The Importance of the Pause: Failure, Patience, and Persistence in the Writer’s Journey

dreamstime_xxl_92161397 creative commons zero.jpg
Creative Commons Zero | dreamstime.com

If the first half of 2018 had a theme for me, it would be deepening. I have embarked on a journey toward simplicity and intentional living. This goes beyond the act of physical decluttering to include thinking carefully about what I devote my time and energy to.

You may have noticed that I’m blogging less frequently, and that’s because I want to create more thoughtful posts instead of just saying, “Well, I haven’t posted on the blog this week” and feeling obligated to whip something up.

I’ve heard we’re supposed to blog as many as three times a week, and I just can’t do that. My energy level and the maintenance involved in several chronic medical conditions don’t mix well with maintaining that schedule—not if I want to devote myself to writing fiction and deepening my craft.

And just as I’ve been deepening other aspects of my life, I’ve embarked on the same journey with my fiction. I have several WIPs that are close, but I really need to deepen the emotions, to help readers connect with what the characters are feeling. In support of that, I’m taking a course on deep POV and reading books on that aspect of the craft.

I have slowed down. I’ve let go of word-count goals and am trying to allow each project to unfold in its own time. To do otherwise felt like trying to force the leaves to unfurl in the spring. Unnatural and troublesome to say the least.

And what this deepening has taught me most of all is a hidden patience I didn’t know I possessed. I’ve always been goal-driven, a go-go-go sort of person. And I’m still goal-driven, but I’m also allowing things to happen naturally, in their own time.

Truthfully, I still sometimes find myself glaring at my stories, shaking my fist and mentally shouting, “Why aren’t you working?”

But now I step back. I pour myself a glass of cold-brew coffee or brew some tea and I practice the art of staring. I ask the characters to whisper to me. One thing that emerged from the workshop on deep POV, for example, is that one of my WIPs lacks a sense of urgency. What’s the “so-what” of the story?

How have I spent five years working on the story and not seen that flaw? Because that’s half a decade spent with this story, off and on, and I love these characters, and my love for them means that them getting their favorite flavor of ice cream is a big enough so-what. That might be enough for the author, but it’s not enough for readers.

My husband suggested making it an epic fantasy—you know, baddy wants to take over the world or destroy it. Initially, I decided to run with that idea. But the more I thought about it, that didn’t fit in with the main theme of the story or the heroine’s character arc.

I sat. I waited. I sipped. And then the MC whispered. Eureka!

That is the power of patience. That is the power of persistence. That is the power of allowing life and art to unfold naturally.

When we slow down, we create space for the magic to happen.

Take, for example, another WIP, a novel in which I was racing toward the midpoint. And then something felt off. I could’ve pushed through, shoved my characters into a storyline that didn’t quite feel right.

Instead I stopped. I listened. I realized that, one, the storyline had veered off in the wrong direction. And, two, that I needed the hero’s POV as well as the heroine’s to ground the reader.

I’ve been reading Anne R. Allen’s blog, and she has written some lovely posts about the subject of slow writing, slow blogging, etc.

Our society wants fast. We’re trained to want everything now. No, not now. Yesterday.

And I’m just saying, it’s okay to take our time. I’m no longer racing through my goals, crossing WIPs off some master list like a one-woman story factory. My process is slower.

The day I threw away my busy badge, I became free. The day I gave myself permission to fail, I learned to fly. The day I released arbitrary, meaningless goals, I made space for real goals that are in line with my values.

And so, as the second round of ROW80 in 2018 draws to a close, what have I accomplished?

I’ve discovered Wild Tarot, the first in a trilogy about three women learning to embrace a magical destiny, and written 25K in my first attempt at that story.

I’m enrolled in a workshop on deep POV and completing assignments associated with that course. I’m also doing an intensive study of deep POV on my own and trying to master this aspect of the craft.

I’ve worked out some plot problems with two other WIPs as well and am preparing to revise those in round three.

What about you? Are there areas of your life in which you’ve slowed down? How have you learned to slow down and be patient yet persistent?

denise signature

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “The Importance of the Pause: Failure, Patience, and Persistence in the Writer’s Journey

  1. Such a lovely post! I like the idea of calling it the “so what” of a story. It’s true that it takes pausing and reflecting to ensure that the so what is there.
    I can’t believe it myself when I look back at how I used to blog three times a week. I couldn’t do it now. Hopefully it’s because I’m devoting more time to my editing, which is always the thing I need to fight to make time for. Writing comes so easily. If only editing wasn’t ever necessary, ha ha.

  2. “When we slow down, we create space for the magic to happen.” This was my fave line in a wonderful post! 😉

    I have found more patience myself while writing and that does open the door to so much more. There have been times I lost my characters’ voices as well. The image in my head is walking down a path while chatting with a friend. I sometimes charge forward avoiding the scenic route and leave my friend/ character behind. It is then that I can no longer hear them and it becomes a matter for force. I backtrack, rejoin them, and sometimes repeat the mistake again. I’m working on being patient and moving at the right pace (it varies by character, story, and personal task). I don’t think I understood before just what hard work goes into patience!

    Thanks for the post – I enjoy your blog and look forward to reading your stories!

  3. Thank you for a thoughtful post, Denise. Your comments are a helpful reminder of our responsibilities to ourselves and our writing — to listen to the rhythms around us and within. So, I printed your post out to read again. Your note to ‘listen’ to our characters resonates as a way to reveal the story. Re blogging, I don’t post in my writing blog 3x a week, just maybe 2 times a month, but I do try to post 2x week for ROW80, and wind up feeling guilty every time I miss a post or don’t read what others have posted. Being a part of ROW80 is not about meeting a quota, but connecting. Thank you for clarifying that process we follow, intuitively or not, behind our decisions to write.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.