the way these stories want to be told. The characters are stepping away from me and holding up their hands, telling me to wait and listen.

Which leads to ‘why’.

Sometimes the struggle is because I went down one path when the story wanted to go another. One friend asked ‘what would happen if you bushwhacked until you found the trail again?’ And another asked ‘If what is missing is the trail, maybe all that means is you’ve picked up all the tools along the paths to start foraging your own way’.

Do you see how well they know me, that they use forest analogies?

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I want to sit in the cup of that tree.

Sometimes I take a character or subplot in the wrong direction. Sometimes I try to take the whole dang story in the wrong direction. Like when you’re trying to force a haunting into a mystery. When that happens you need friends who send an email that says:

What I’m sensing in your emails is this: 

– grief (I won’t pretend to know for exactly what)
– a feeling of being lost, lack of direction
– the desire to enter into some sort of magical realm, so to speak (in
your emails: folklore stories that inspire, characters that are attracted to the elemental parts of the world…)

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Elemental forest creature or clay bank with stream and two rocks that fell out? And do you see the smaller face to the side?

And when you read those words, that inner writer lights up and says ‘YES!’ That character – she’s grieving, she’s seeking something elemental, some story to take her away. The mystery is still there, but now, there’s more.

Finally, you need friends and family who believe in you so when you start hitting the potholes in the trail, they carry you over them then give you a little push.

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A narrow trail I stumbled down recently.

I’m not moving forward yet, but I think I see the path. But more importantly, I’m laughing. Because I’ve learned all these lessons before. Because I seem to need to relearn them after every book is finished.

Stumbling around fighting words must be the writing process before I can start something new. I’m lucky my family is patient. They should record all of this and play it back to me each time I finish a project and struggle to write the next one.

Another lesson learned.

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2 thoughts on “Lessons Learned Yet Again

  1. I can totally relate to this Lisa. One thing I do with great success is to use another creative outlet to get pistons firing again. For instance, like you’re saying here that you listen to music, and I totally get that one for sure – music plays a huge role in my process. Have you picked up an instrument and made music? As a fellow creative I’ve found sparking other creative avenues for creativity sake leads to big rewards for me. Writing is a big one for me when I find I’m blocked on a painting or I’m stuck and everything I paint turns to shit. The goal is not to switch arts or even be any good – far from it. I’ve written a lot of poems no one will ever see but man I’m telling you it does something, something powerful. It’s like the key that unlocks a door that I didn’t know was there. So my suggestion for you is to pick up a pencil with the intention of making marks, not words and see where that leads you. You might find it helps you like it does me and throws gasoline on that creative fire. Who doesn’t love that?

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    • Your question about picking up an instrument made me laugh. Mom made all us kids be in band all throughout school, whether we wanted it, or whether we had any musical talent (which I don’t). I played clarinet, hated the instrument (wanted bagpipes which the high school band didn’t allow) and was also terrible at it. But I love music. I like your idea of just making marks, of just moving pencil across paper, and seeing what happens. Might just have to try that.

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