Writing tip #16 — Don’t let your story slime you.

Recently I wrote down a bit of advice for a friend’s son who is coming of age. We were asked to pass on a piece of wisdom about growing up and becoming a happy, healthy adult. I chose to talk about friendship. I told the young man that finding and keeping friends is an art. Choose wisely. Some people you are meant to friend and others you are meant to drift away from. Hold on to those friends that encourage and love you unconditionally.  Let go of friends that make you feel slimed or diminished. The friends that make you feel great will also probably be the ones that feel encouraged and loved by you, as well.  


I think this is also true of writing projects. If you are working on a project that makes you feel like crap every time you delve into it or even think about it, if that project makes you feel like a bad writer or like a failure . . . walk away. Put it in a drawer. Turn to something else.

But, you protest, I need to write it because (choose one of the below):

I told everyone I know I’m working on it

I already told an editor or agent that I finished it

I’m writing it for my ______ (loved one)

It’s supposed to be cathartic

I told my writers support group I’d let them read it by June

It’s what publishers are looking for right now

A psychic told me I’d make tons of money from it


Believe me, if a writing project makes you feel terrible about yourself or your world, it’s not for you. Stop until a time when/if it has a different effect on you. Life’s too short to wallow in negativity. (And I’m not talking about writing projects with dark plots or characters – they can be delightful to compose and revise – they can fill the writer with glee and inspiration – I mean the gut reaction to a project is dark and that story can be anything from a sunny children’s picture book to a gritty detective novel.)

Let your emotions be your guide. Do you feel stronger when you think about writing the project or weaker? Excited or depressed?

I know we all feel a little down now and then about even our most thrilling and beloved books-in-progress, but you know what I’m talking about here, right? That’s a passing thing. What I’m talking about is the project that is like that friend you need to disconnect with, the one that always makes you feel just a little stupid or ugly or discouraged after you’ve spent a few hours with him. Gently let those friends and projects go. Turn and take a fresh breath and follow your bliss. There will always be a true friend and a new story on the path toward your happiness.


3 Responses to “Writing tip #16 — Don’t let your story slime you.”

  1. Genny lynch Says:

    The tip was great but so is the photo. Where is that fork in the hiking trail? I want to walk both paths.

  2. Mary Says:

    Wow. This was really timely. I hate to leave anything unfinished and I think I hit about five of the ‘because I have to’ excuses on there (although not the psychic, sadly). I was trying to get out of a funk and started writing something sort of silly, not at all respectable- and it’s so much FUN. So, I think I’ll take that excellent advice and shelve the ‘because I have to’ for now. Thanks for the push. 🙂

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