Tuesday, April 1, 2014

When it doesn't work

Yesterday I was trying to compose a piece for a particular purpose and it just wasn't working.

Most of the time, when I'm either inspired to write or asked to write about a particular topic, it just happens. I have things to say, and they pop out, and there they are. I edit them a little bit, fine-tune some of the vocabulary, look for repetition, trim words (because I'm usually too wordy), and submit it. This is how it was for me in school--even if I had little to no interest in a topic, I could write about it in detail and with enough flavor and nuance to make it worth reading, at least. And since I now am almost always writing about topics I am passionate about, it's generally even easier.

I'll answer questions in depth, respond to comments, give advice, suddenly dump a bucket of text in a reblog, most of it without a second thought. And yet, there are still times when I hit a wall. Like yesterday.

I hate when writing feels like pulling teeth. (I've been fortunate enough to never have this issue with my fiction, but with nonfiction it does happen every once in a while.) I wrote my piece slowly, feeling like I was stretching between the points, not feeling any natural flow or connection, kind of trying to force it when it resisted. And ultimately, I came up with a piece I hate.

I read it over and tried to tease it into being better. But I reread it and then reread it again, and I don't think it can be saved. This just isn't what I wanted to say. I can do better than this. I'll just have to go back to the drawing board.

I guess it's important for us as writers to be honest with ourselves when something just isn't working. I think you can occasionally stitch it up so it holds together, but most of the time, you just have to rip it apart and start over when it gets poisoned like that. I haven't yet figured out, for this project, why it was so painful to squeeze it out and why it was so misshapen when it was complete, but I do know it doesn't meet the standards I hold myself to, so I won't be turning it in the way it is. If I don't even like it, why would I expect someone else to be satisfied with it?

From now on, I think instead of fighting that resistance when it happens, I'm going to just tear it down and start over. It happens rarely enough that it wouldn't become a habit, I'm sure; my brain is just telling me something's wrong, or that I'm starting in the wrong place.

Now to go find the right place. . . .

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