A Writer’s Journal, Day #1058
Okay, Day Three. Momentum is strong and I will hit it hard again today. (If you’re just tuning in, please scroll back to the prior two posts—yesterday and the day before—to see what this is all about.)
Though Resistance is monumental, at least for me, when I get close to the end of a project, there is one happy tailwind (beyond knowing exactly what the beats of the story have to be) and that is that in the climax to anything there’s no time for digression or description or exposition. It’s pedal to the metal all the way. Momentum, momentum, momentum.
A couple of thoughts:
In these posts I sometimes like to come clean about my inner fears and failings. The reason I do this is because I think such confessions are helpful to younger writers, who might fall into the trap of being too hard on themselves or holding themselves to some impossibly high standard, which then becomes a form of Resistance and beats them down unnecessarily. So, just so you know, even a grizzled salt like me screws up all the time and has to learn the same lessons over and over and needs to reach out for help—and does. To wit:
The draft I’m working on now is, I think, about the thirteenth. So a massive amount of work has gone into this thing already—except for the final fifth, which is brand-new. Why? Because I gave the prior draft to my most excellent friend/editor/publisher/agent, Shawn Coyne (who was the original publisher of The War of Art), and he had the gall of offer some great ideas.
I’ve been wrestling this alligator for almost three years, beating my brains out on the question, “What is this thing about? What’s the theme?” After all that time, I still couldn’t articulate it. But Shawn wrote me a long e-mail, with two paragraphs that nailed it exactly—and showed me that I had to change the ending. I had to redo the final fifth.
Flashback: this is the THIRD rethink so far. Two prior reboots were from Page One. What point am I trying to make? That this stuff is hard. I haven’t finished a book yet that didn’t have at least one false start–and that didn’t profit from major input from friends, editors, agents and colleagues. Every time this happens, my ego receives a severe drubbing. Oh no, you mean I can’t do this all by myself? No, Steve, you can’t—and neither could Hemingway or Joyce (well, maybe Joyce) or anybody.
My last novel (2007) was a WWII story called Killing Rommel. I worked on the screenplay version with another good friend, Randall Wallace (Braveheart and the upcoming Secretariat). Before we’d gotten five minutes into discussing how the book had to change to become a movie, Randy hit on a total story screw-up on my part. In the book I killed off the most interesting character before the main action adventure even began. “Code Blue!” Get the paddles! The story got twice as good the second we brought that character back to life.
It’s so easy to get too close to something. We work so hard sometimes that we can’t see what’s right in front of us. That’s why I’m doing the last fifth of this book over—and why it’s all brand-new to me.
And so to work.
I’m a new reader to your blog and I’ve been reading these Writer’s Journal entries religiously. I thought yesterday’s was particularly fascinating but this illustrates an important point as well – we lose perspective in our own lives by getting too close.
So it’s essential to step back or to let a friend help. Nobody does it alone.
Nobody does it alone….but only few can receive the help they are given. The world is full of missed opportunities. They can’t hack it, they ran away…Their fear is bigger than their desire to give it a try.
How do you get other people to overcome their resistance? They’ll probably get offended when I suggest to them to read your WoA book (artists have big egos). Anyone out there with any suggestions ? Any replies most welcome.
Thank you – Annette
Steve, thank you for generously sharing your travails. It does help.
Yep. It does help. Thank you.
Wonderful to see how you unfold the map on which you plot your progress.
Thank you for taking the time to write this…can’t wait for the next installments and indeed the book.
Outstanding creative wisdom once again. Thanks, Steven, for taking us on this journey with you.
Kick Resistance’s Ass!
Thanks for your efforts on this writing journal.
Even though these past 3 blogs are very fragmented in the sense that you didn’t get those feeling in the last 3 days, they for sure explore the mind of a professional and a teacher in the hardest of times.
Tanks for all your words of inspiration and knowledge.
That’s so dashed interesting: one can see the benefits of gertting other’s “fresh eyes” on a project…but I’ve always had terrible results wiht it. In fact, and if she asks if I said this I’ll deny it, I’ve kind of found that taking the opposite tack that The Colonel suggests is the right one.
How does one sort the advice? First your own ego needs subdueing, then you have to filter the advice and discount the “everyone’s an expert” phenomenon, then somehow sort and weight and codify the advise.
In suppose getting advice from heavyweights is key, but surely disagreements must happen…how does that get handled?
A second set of eyes makes all the difference. It’s amazing how after I spend time re-reading, edting, and re-writing the same sections or chapters someone fresh makes a comment that makes me slap my head and say ‘duh!’
I am curious, do you keep the work from the prior reboots? Do they help in other projects or do they only help in the experience of trashing them?
Thanks for these posts, they are very helpful.
Thanks Steven! I’m finishing my first book and the resistance has been unbelievable. I have definitely been holding my self to impossibly high standards adding to the inevitable stress.
Genuinely impressed! Everything is tremendously open and pretty clear explanation of issues. It consists of truly facts. Your website is pretty helpful. Cheers for sharing. Looking ahead to more…