For the past two years, I’ve been plugging away at a novel that is nowhere near finished. I started with a bang, writing the first draft in four months. Then the editing phase began, where the real writing begins, so the experts say. I’m still muddling through the novel after starting over several times to make sure those first few chapters are “just right.” It’s much like starting to put together a giant jigsaw puzzle, but all you have are the pieces.
Some of that is, admittedly, my perfectionist tendencies. The rest is learning to trust my creative instinct. I have found that the deeper I go into writing my novel, the more I need to realize that there is a process to all this muddling through. The more often I get stuck in my current WIP, the more I realize I need to trust the process. The process, so it seems, knows more about my story’s natural progress than I do.
From my experience, I’ve found that there are several moments in one’s writing practice when it’s necessary to trust the creative process:
- When you begin to doubt yourself
- When you get stuck in a writing rut
- When you’re not sure where to go with the story next
- Whenever you face a blank page
There might be other moments too that I have not listed. You’ve probably noticed them yourself. It’s at those times when trusting the process is a necessity, not a luxury. When you forget about trusting the process and push on, that’s when things tend to go off the rails.
Everybody’s creative process is different, of course. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to writing. The hardest part for most newbie writers is figuring out the best process for your work-in-progress. That may require some experimentation. (Hence my multiple attempts at writing that oh-so-critical opening chapter). But once you figure it all out, getting to The End is much easier. (At least, I hope it is.)
So what does trusting the creative process look like? For me, it was:
1. Starting a writing project with only a vague idea of what it will look like in the end. Or conversely, …
2. Having a clear vision of how the story will end so you begin writing, trusting that your story will end where it’s supposed to.
3. Writing a little bit every day, knowing it might be crap but also understanding that something truly beautiful and valuable could emerge.
4. Knowing you have a gift for writing and knowing it’s what you love to do and want to do. People may tell you that writing is a waste of time, but you write anyway.
5. Writing for the sheer pleasure of it, knowing it may never achieve recognition or publication
6. Understanding that every story idea goes through a gestation period. It has to simmer on the back burner until you are ready to put pen to paper.
7. Not waiting for inspiration to begin writing. You write regardless if you have a clear idea what you want to write about. You gotta start somewhere.
8. Understanding that story ruts happen. See them as signs that you need to adjust the plot or introduce a new character. You know if the story isn’t going anywhere, it’s time to make something happen to move the story forward.
9. Knowing that a solution to your plot or character problem will show up if you are present enough to recognize it. The solution may come in the form of a webinar you attend, a conversation with a fellow writer, or a podcast.
10. Recognizing that writing can be a messy process. Sometimes there are no neat paths to completing your project. There are times you simply have to muddle through.
11. Recognizing that writing is scary – and doing it anyway. It’s a part of yourself that you are putting out into the world in the hopes that people will like it.
12. Taking time to appreciate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may be. From small accomplishments come larger ambitions to create something new.
So the next time you feel stuck in your writing, or you stare at a blank page or someone doubts the wisdom of your career choice, that’s when you may need to trust the creative process.