I spend a lot of energy on useless thoughts like wondering whether or not what I’m writing is crap, if it’s an original idea, and why I keep using the word “bear” in my manuscript. True story on that last one, by the way: I used it 57 times in my latest WIP. My character is bearing her weight, feelings, and at this point bearing down on me in a very, very bad way. But I digress. My point is that, as you can see, my mind brims with a therapist-worthy amount of confusion.
It’s usually around this time, about two-thirds of the way into a project, that I have another idea. This isn’t a just a thought by the way—it’s a six-figure generating golden heap of amazingness I can’t believe no one else has ever come up with. I’m a genius! I need to start working on it now! Four chapters must be completed by next Friday! I’m on a roll!
So in the past I’ve put my current project aside to focus on my new, shiny, bright one—only to find myself in the exact same frustrating “what am I doing?” position six months later. A writing teacher of mine once called the magnificent idea that arises when struggling through something else a “slut project.” I prefer not to use that word, so I’m going to go with the “sundae bar” metaphor and it works like this:
You have a new idea—an imperfection-free banana in a way-too-big dish. For some reason or another, you find yourself at the edge of one of those long semi-covered cafeteria tables where there’s chocolate sauces, sprinkles, and fresh fruit sitting untouched in rectangular metal bins. The toppings are winking at you, talking at you, and saying “Pick me! Pick me!” There is just so much possibility and after you heap it all on top of your banana idea you get a few bites of bliss; the kind of tingly-on-the-inside feeling where you don’t care that there’s syrup dribbling down your chin because you’ve made something so worthy, important, and downright filling.
It’s so, so good.
Except after a few bites you realize you’re not used to so much sugar at once and that maybe, all the toppings weren’t necessary. Maybe they don’t even go together. And then panic sets in because in all the time you spent creating and eating one sugary mess you could have been “eating your vegetables and getting stronger” as mom used to say.
I hated the green, mushy peas forced on me as a kid, but my mom knew that by sticking those suckers in front of me she was showing me how to eat better. Now it’s my turn to put together my own plate; teach myself a similar lesson. I may not like every scene, plot line, or character, but by continuing on with my novel I will become a better writer—even if, like I did during dinners at the age of 7, I have to gag parts of it up. I can clean it and myself up later. It’s yet another part of the process.
So this time, I’m resisting the sundae bar and focusing on my current project. Publishing a book is only half of my goal; what I truly want is to get better at this craft that I love-hate so much and in order to do so I must wade through lands of leafy greens and peas to get there. Mom was right; they’ll make be stronger. Besides I’m old enough to know now that a sugar high never lasts, and the crash is a bitch.