In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Object of My Dejection.”
So I wrote about giving up on a project briefly in this post, but that triggered some memories for me and I felt like I wanted to expand upon it more. Because I’m struggling with that project again, and this ghost needs to be laid to rest once and for all.
About this time last year, I gave up on a writing project. It was something I’d been writing since March 2012, but in reality had been thinking about since the summer of 2011. I’d written a first draft, had tried editing, hit a roadblock, tried editing again, hit another roadblock, changed the opening, and again, and again, and again. I’d followed all of the advice – letting it marinate, working on other things, working on it intensively, hand-writing drafts, back-writing summaries, color-coding my notes, examining the storylines intensively, NaNoWriMo. I turned it into a trilogy and started writing anew. You name it, I’d probably done it. Towards the end, I was dreading sitting at the laptop – I was literally writing a sentence and deleting it because I hated how it sounded. My inner critic was on maximum volume, and all I could hear was: This is rubbish.
Then I read Sarah Dessen’s “Abandoning. And Listening.” which was about giving up on projects that were making you miserable and focusing on other things. Her words resonated with me so intensely, I took the plunge and I gave up.
I should clarify, this was not by far my first writing project. Nor was it the first one I’d been strongly invested in (oh, the strongly worded ANs I’d written in my fanfiction.net days. I still blush thinking about them.) And it was NOT the first one I’d given up on. But with every writing project before it, I hadn’t really used the G-word before. I had “set them aside” and I had “needed time to think.” Many of them had exhausted me during the revision process, but at the back of my mind, I’d always thought I’d come back. Eventually.
This, however, was the first time I was shelving a story indefinitely. I was taking something I’d put considerable time and energy into, and which was very dear to my heart, and saying: “It’s not going to happen. I can’t write you.”
I don’t need to spell out how it felt. You probably have your own stories to contribute.
If you read “Lessons from the Kitchen,” you probably know that I did come back to the story. Sort of. I set it aside, but it still remained, at the back of my head, alongside all those other stories that I had set aside and wasn’t picking up. I expected it – I wasn’t willing to let it go either. In fact, you know how sometimes characters take up residence in your head and you imagine them going about their lives all the time? Well, it gave me an idea about a follow-up to the story I’d set aside. A follow-up that could be read on its own.
I want to write that story now. I’m weary about the process, but after finishing a draft of another story in summer (first time in a while, as it happens) I feel a lot more encouraged. I still think Sarah Dessen makes a good point – abandoning is sometimes necessary, but now I’m doing the “and listening” part, and I’m hearing a lot more than my Inner Critic.
For example: How, at the time I did those revisions, I was working a 9-to-6 that was actually an 8-to-7 because of commute.
For example: How all my time outside of work went to things like housekeeping, exercise, and generally trying to keep myself sane.
For example: How the blinds at my place only went up on weekends because it was when I would see the sun.
For example: How I was struggling with the difficulties of being in the final year of a degree that didn’t seem to guarantee me gainful employment, and how that gainful employment would just be more of the same (i.e. long hours, stress, almost no time for outside interests, minimal socialization.)
For example: My own inexperience and impatience that affected my writing.
There is always something to be learnt from listening.