There comes a time during any writing project – article, rant, or story (anything from a short-short to a novel), that anything else gets done first. LAGilman tweeted a while back “I am at that stage of writing where the house is spotless.” All writers have this stage, getting paid for it or not. Why else would NaNoWriMo exist? It forces you to put away the excuses and actually push something, whether it’s a pen(cil) across paper or a couple dozen tiny buttons on that thing under your fingers.
For example, this blog sat idle for about five months. It’s not that I didn’t have any posts – it’s that I didn’t have any posts that were finished.
I heard an interview on Starship Sofa a few weeks ago with Lauren Beukes, the Arthur C. Clarke Award winner for this year. At one point, she’s talking about starting as a writer; it seems she had the first three or five chapters of this book finished for several years. She just kept polishing and polishing. Then she said: “My advice to any would-be novelist is to finish the damn book. Leave the first three chapters alone, and finish the damn thing, then you can fix it.” Like most good advice, this is very difficult to actually do.
But I’m working on it. I’ve taken all my drafts from the different places they ended up, like leaves in the fall, and stuck ’em all in here. I’ve taken ideas and concepts and notes and I’m pulling them all together in a tidy little tiddlywiki. I’m outlining the novel.
The most important thing I’m doing is not adding anything new (outside of notes) until I get some of my creative logjam unstuck. What do you think? Is refusing to let myself work on anything new until I get a bunch of the old stuff done the right idea, or is that just stopping up the creativity in a different spot? Are the posts and story ideas I’ve gathered since December deadwood that should be cleared out, or is it tinder to stoke the creative fires?