To Find It, Walk Away

by Debora Dale

We‘ve all experienced the frustration of searching for something we later find in a spot we know we looked several times before. It‘s only when you stop searching for it that it seems to appear magically. We know this, yet we keep looking.

It‘s the same with a rough spot in our writing. Sometimes, the best way to overcome a story roadblock is to climb it. Sometimes the best way is to walk away and hope, by the time you come back, that roadblock will be gone.

That‘s how it was for me just recently. My work in progress required my hero to fail for a second time. My concern was how to make him fail without having him seem like a failure. Every scenario I considered pointed toward his incompetence. I‘d received advice from more seasoned writers who told me to step away from the work for a while, maybe even start a new project, then come back and start again. I resisted. I simply had to find the answer. I would think of nothing else until it presented itself.

I wasted more days that way than I will admit – even to myself.

Eventually, I ran out of options. I‘d planned a family vacation and was forced to put the story aside. While playing in the sun, exploring new surroundings and throwing myself into new and exciting adventures, I stopped thinking about my story problem. Each evening, I‘d feel a pang of guilt for not having written a word that day, and for not having spent tortured hours contemplating the course of events for my battered hero.

And then our vacation ended. I opened my story, read it through to the roadblock and had the most incredibly dull ah-ha moment of my life. The ‘answer‘ was right there all along. Nothing new or brilliant came to me – though I like to think all of my writing has a glimmer of brilliance to it. In-stead, I found what I was looking for right where I‘d left it. It took a short walk away for me to find it.

Next time you‘re stuck in a jumble of ideas, step back. Allow yourself the break. It‘s not cheating. It‘s not playing. The creative side of you, the side that dreams, breathes and loves your characters, will still be working, but she‘ll be working without the added pressure of you, her boss, breathing down her neck.

Trust yourself. Take care of yourself. And be gentle with your muse. Some-times, she works better without your help.

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