I wrote earlier this fall about how excited I was to dig into a historical fantasy I'd been noodling for over twenty years (!!). And just weeks later, I got agent notes that made me put that new project aside and dig back into the novel in verse I've been working on since fall of 2018. I'm thrilled to say that I've finished that revision, so everyone--including me!--might assume I'd be returning to that historical fantasy.
But my brain had other ideas. I'm convinced I jinxed myself, because I just confidently told the students in the course I'm teaching over at AuthorsPublish about a great technique for keeping shiny new ideas from distracting us when we're on deadline. That technique involves acknowledging the distracting, shiny idea, setting a timer, and capturing every thought you have about that idea so that you convince yourself you won't lose anything by going back to the project you're "supposed" to be working on.
But what if you're not necessarily supposed to be working on anything in particular? Like it or not, I have no books under contract right at the moment, so I could work on anything. Sure, I had intended to go back to that historical fantasy. But is it really what I'm "supposed" to be working on? Not necessarily.
But I needed a reminder of that. So the night before I sat down to finish the last major piece of my revision, I woke up with a start in the middle of the night with a totally different character's voice telling me her story. This is a story I plotted out during the first summer of the pandemic, but never wrote. It honestly seemed like a story that was too fun to fit my very dark mood that summer of 2020. And I couldn't find my main character's voice anyway. So I put it aside.
Fast forward almost three years and that very same elusive voice started talking to me last week at an inappropriate hour. I tried to ignore her. But ultimately, I got up, wrote the first scene of her story, jotted down a ton of other notes, and went back to sleep. I was still convinced I was just "getting her out of my system" and that I'd return to the historical fantasy this coming week.
But as I was noodling what I'd write about today, I realized the promise I'd made to myself about taking a second look any time my mind tells me I "should" be doing something. Why, exactly, should I be working on the historical fantasy, an epic five POV, multi-timeline story that's probably going to take me five years to write like this danged novel in verse?
The answer? I shouldn't. Not now. Instead, I should follow my creative energy and go with the flow. Which is obviously moving toward that story that felt "too fun" a few summers ago, but sounds exactly like what I need right now to replenish after the emotional upheaval of this novel in verse.
Are the "shoulds" in your creative life keeping you from working on the story of your heart? Sometimes our minds try to force our gut/heart/intuition in the direction it thinks we "should" be moving. But the gut will find ways to remind us, to nudge us in the direction of our creative heart, to remind us that "should" has no place in the dreaming of dreams and the writing of words.
I'm going with the flow, and talking a bit with this tricky character that showed up in my dreams a few nights ago. It's way to early to know where it will lead, but I'm going to trust the process. I hope you will too!
PS - My pal and colleague Suzy Vadori is teaching an awesome workshop on world-building this coming Friday, March 24, for $27!!! If you missed my session this fall or need a refresher, she really knows her stuff. Register today.