Where a writer learns about writing by writing


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Almost halfway into this year, I struggle, hard, with one word I picked to guide me through 2021: momentum.

Momentum: the force that keeps an object moving, or keeps an event developing after it has started.

Cambridge Dictionary

I promised myself I would finish the first draft of my current work in progress, a fantasy novel I’m currently referring to as Kingdom. For the third year, I am following the four quarter planning tool taught by The Creative Academy, and at the retreat in January I planned to complete the first draft in the first quarter of the year, which ended at the end of March. I still have come nowhere near the end, and I’m well past the halfway mark of the second quarter. I’m stalled. Unable to find the energy, or motivation, to fight against the inertia pinning me in place, to find my way back to my story. Every passing day away from my manuscript roots me deeper and deeper in place, I fear.

How do I reignite my creative fire?

This isn’t a new pattern for me- there is a reason I chose momentum as one of my guiding words this year, after all. The unique challenges of 2021, coming to a head for my family this spring, have made it more difficult than ever before to overcome this challenge. The feeling of languishing, as outlined in this New York Times article, and my declining mental health have caused me to feel sad and apathetic. Heavy. My sense of hope has evaporated, whittled away by a year of constant change and uncertainty. Even getting my first dose of the vaccine, a joyous moment for many, was unaffecting. My day-to-day life didn’t change, and it didn’t feel like positive change was on the horizon. Just more flat, grey, Groundhog days doing the same few things with the same few people as I have been for over a year.

I was patient with myself. I decided to let time heal things. A month later, these are the first new words I’ve written. Even my new pandemic hobby, watercolour painting, deeply relaxing and rejuvenating a few weeks ago, has now fallen by the wayside. Without a creative outlet, my thoughts are spiralling, and with them, my mental health.

This week, though, a spark of hope. In my jurisdiction, British Columbia, the government released its four-step plan for reopening. Concrete dates, with clear directions on what can happen, when. Hope is shining in the crack beneath the door. For the first time this year, I think about making plans for more than a few days in the future. Now, I feel like I could return to my work in progress.

How do I nurture this fragile spark?

Self kindness is a must. My inner critic is a nasty bitch and she must remain firmly muzzled, or she will extinguish the fragile flame of hope. In the past, giving myself permission to work on something other than my novel, either prompts or short story contests, or my ‘secret’ passion project, a series of short stories about a small mouse who dreams of being a messenger, has helped fan the creative flames.

Once the words flow, switching to my novel is much easier. It’s good to get reacquainted with my characters and my fictional world, so reviewing my notes and the Pinterest board of images I’ve squirreled away will remind me of all I’ve accomplished so far. As long as my critic keeps her mouth shut, reading (not editing as I’m still in the drafting phase) will bring me up to speed on my story, and perhaps surprise me, if I find a beautiful sentence or two amongst the chaff.

Sometimes, writing by hand can help be re-access my story. Taking my notebook and favourite pen to a new location, usually outside, has also helped me in the past. Now that we can travel a bit more widely, I may even scout out some inspiring locations to put into my novel.

More than anything, reminding myself that this inertia is only a temporary stop, is important. It doesn’t have to become permanent if I don’t let it. If this week has taught me anything, it’s that all things end- even pandemics.

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