My WIP feels like Bessie the mule

I had this novel written in my head for months. I had a good idea of what I wanted to happen and where I wanted it to go. Then I had some personal setbacks that slowed my progress. When I tried to return to the MS, the characters told me they had other plans. As did my Ego.

My Ego kept telling me that I was doing it all wrong because this wasn’t the same process as Charlie and Annabelle’s story. It was also taking much longer. Irony: no one but me really knows how long it took the write The Reluctant Bandit, yet I still run that comparison. As if anyone really cares.

The story changed enough that my notes and rough outlines weren’t going to work in the same way. I just had to swim with the river instead swimming against its current. I tend to swim against the current because, despite my best intentions, I just make things more difficult for myself. I don’t know why that is, but I do it. I do know that in some ways, I like complicated.

Jimmy and Josephine’s story may be delayed, but it’s still churning in my mind and bits are spilling over into notebooks, slips of paper, and into the computer. It isn’t feeling as pretty in the moment, but then I reread it and it feels comfortable and serviceable. Like she’ll carry me to where I need to go, just like Bessie managed to carry the Our Gang kids. In fact, as cute as they all are, it always looked a little painful and awkward to me even as a kid. While this isn’t quite a first draft, because I keep writing and then going back to edit, it’s in general the ballpark of one. And first drafts aren’t always the prettiest, but they certainly are necessary.

This draft, whatever iteration I’m in now, has taught me a lot of lessons. It’s Mental Health Awareness month, but instead of being aware I feel as if I’m making myself worse. I had to take a big pause and reflect.

I have a random and very incomplete list of things that crossed my mind:

  • Things don’t turn out the way you want them to. No matter how much you force them, they are going to do what they need to do.
  • Take a deep breath. Have a pause or reset moment.
  • Surrender can be a good thing. Why fight the tide? It’s stronger than you are. If you surrender, you might find something awesome floating into your mind, something better than you intended.
  • Relax–the more you tense the worse it gets. Ever wonder why a drunk can take a header and come out okay? That person didn’t tense up and probably had no expectation for what was about to happen. When a sober person takes a spill they tend to tense and hurt themselves. I was repeatedly injuring myself because I was convinced that the process had to look a certain way. It wasn’t lost on me that after taking a tumble down a flight of stairs bad enough that I finally had to have surgery and here I was still doing it a couple of months after surgery. (sober falling, not drunk falling 🤦🏻‍♀️)
  • The more I stress or obsess about something the less progress I make. Literally. I could sit in front of the computer for hours and do Jack. Now that’s sad. (By “doing Jack,” I mean not doing anything, not the other “doing it.” Doing it would be preferably and far more productive. Perhaps I should take a moment to find my husband…)
  • Stop comparing, chastising, and smack-talking yourself. It won’t make you any better or faster. Hint: that’s easier said than done. I’m constantly working on that one. I have a lifetime of that to undo.
  • If you stop, stumble, or fall, okay. But you’ll still need to pick yourself back up. There are only so many times another person can peel you off the floor (especially when you’re doing everything in your power to undermine yourself). It really is up to, however…
  • You can always ask for help. Whatever form that looks like for you. But you’ve got to do the work.
  • We need to start somewhere. Sometimes it doesn’t feel or look good.

I’ll stop there because I’m sure you get the point. Besides, I think I hear Jimmy and Josie calling out to me. They need me to finish their love story.

Give me a shoutout! 🤠

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  1. Thanks for the great read and reminders – especially about not tensing up! As easy as it sounds, I seem to always find an opportunity to unclench my jaw 💁🏻‍♀️

    Great analogy and visual of a drunk being able to take a hit! My French teacher told our class one day – if you’re ever in a plane that’s in trouble, relax your body 😯 otherwise your bones will break when you crash.. Thanks Soeur Emily! 😆

  2. You’re welcome. I appreciate your comments! Jaw clenching–that’s another good reminder! I need to catch that one before I can feel my teeth grinding too hard (and my dentist will thank me for it, too 😁).

    Speaking of French–one of my English professors frequently used his translation of some French saying on us: “You have to sit and make your butt sweat.” Sounds horrible, but he was trying to tell us to sit down and do the work. Lol. The things we remember from our teachers!

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