Ever had a story idea, and then abandoned it after just a few lines? Ever had a surge of inspiration for a novel, but a few pages in, decided it wasn’t worth continuing? Ever discarded a project with scorn, telling yourself, That’s a dumb idea?
If the initial spark had lost all appeal, then fair enough. It probably wasn’t right for you.
But if you talked yourself out of continuing because you could hear the critical voices in your head – ‘Too mundane’… ‘Nothing new here’… ‘Clunky and dull’ – then you may have been experiencing a normal reaction to fresh, unedited work. It wasn’t good yet. It was only just beginning to figure out what it might be. What it could become.
Author & writing teacher Alan Watt says of early stage writing:
‘Everything we imagine either belongs in our story or is leading us to what ultimately belongs. We can’t do this wrong’. He advocates holding our stories loosely, and says, ‘We cannot make a mistake. It isn’t possible. We are simply investigating the possibilities that enter our imagination.’
After finishing edits on my story collection last year, I took a break from writing. I was tired and felt depleted, but I think I was also afraid. I’d seemingly pulled a rabbit out of a hat in getting published – now I felt like I might never manage that particular trick again.
The book came out on February 1st this year, and since then there have been book events, promotional pieces to write, a few writers festivals, and other things in my life taking up time. But my mind was ticking over, and kept returning to a particular idea – a scenario I’d like to explore.
It’s not a ground-breaking idea. It’s not new, though it’s hopefully a slight twist on an old story. It’s definitely not clever, or political, or earth-shattering. So I kept telling myself negative things, exactly like the ‘voice’ above. Not surprisingly, this wasn’t helpful! When I tried sketching out a few scenes, the writing made me mildly nauseous. In my free time, I’ve been avoiding writing, instead reading, walking, baking or patting my dog until she gets up and walks away (she actually does this! So rude).
Today I’m determined to change my attitude. I’m going to let myself feel real enthusiasm for my idea, which I truly believe can be good, if done well. Writing it will take time, persistence and faith. I will probably have many crises. But if I just keep creating, I’ll keep learning – which means none of the work is ever wasted.
If you’ve been suffering doubt about something you’ve scarcely begun, I hope you too can take a moment to reassess. Maybe your idea isn’t dumb at all. Maybe it just scares you. Maybe you’re worrying too much (way too far in advance) about what others will think. Maybe you’re afraid you can’t pull it off. But none of these are reasons to quit.
So, we go on 💪