In the fall, I turned my attention to teaching, to helping others become stronger writers. My days were full of day job No. 1 (PR-type writing) and teaching: meetings, conversations with students, photocopying, and long rounds of e-mailing. My nights were full of lesson-planning, lecture-writing, creating assignment sheets and tests, and, because I teach an upper-level writing course, lots and lots of grading, writing line edits and comments until I thought my hand might fall off. And you know what? My students make it worth it. When I bring that kind of dedication, I see confused students find a voice, I see strong students grow stronger, I see my enthusiasm reflected in their eyes and their work. And that makes the late nights worthwhile.
What suffers, though, is my creative work. I worked on a few small projects, but I wasn’t able to finish anything. By the end of 2010, I felt drained. Even though I accomplished a great deal (I wrote about 2/3 of current WIP), it didn’t feel that way.
So now here I am, with a semester off from teaching, ready to throw myself back into my novel with all of the energy and passion that I did last summer. But picking up where I left off isn’t as easy as I had hoped. And that feeling, that sinking feeling of being stuck, it’s starting to get to me. I’m writing slowly, but I feel disconnected from my work and my characters. I worry a lot, about not being able to get to where I want to go–to finish this story, to write the next one, to reach the level of writing I want to reach. Thoughts of finding an agent and becoming a published writer leave me dizzy. So I’m trying to live for this scene, this day, this moment. But I can’t shake the gnawing feeling in my gut that I’m spinning my wheels.
But I don’t give up writing. Maybe it’s one of those “If you build it, they will come,” scenarios. If I keep writing, the muses will tiptoe in the door. If I put my fingers on the keyboard, the story will begin to seep out of me. If I sit in that space each day and just keep writing, the characters will start telling me their stories again.
So writers, we all get stuck. Do you ever struggle with getting back into a story once you’ve left it for a while? What helps you get back into the swing of things? How do you get back into the groove of the story?
Writing is not an easy profession, especially when you’re starting out, when you’re writing a story you don’t know if anyone besides your crit group will ever read. I just have faith that the story is an end unto itself, that it’s finishing the story, not publishing it, that matters. Writing a fantastic story, one that sings on the page, even if it takes me years, that’s the goal. The other stuff will come later.
I know the passion is there, simmering beneath the surface. The key to writing, as we like to say, is just to write. But how do you get back to the story when you just feel STUCK, when you’re writing but you feel removed from it and it doesn’t seem to get you (or the story) where you need to go? Writers, I’m curious about your personal experiences with your own stories. Any thoughts?