Every project I work on – especially when it's a long-form piece – has begun to feel like an investment: In myself, in my writing, in my future.
Each one starts out seeming so simple. Just an idea. But it builds over time into a complex story. With questions and puzzles and logic challenges and logic flaws and doubts. All of which have to be solved.
And it takes time to crack those puzzles.
Even though I've been able to move from concept to outline to draft much more quickly now than I have in the past, it's more than just a matter of pace and production. It's also about depth and attention -- preoccupation even -- for a period of my life. It's about making a commitment to a story that story occupies my time, my thoughts, my subconscious, my dreams. It occupies ME.
When I hear the stories of how many drafts it took to write The Sixth Sense and how many before he “got” the big idea, I appreciate even more what an investment a story is. Learning to tell it well. To refine it, hone it, pare away the unnecessary bits. All the rewriting. It’s no small thing.
And yet we dive into these stories with such hope and abandon. "This one will be different," we tell ourselves. "It'll practically write itself! I'll be done before I know it."
The grass is always greener
Just tonight I happened upon a journal entry from last year, where I was lamenting about how ready I was to write something new as I was slogging through a major rewrite. And since then, I have. And now I’m feeling about the new project the way I was feeling about the thing I was rewriting at the time. Or possibly worse. :)
Isn’t that funny, how the grass is always greener on the next project?
I think that must be part of the drive behind “bright shiny object syndrome” and the resultant project hopping we writers can get into. Those other projects look so much more appealing than our current moldy one, all banged up and warty and flawed.
No wonder we leave trails of unfinished projects behind us like breadcrumbs leading to a trove of forgotten dreams.
I think there may also be a hesitation to fully commit to a second or third or next project because we know what a major big deal it is having been through earlier projects. I can see why "second novel syndrome" may be more than an issue of simply exceeding the quality of one's prior work! It's also about psyching ourselves up for the next step in our writer's journey.
Difficult but worth doing
Because really, it's why we're here, right? To write?
So whether we're starting our first project or our tenth, or rewriting yet another draft, it's about facing the work. Finding the courage to do it. Stewing in the crummy, awkward, and sh*tty rough draft writing we’ve created or wrestling with the new story choices and puzzles, while we twist uncomfortably, grasping at straws, wondering how on earth to solve or fix it. It’s painful!! Who would want to subject herself to that?
No wonder we jump to other things.
But when I think of each project as an investment, it changes the picture for me.
It becomes worth it to put in the time.
It changes from the wretched torture of rewriting a terrible rough draft or struggling to pull the pieces together to something difficult but worth doing.
What about you?