By Voirey Linger
When the year comes to an end, I always top and assess the path I’ve traveled over the past twelve months. I’m not going to lie; it’s been a very rough year for me. This period of self-assessment hasn’t been easy.
Some of what made this year hard are easy to point out, easily understood by others. I lost my father, business problems beyond my control, financial setbacks. Things that anyone can experience at any time. But then there are the other things, the things no so easy to express, the things most people will nod and know they’ve effected me, but without really understanding the impact.
My year has been full of these little things. While I won’t take the time to outline each little problem (trust me, it would sound like a lot of petty whining if I did) I can talk about where it left me. I can sum that up pretty quickly. It left me nowhere.
For most of 2014, I’ve been drifting. I wasn’t writing much. What I was writing wasn’t going well, and in some cases the stories weren’t going anywhere. I had a couple story ideas that felt brilliant, only to have them die off and vanish before I managed to write them down. In all of 2014, I managed to finish the rough draft of one book, and that was mostly written in 2013. To make things worse, my sales on previously published books were tanking, leaving me without writing income.
No books, no stories, no writing income, no clue where I was going with my career. I felt lost.
Then came our September writing retreat. I’m not going to pretend it fixed everything, but it did give me a hard kick in the backside. Writing that weekend was an act of determination. I chose to work on a story I’d abandoned in 2013. if that one got finished, I knew I’d get back on track, so I dug on and just wrote. I hated a lot of my output, skipped scenes in favor of moving on with the story, really did a messy drafting, but I wrote it.
A funny thing happened when that manuscript got back on track. My career started to find direction. I took some time away from the computer in October and took the time to get my bearings on what I wanted to happen with my writing, where I wanted to go and what it would take to get there. That, in turn, kicked back to the writing and suddenly, I felt it… the drive I’d been missing all year.
In November, I used NaNoWriMo to finish the rough draft and to restart another book I’d let fall by the wayside. I also worked on some rewrites for a book abandoned six years ago. I retaught myself some important manuscript juggling skills and focused on the process of using dictation software to fast draft.
I’m still working on the dictation. My goal is to pick up speed, increase daily word counts and get some of my backlog of projects done.
If you’d asked me about my writing career a few months ago, I might have nodded, smiled and said it was going slowly but it was going. If you were a close friend, I might have told you the truth, that is was dead in the water and I was considering quitting.
If you ask me today, I’ll have a very different answer. I’ve replotted my future. I’m using this slump to change course, move to more mainstream contemporary storylines (ignore the sci-fi and dystopian bunnies I’m petting) and have a firm plan for the next twelve months, both in career moves and writing schedule.
I guess my takeaway from all this is that sometimes we lose direction. Writing and career flounder, falter and fall flat. Sometimes we need a kick in the pants and to take some time to really think about what we want from not only our careers, but life in general. Most importantly, that when that stall happens, when we feel stuck with no place to go, it is possible to find our way out of the rut and reconnect with the love of writing.
What lessons did you learn about your writing career this year?