It’s hard to admit you’ve lost your way. It’s even worse when you knew where the signposts were, but you turned a blind eye and wilfully cut your own track anyway. The problem is, if you are going the wrong way eventually you will have to get back on track, or be forced to an untimely halt.
This happened to me with my writing process. I have written for as long as I can remember – journals, sketches, short stories, songs and poems. I would get up early in the morning to steal quiet time, sneak off by myself during lunch breaks, and be thrilled with any time I could snatch to put pen to paper. It was a joy; a private, cherished, personal joy.
Yet I still wandered so far off my personal writing path that I lost all joy in the writing process. And I did this because I didn’t trust my own gift or my instinct – but decided to find how it should be done.
I could bore you with all the things that didn’t work, but the truth was I spent too much time listening to everyone else and not paying attention to my unique writing process. Eventually I had to admit that sitting around with other writers trying to dissect my poor, limp, over-thought, prose was a waste of time. I have since learned that if you find yourself dissecting something, it is already dead.
Fortunately even a dream can be jump-started. In my case the emergency paddles came in the form of regaining perspective.
I had to step back from the story and ask what had inspired me to dream up Fall of the Kings in the first place?
And I realised, for me, it has always been scratching at the why. Why people do what they do? Why seemingly small decisions can change the course of our whole lives? Why some people insist on sucking on lemons, while others jump at the chance to make lemonade?
My writing process used to involve spending time paddling around in backstories that would never make it into the novel. Apparently this isn’t an efficient way to write – but it has always brought me joy, so I’ve decided to trust my instincts and go back to what worked for me. The results have been promising too. I’ve recently learned a few juicy snippets about a couple of characters that explain why they are always picking at each other – so writing them now is fun.
A few years back I wrote a post, A Word about Waymarkers, which discussed the need for having markers or touchstones to keep a story on track. In hindsight I realised I missed a few crucial points. Firstly, it is important to take your bearings regularly, to look out for the markers, and always know where true north lies. It’s harder to go off track if you always know where you are. And perspective isn’t just for stories. If you can remember what motivates you to turn up at the page, and honour that process, you’re more likely to get to where you want to go.
I’d love to know how you stay true to your own writing style?