Should a slump be considered an absence of passion? I was watching Bones earlier. Episode 10 of Season 12, The Radioactive Panthers in the Party. While the main story revolves around the panthers, the secondary plot shows Bones regressing into deep reflection over the “passion for work” after meeting one of her senior colleagues who has retired upon “waking up one morning and feeling that her heart was no longer in it”. Throughout the program, I was thinking Bones must be considering quitting for good. It is the final season and she is plenty stable, so, yeah. [With a show of hands, how many of you think you might go into withdrawal when the show ends?]
Turns out it’s not her future she’s reassessing but her intern Wendell’s. It was all really well done. I was so sure that Bones was going to make an announcement at the end of the episode. Instead, she ends up advising Wendell that maybe he was having so much trouble choosing a topic for his dissertation because it wasn’t his calling to be a forensic anthropologist, maybe he is not passionate enough about the subject.
It got me thinking about how I left my work to start a new career path. I, like Wendell, was good at what I did but I always wanted to do something else. So now, when I hit a writer’s block, I panic twice as much. I never hit blocks in my old work, I just tackled each problem with my sheer force of logic. But my desperation to be a successful author has me questioning every piece I compose.
I finished the first draft of I’ll Be True in the first week of January this year. Then I took a break from it to start outlining another novel – completely unrelated – while also starting the fiction writing course. Along the way, as I learned more about the breakdowns of a novel’s structure, I figured out what I wanted to edit in I’ll Be True and also cooked up the basic plots for the next two books in the series. But when the course ended and I went back to editing the first book, I took two weeks to clean up Chapter One.
TWO WEEKS! Yeah, I’m still doing it. Every time, I open the document to start editing the second chapter, I just keep going back to further clean the first. If I were to look at the symptoms Bones pointed out to Wendell, I’d be kicking in the bucket right now on my writing career and going back to marketing for hotels.
But all writers hit blocks, right? While that’s sore comfort, it’s something. I think the problem is all the emphasis editors and agents put in on the first three chapters. Sending in those first three with the query letter is the norm with most publishing houses and, therefore, I’m freaking out here.
And it doesn’t matter that on my first handful attempts to read both Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I kept putting down the books after reading the first few chapters. It was only after I forced myself to reach the parts where Darcy snubs Elizabeth and Hagrid comes to pick up Harry that I really got hooked. Both ended up being part of my annual reads and Pride and Prejudice has its own shrine!
Yet, when I try to tell myself that I’m storing more significance on the first three than necessary, it doesn’t calm me. Because now I love every syllable used to write Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter, including their first three. All I think, as the days on the calendar reaches the end of the Quarter One of 2017 (my allotted time to complete the editing), “Dear Almighty, deliver me! Release me from the hell that is my insecure mind! Guide me through these first three chapters!”
Melodramatic, am I? Then you don’t know what a writer’s block feels like. The pressure is real. [No pun intended]