To me, not writing has been painful, and the pain has roots in guilt. I know now, for absolute sure, that I can write and meet deadlines. So, why have I been writing at a snail's pace recently? It's not a too-far jump to arrive at: What's wrong with me?
This weekend, I helped to host an SCBWI conference in Monterey at the beautiful Asilomar conference center. All the faculty sparked my enthusiasm and energy, but two of them in particular helped me understand that maybe I've been asking the wrong questions. Not, "What's wrong with me?" but "What is this new season of my writing life all about?" and "How can I grow as both an author and a professional in my field?"
The first key conversation was with Greg Pincus. Greg is a social media expert, although he wears may his other hats, too (writer, poet, screenwriter, and the list goes on...) and he offers one-on-one consultations on social media. I had sent Greg notes on my various sites where I "hang" online, and also told him how guilty I feel about how much I don't get around to doing on those sites. His first advice to me was to lose the guilt. "It's better to do whatever you do well, and slowly, than to do everything. You can't do everything anyway," he said. Yes. He gave me a lot of other advice, too, on tools to help me save time, and ways to "double dip" so that I could create one piece of content and use it multiple times. I left our meeting energized and ready to work, rather than too full of guilt to do anything at all. If you, by the way, want similar help, I know Greg would be happy to hear from you. Check out the link above.
Then, in one of the lectures, from Kat Brzozowski, Associate Editor, Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, outlined romance in YA in such a clear, big-picture way that I was able to see one of the major issues with my current novel, and the reason why some of my scenes are coming out word after hesitating word. When I first started this novel, I was so tied to the way I thought it should go, and I saw it like a movie, complete, fully formed in my mind. But as time has passed, and as I've taken a few breaks from the writing, I have gained willingness to let the story grow into what it needs to be. I've let go of my initial ideas and become open to input. This, I think, is the value of a Spring Break.
As writers, we need to love our stories, but not smother them to death. Maybe stories, like vintage wines, need time to age and grow, in order to become all they can be. And we, as writers, need time away from our computers to hear from experts and recieve input that will spark new life, new possibilities in our work. So, now, I'm working on losing the guilt. One of these days, I'll open my manuscript and find it has aged, and deepened and is finally ready. And in the meantime, I'll keep writing, word by word by word.