One of the hardest things in life, is knowing when to let go. When to accept that it’s time take a step back. When to admit that something in your life is leading you in circles. Coming to that realization can often feel like failure, like giving up. But in reality, taking that step shows you are of a strong mind, and adept enough to meet those difficult realities head on. This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately, and has caused me to face some of my innermost struggles about myself and my writing.
The novel I am currently working on, a.k.a., the “Big One” as I’ve come to think of it, is a story that has been very near and dear to my heart for years. I’ve mentioned from time to time on my blog, how this story has grown and evolved along with me, for several years now. The current word count is just over 80k, making it the longest project I’ve written to date, but also the slowest. I’ve watched as the word count crept higher and higher, (at a snail’s pace), and it is nowhere near done.
For the better part of four years I’ve worked exclusively on this story, and it’s been even longer since the idea first sparked in my mind. But out of the hundreds of hours I’ve expended on this story, most of them were spent agonizing over it in my head, instead of actually writing. I’d held off writing it for years, because I didn’t feel ready yet. And as the weeks turned to months, and the months into years, I’ve learned that I am still not quite ready for this story. And that’s okay.
It’s been hard. It feels like I’m failing, or like I’m letting somebody down. After spending the last four years of my life pouring so much time and energy into this project, the thought of abandoning it is quite painful. But I’m not really abandoning it. I’m simply putting it on hold– because I want this story to be “right”. I want to tell the story that my characters deserve, and I want to tell it well. But the time to tell that story is not yet.
If my story were a block of clay, to be intricately carved and sculpted, then at this moment my story is very much shapeless. There may be hints of a sculpture, in the way it curves here, or casts a shadow there, but it is still just a lump of clay. So, for now, I’ve made the choice to put a sheet over my unfinished sculpture and stow it away for safekeeping. And one day when my vision has cleared, and I can look at it, and no longer see an obscure form– but flesh and bones and a beating heart– then I will return to it. But in the meantime I will be patient, and I will wait until I feel a true sense of purpose for my story.
I wanted to write this post, to recognize and commemorate all of the time I have spent on this project and acknowledge that it has not been in vain. I have learned more from this novel, than any other writing project I’ve worked on so far and this novel will always mark a pivotal point in my writing journey. By allowing myself to take a step back from this project, I am free to work on other, new stories that have been waiting patiently in the wings. And though the future of my writing endeavors may seem a little murky right now, I am excited to face the challenge and see where it takes me from here.
So here’s to love lost, lessons learned, and the great unknown. Let’s never give up on our dreams, you and I. For only when we step off the familiar path, will we learn of all the possibilities that lie ahead.