How DID Stella get her groove back?

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?

3 thoughts on “How DID Stella get her groove back?

  1. *Do you ever struggle with getting back into a story once you’ve left it for a while?
    Yes. It’s almost always external influences that dictate I must set my story aside. This can prove frustrating in the extreme, even when what is stopping me is good ~ like family & friends. (It can be other people’s ‘stuff’ too; let’s not go there…)
    *What helps you get back into the swing of things?
    If I’m honest, I don’t know other than it’s some kind of compulsion. I tend to stop writing because I ‘have to’ (due to external influences.) There’s a background thread however, keeping me attached to the story, albeit stretched at times to breaking point.
    * How do you get back into the groove of the story?
    Once I begin again, it’s easy. I’m usually so delighted to have made the space; been pro-active about making it happen ~ saying ‘No’ to people or being more careful about time management, the ‘groove’ spins me in.
    I don’t think about much beyond the writing. I never have. And I self-published my first novel simply because I got tired of the treadmill ~ finding an agent/publisher; dealing with agents telling me they loved my work but didn’t know where to ‘place’ it. Too risky/limited cash available/it’s ‘a business’ etc.
    Now I simply enjoy the process. I am a better writer these days; & what will be will be.
    It is, the ‘singing on the page’ that matters to me too.

    • Thanks for the words of encouragement.
      I think perhaps I feel guilty for putting my stories on the back burner. But, though I’m a writer, sometimes health, family, or life needs to come first. Perhaps then, when I return to the story, I have to confront that guilt. Am I a lesser writer because I’ve paused work on a story? Or is this just a slow, meandering journey to the end of the story?
      In the end, being a writer is who I am. So I just keep going, word by word. 🙂

      • Am I a lesser writer because I’ve paused work on a story?
        NO! Absolutely not! Never think that ~ family & our commitments sometimes have to take precedence. For women it tends to be doubly true.
        I sometimes think, what I need is a wife ~ then I think again ~ that’s a bit sexist, for a radical feminist!
        Your last sentence says it all. 🙂

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