I was away last week at the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony in Temecula for a writing retreat. I had an idea for a new project and had been writing a little bit here and there on it (I had about 10,000 words), but I wanted some focused time to dig in and figure it out.
This is something I’ve done from time to time in my career. I’m a firm believer in the idea that, to finish anything, you have to sit and work on it (almost) every day, if only for an hour. That said, sometimes you also need some longer periods of time (I’m talking days) to see a project as a whole, to step back and really think about structure and theme and characters. That’s what these retreats do for me. They’re like a pit stop on a long road trip when I check the map.
The week went well at first. I wrote roughly 13,000 words in the first two days (which is A LOT for me), but on the third day things slowed down. I would think of a scene to write and know that it simply didn’t fit in the story.
Normally, I coach my writers to just push through, just keep writing, and you can sort it all out after you have the first draft, but I kept feeling this resistance. In the past I would have called it wrier’s block, but I don’t believe in writer’s block anymore. In fact, in my coaching program, I devote a whole lesson to dismantling writer’s block. It’s not a thing. It’s just a catch-all phrase we use to describe 10 other things that often keep us from writing. So I thought about that list.
#6 on the list things masquerading as writer’s block is “You’re Writing in the Wrong Format.” For instance, you think you’re writing a short story, but it’s really meant to be a poem. Or you’re writing an essay that’s really meant to be a memoir.
Turns out, I’m writing a novella. I googled the word count range for novellas (it’s 10,000-40,000) and gave a little head nod. Am I really writing a novella? I think I am. I knew this project would be short (it’s political satire), but realizing it’s a novella suddenly made the whole structure fall into place.
I spent Thursday and Friday reorganizing what I had into a new structure and writing some scenes that needed to be written (no more “writer’s block” here), and then BAM, I had the first draft of a novella. Oh, the satisfaction!
Now I get to hand it off to my husband. We developed the idea together and he’s the political junkie in the house, so I asked him back in November if he would co-write it with me. It felt a little like proposing marriage and he said yes before I even finished asking him. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about co-writing (we’ve never done this before), but for now, I’m just feeling pretty proud to hand over a solid 27,000 word first draft.
Pamala Dean says
Sweet surrender! Good for you.
It’s a game changer!
Susan Beard says
Wow, just wow! Congrats April!
Onward with purpose and gratitude!
Best regards, Sube