On holding back the good stuff

The Man and I have a busy day today – one which actually requires socializing – so I figured I’d get up early in order to still have a quiet morning. And to post a blog since I’ve disappeared a little post-WIP. There’s a topic I’ve been wanting to tackle, since it’s one I struggle with as a writer, so here it goes:

I always eat my favorite part of a meal last.

Dessert. Or a side dish. Or the entree. If I’m looking at it going, “Ooo,” then I order the rest of my eating so that that’s the last thing I get.

I will sit on gift cards for months before I spend them.

These are not random facts – I’m telling you these things to illustrate that part of my personality is to hold back. Delay. Keep things in reserve just in case.

And it’s a problem of mine when I write, too.

Recently, I struggled with the climactic battle of my WIP. Nothing seemed to work, nothing seemed to fit, every situation had plot holes. There was angst. There were tears. And then a friend of mine gave me a suggestion that, in general, was something along the lines of, “Well, why don’t you RUIN EVERYTHING FOREVER OMG?”

No, I told him, clutching my little story. What if I need that stuff later? I mean, I do need it – I need that stuff later. There’s supposed to be a book two, and if I do that, there can’t possibly be a book two because where would I go with it?

What if I don’t have enough creativity in me to take things to the next level?

And therein lies the real fear that is at the heart of this struggle. What if I use up all my good ideas, all the good stuff, on this one story, and that’s it? That’s all I got. The creativity bucket is empty – no free refills – and I’m done. Tapped out before I’ve even built up a good speed.

I don’t think I’m alone in this fear. I don’t feel like it’s uncommon or unique to me as a writer by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I think it’s very easy for many people to see creativity as this limited resource, as something that we are only given so much of, and in my weakest moments as a writer, I not only think my creativity bucket is running low but that it was filled with pretty crappy water to begin with.

What I accomplished with this WIP and with this suggestion by my friend was a huge step in me learning to trust in my own creativity. It’s not expendable. It’s not a one-shot and you’re done type of deal. It may feel that way sometimes when we let fear block our brains, but it’s not the truth. You can dump it all out there until you’re totally spent, shriveled like a used balloon, and the creativity bucket will refill. Maybe not instantly, maybe it takes a few weeks and maybe it only comes back in a trickle, but it will come back.

When I really thought about my friend’s suggestion, when I took a step back and thought about, looked at all the angles and how much it would change things and pump up the obstacles they would face, how much it would push them, I got…excited. Excited about the possibilities, about what I can do with them in the second book, whenever I write it. About how it would challenge me as well as them. And how my WIP would be improved by it, much better than the previous incarnation where I was still thinking, “Not yet – can’t do that yet,” and holding bombs in reserve.

So I ruined. Everything. FOREVER.

I dumped everything out, no holding back “the good stuff.”

9 thoughts on “On holding back the good stuff

  1. *hugs* I’m so proud of you for taking that step. I don’t think you could write what you want to write while always keeping a part of the story in reserve.

    You got this 😀

    1. It’s definitely going to be something I always struggle with, so I’ll have to remind myself to give and give and not worry about what’s left. Because there will be more.

  2. Good job, Becca! To quote Douglas Adams, “Don’t blow up the Earth in the first chapter. You might need it later.” Which is what he did and he managed to write 5 books in that series. And yes, creativity is not expendable. It’s a renewable resource. It won’t go away if you “Ruin Everything Forever”…because “Forever” is only as long as you need it to be. 😀

  3. Oh, I love that doug adams quote! i think i’ll post that on my writer board. i know this is an older post, but i just had to comment on it. great thoughts here. i think we’ve all felt this way – and i just had to comment that this made me sooooo miss david tennant!

    1. I try to use Tennant gifs whenever possible. He needs to be in everything, in my opinion, but Hollywood doesn’t seem to be listening to me…

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