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.
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.
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?
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…)
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.
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.