To Revive or Not to Revive? That is the question.
Many times authors will start a story and for whatever reason or reasons the inspiration and words just stop and the story gets put away. But should a writer ever go back to the story and pick up where they left off and finish or at least add to the piece of work? Or is it healthier to let go and move on?
Let’s take picking it back up and examine that take first. A lot of good can come emotionally from finishing a story a writer started, especially a story that digs deep into our souls. It can be self-examination of who we are and what we want to be, exposing our inner fears, weaknesses, and faiths. Finishing is determination. Completing is that proverbial, organized word mountain that authors want to climb, and when a writer reaches the summit (a.k.a. The End), they take a look at what they’ve accomplished and can celebrate a victory, but the trek back down (ie. production, finding a publisher, marketing, etc.) can be a bitch of a walk, too.
There are many external reasons for not giving up, too. First, readers. Thinking of them enjoying the story and telling others about the story can give a writer encouragement. Also, economic reasons weigh heavy on an author. If the story sells, it’s money in our pocket. I’m not saying to be a “sell out,” I’m saying that I like to eat. A lot.
Bread and cheese and wine and bread. Did I mention cheese? Or wine?
And I digress.
We want our stories to be magical and give “all the feels” but there are times when a piece isn’t giving us the feels, so a reexamination of the project may be necessary.
Psychologically speaking there are a lot of reasons to move on and some personal detriments of taking that road, too.
On the downside, there is definitely guilt. Why did I start something I couldn’t finish? Then there is doubt. If I couldn’t finish this, what makes me think I can finish another project? Both are rabbit holes that can suck a writer in, and there is no Wonderland waiting on the other side, only disappointment. But somehow most of us pull ourselves together and march on.
In a way, writers fall in love with their own work. They nurture the relationship and give their heart away in the process. But there is a real danger in loving something that isn’t real, at least not in the breathing, thinking, embodied sense. A story can’t love you back. A writer gives and gives until sometimes there is nothing else to give, but what if it’s not enough? It can feel like a breakup and leave an author emotionally depleted and defeated. Exhausted.
But what about breakups, can’t they be good for a writer—giving time and distance? Well, if you asked Ross and Rachel of Friends, breaks are not always a good thing. One of the best episodes, ever…btw.
But yes, a break from a project can give perspective and hope that your dream is attainable and meant to be. Just like Ross and Rachel eventually were. A break from a project can mean learning more information, examining the bigger picture, and taking in more experiences that will enrich and deepen a story. Like writer Wynter S.K. said when I spoke with her about the topic, “Presumably you’ve grown as a writer in that time and can approach the old piece with new eyes and more skill.”
Writing doesn’t come naturally to everyone; many (ahem—all) have to work at perfecting the craft. Even if boatloads of readers say a writer’s work is fantastic, there’s always potential to make it better. When we stop learning and growing we start getting complacent and comfortable. And boring. Readers want exciting and new and different but with a retention of voice. Take them to a new place and they will reward a writer for the journey, no matter how hard the expedition really was for the author, it doesn’t matter to the reader, they paid for the blood, sweat, and tears…all the tears.
It is when writers are outside of their comfort-zone and on the edge of hating a story that often they take the biggest risks and chances to create a story that is phenomenal, not just good. Being off kilter can produce the best results for fantastic twists and turns. When the words are forced to fit some rigid thinking a writer has in their head, they are based on fear and contraction, not expansion. I’ve heard authors talk about writing an outline and then they put it away and don’t look at it again. They’ve given their brain semblance of a path, and now it’s time to let their talent and craft do the rest.
So, if you’re a writer, go visit those old stories that still call to you. If you find one that still rings true, then work on it, give it a little love and see if there’s a reason you continue to contemplate the idea. And if you’re a reader, keep asking writers for new and interesting material. Challenge them to dig deeper or to dig into a writing project that isn’t finished.
Here’s to expanding your past and present in writing, I’m off to open up a Young Adult suspense-romance started in 2012 that will get my attention for the next two weeks. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Happy Huuuuuump Day! ❤ Jules