By Mary Andonian
You’re chugging along, cranking out page after page of good prose, finding credible sources to quote, and flipping query letters into proposals. And then, out of the blue, one of three things happen:
1. You advance your writing to the next stage and perhaps land a book deal or article acceptance.
2. Something outside of you takes you in a different direction (ailing parent or morning sickness comes to mind).
3. You simply hit a wall. You feel like you have nothing left to say.
Now what? You need a strategic plan for each scenario:
Option One: Book Deal or Article Acceptance
Congratulations! You’ve hit your stride. Strategy: Don’t take more than a few days off before you begin brewing the next big idea. I’ve made the mistake of getting sucked into the waiting game and wasted a lot of time. You want to feel like you’re always in the game, and ready for the next project. Keeping multiple balls in the air will prove you have what it takes to be a professional writer.
Option Two: Unforeseen Circumstances
Life happens. The death of a parent or the loss of your spouse’s job will require your undivided attention. Or maybe your daughter is getting married or you hit the Lotto. You may have been sidelined, but now you need to act. Strategy: Use your experiences to your advantage. The old adage, “write what you know” works well here. If you’re going through tough or fortunate times, keep a journal and capture lessons learned as you experience them. When the timing is right, incorporate these themes into new projects. Then, if your doctor mentions chemo, your attitude will shift from “why me?” to “how can I help someone else by sharing my experience?”
Option Three: I Have Nothing Left to Say
Maybe you don’t. For now. This is a legitimate place to be if you’re a writer. An instructor I know, Cynthia Whitcomb, speaks of three phases: the inspiration phase, where the ideas flow and you struggle to stay in reality while you consider the possibilities, the working phase, where you organize your thoughts, sit in the chair, and write; and finally the black abyss phase, where nothing comes to mind and you have nothing to write down. Our society dictates that we should constantly be creating or working, but that’s just hooey. The third phase is the rejuvenation you need to begin the cycle all over again. Strategy: Accept you’re in stage three and give yourself permission to put down the pen and just “be.” When the inspiration strikes again (and I promise you it will), you’ll know you’ve arrived full circle.
Mary Andonian is the agents and edtiors coordinator for the Willamette Writers Conference, one of the largest writers’ conferences in the United States. In past years, she was Co-chair and Program Coordinator. She just completed her second book, Bitsy’s Labyrinth. Contact Mary at maryandonianwwconference AT yahoo.com.