Sometimes You Need to Step Away

Have you ever started working on a project and said to yourself, "Self, this is the one! The ONE. It will be the best one I've done yet!"? This project is (whether it's scrapbooking or cooking or sowing or writing, the list is all-inclusive) takes up your thinking, time, energy. You plan the details, sketch it out, play out scenarios in your head and when it's time, you jump in, excited. Ready.

You start working. Gluing, cutting, threading, mixing, stringing words together into sentences. It starts out smooth and sweet. Nothing can surprise you. 

Until it does.

You snag a thread. Spill coffee on your page. Burn the cookies. Find a hole in your plot or send a character the wrong way and into the point of no return.  Everything is different now and not at all as you planned.

You want to fix it! You want to preserve, to keep going, to scratch off all the burnt edges, to delete the line and start the scene over. But maybe, you can't do that. You have to start over completely with a new batch of cookies. You have to print off new non-coffee covered pictures. You have to let the character down the alley, even if you don't have it planned.

For me, that requires I step away.

This happened with a scene for my NaNoWriMo story. It's, in all honesty, a project I've been "working" on since late-August. That's when the idea happened. Then I plotted, outlined, stopped, re-started. I had this incredible scene and nowhere to take it. I let the idea simmer and marinade and one day, there was a story. I wrote a little of it and then lost the outline because it wasn't going that way. But since NaNo has started, it's been smooth sailing. Until Saturday.

I struggled to bust out 1, 000 words. I did it, but they weren't very good. Sunday I wrote nothing. I went to sleep, discouraged and frustrated with the whole thing. And then yesterday happened. Yesterday, I woke up with an idea. A breakthrough! And I wrote. I wrote 4,500 words in like 4 hours.

Stepping away was the best thing I could've done. Now, I know where the story is going--and I have a brilliant new ending. There are still things  I don't know for sure yet but I know enough to keep writing. And I know, if I need to, there's no shame in stepping away.

Hear that? There's no shame in stepping away!  Sometimes, the best ideas happen from our mistakes and our failures. That's how we know next time not to burn the cookies. That's how we can make a better scrapbook page than ever before. That's how it's okay for my character to turn left instead of right. Maybe there are more options for her in going the other direction. Better options.

I'm not going to tell you what my story's about...but here are a couple teaser pics for you that kind of apply. 

How about you? Have you ever experienced stepping away and is it hard for you?


  1. Great post! I completely believe in the need to step away occasionally!

  2. You, my dear, just whacked my Junior Mints!
    You know how there is always one stuck sideways in the box? And you know, by intuition alone, that this last one, suspended, is going to taste better than any of its brothers, but you can't get it out of the box?
    Well, I was reading your post and finally got the needed whack. The finest of Junior Mints, though far from perfect in appearance, is now in my hands. It will be stupendous. The most memorable of chocolate mint experiences.

    And so will my book.

  3. @Lesli--I'm glad you got that junior mint out! :) It's always a triumph! Enjoy it.

    @X-- :)


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