Tuesday, July 19, 2011

That we shouldn't be anxious to finish a project

Each time I've worked on a novel, I could hardly wait for the whole process to be over so I could hold the finished product in my hands. To see my name on a glossy cover, breathe in that wonderful new book smell and have other people enjoy my stories was the great aim that kept me going.

As I shared in my last post about self pity, for a few weeks I'd decided to stop all work on my most recent project. The pity party I was wallowing in made me decide that until I helped sell all of the seven novels I've already got, there was no point in churning out more.

Well, once I'd made that decision to take a break from writing, I was surprised by something I never expected to happen. I quickly started missing it all. I discovered that I really wanted to be nutting out scenes, dreaming about characters, making my own editing slashes along the way and building up piles of A4 manuscript paper. I wanted to be shuffling scenes around and deleting waffly parts of the story. I realised that this whole process means far more to me than just necessary busy-work to achieve an end result. It's a really rewarding and valuable activity in its own right. When I don't have a current manuscript to keep my imagination occupied for months, I hate it!

I was wondering if anybody is in the middle of long-term project which you're finding a bit of a drag. It might be a study degree, a home or garden project or some enormous art or craft. Maybe it's some sort of outreach mission directed at others which never seems to make a visible difference. Do you ever hear yourself grumble, "I can't wait until I finish this baby," or something like that? Please don't be grouchy and impatient about all the hard work. I want to encourage you to enjoy every moment you devote to it, because pouring energy into a long term project that is larger than yourself is what makes life worthwhile. I've made that discovery in my own personal experience over the last few weeks.

Now I've re-commenced work on my new manuscript and this time I'm not going to be impatient to see the finish. It's not true that my work loses its meaning and significance if I can't sell it to thousands or millions of other people. The whole creative process is very meaningful and significant to me and that includes every tiny bit of progress made each day.

For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way, so treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no-one - Souza


  1. Thank you Paula. I needed this one today. :)

  2. I got a lot out of this post Paula! I'm trying to write my own novel, and I've hit a wall at the moment, so I'm not writing, but my brain too keeps processing ideas, scenes etc for the story. I really need to enjoy the process and stop looking at the end project - especially when it's not here yet! Thanks again for such a lovely and inspiring post. :)

  3. Thanks, Penny and Jess. It's true, I'll always remind myself that the empty feeling of having 'finished' with nothing new to focus on falls far, far short of the experience of being in the middle of something.

  4. "The pity party I was wallowing in made me decide that until I helped sell all of the seven novels I've already got, there was no point in churning out more."
    So you're one of those people who has to clean their plate before they can have dessert? :o)

    I'm glad you are trying to enjoy it more now. I don't know that I ever want to be done with a project, but I have had moments of complete frustration when I'm trying to figure out a pose with one of my characters before I ink it in. I've had many moments of walking away from my work insisting I've lost the ability to draw.

    But I always go back!

    Peace and Laughter,

  5. So very true but writing is a solitary craft so it gets to one at times but you're right we should enjoy the Journey along the way no matter what it is we are seeking in life.

  6. Taking a break is always good, even if we LOVE what we do. It confirms why we are doing it in the first place, and brings refreshment and often new insights.

    "It's not true that my work loses its meaning and significance if I can't sell it to thousands or millions of other people." - love this. I reached this conclusion a few years into running Footprints magazine, when our subscriber numbers were falling. God helped me to see that it didn't matter how many (or how few) people were reading it - what mattered was that He has called me to do it, and do it to the best of my ability.

    However having said that, I do believe that Footprints is full of such good stuff that it is worth promoting and getting out there to as many people as possible!!!

  7. Thanks, creative ladies. Tiffany, perhaps the solitude necessary means we need an even firmer resolve to persevere. In teamwork situations, there is more likely to be somebody urging us to keep our eyes on the reason for our endeavour.
    Cristina, your comic strips give the impression of being so spontaneous and straight off the pen. It's good to hear you have battles too.
    Janet, Footprints is a goldmine and very well worth all the hard work you put into it.

  8. I ALWAYS need to be working on something!
    I feel lost if I don't have a project to work on; even though I still have my own little stash of books to sell!!


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