Those of you who listened to the Fear-Less Writing Telesummit heard my interview with Katherine Torrini. I talk about a project that kept coming up for me but I was resistant to work on it. I’d write a little, it’d feel good, but it also made me feel uncomfortable. I’m a comedy writer. This was a dark, revenge thriller. It was a lot edgier than what I was used to writing. I also didn’t know where I stood on taking revenge.
But there was something about it. There were characters I really enjoyed. It was a low budget, minimal locations script. I had all the plot points—I never have all the plot points. I’ll have ideas and a general sense of direction. I had a beginning, middle, and end. I thought that was a sign. I also had an ending I loved. I was so proud of that ending and was so excited to see it. So I committed to the project. Every day I worked on it to see where it would go.
I completed the first draft. There was something about one of the characters I hadn’t unlocked. Why was she taking revenge now? Then my brother’s engagement ended abruptly and I knew why. I felt anger I had never felt before and I knew what drove that character. I attacked the project with new energy.
So there I was with a second draft. It was dead. It wasn’t fun. Not just “amazing writing is hard”. I didn’t want to work on this project.
A couple of things happened:
• I was too close to the material. I needed to do something about my situation so I channeled my feeling helpless and rage into my writing. After the draft, I was on the other side.
• I was in love with scenes and ideas. I loved these characters and the things they did. I would never do or say half the things they would. That was exciting to write. And I loved that ending. So much so I hadn’t set it up correctly. The ending isn’t the best pay off.
• I brought my morals into it. I’m not trying to answer the question, “Should you take revenge?” My characters are taking revenge. Even though that’s how I wanted the story to go, I didn’t know how I felt about it. That indecision showed up in the writing and characters’ actions.
The depression was more than just resistance to rewriting. It’s not the right project for right now and that’s okay. I have it. It’s not what I want to work on right now. It doesn’t light me up. We have limited time to write and it shouldn’t feel like bad torture. The good torture is scraping to find the right word or phrase to transfer what’s going on in your head to the page.
The project served a purpose. I proved to myself I could write something very edgy. My writing has improved because of it. I don’t get to say, “What if?” which feels great. I tried the idea. It’s not working right now, but it can. I have the idea out of my system, freeing me up for current projects.
So take a chance. Get it out of your system and see what happens. You’ll be glad you did.