I think this is a good time to repost this helpful blog by writer Rebekah Young.
After seven months away from writing my novel, I re-joined Julie’s monthly writing circle ready to begin again. I’d finally finished the first draft on Christmas Eve, 2015. The next step was clear: spend the next year writing the second draft.
Julie uses the analogy of climbing a mountain to frame our approach to our writing and writing circle. We were at the base camp, about to begin our climb. What’s our intentions as we begin this journey? What keeps us going? What do we need to complete the climb?
I laced up my hiking boots and charted my course, excited and committed. I knew the climb would be challenging; it was supposed to be. Completing a challenge was part of the circle’s draw.
So there I was rewriting my book, this time in first person. I had planned to keep the scenes the same. Just dress them up a little. Change the point of view. Add more humor. More drama. Better descriptions. I wrote and rewrote but…ugh! I was already bored. (If the writer is bored the reader is sure to be too). The first few pages felt like a slog. It’s too early for slogging, right?! I had just begun!
Thankfully, at just the right time, Julie (as our climbing/writing Sherpa!) sent me Steven Pressfield’s blog about inciting incidents, and what he suggested changed the way I thought about my beginning chapters.
So I took a breath and began again.
What did I have have to show in my first scene of a young woman moving into her dorm room? I cut the first scene and created an inciting incident to pull the story forward. I felt proud of my work and excited about how this new-new start would shape the rest of this draft.
THEN: work (at my day job) got extra busy. A relationship ended. My cat got fleas. (HELP!) My attention shifted away from writing. Plus, what happens after the inciting incident anyway? I checked where I was on the mountain and saw I was off course. But I could see others trekking nearby and Julie reminding us to “return to what we know” when we get off course.
So yesterday, I picked up my deck of Medicine Cards: The discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals. Which animal would like to come to me today? I shuffled and pulled the Elk card.
Your antlers reach for the sun.
Show me that strength
And stamina are one.
~ Sams and Carson
Elk reminded me that I don’t need to write or climb this mountain at a sprint. Pace myself. Simply turning my attention back to my writing is what’s needed now. I may have to “return to my writing” several (hundred) times before I reach my personal summit.
And then there’s that thing about community: “Elk have a curious kind of warrior energy because, except at mating time, they honor the company of their own gender. They can call on the medicine of brotherhood or sisterhood.” How can I turn to my brotherhood and sisterhood of writers for this journey? (One way is by writing this blog!) I can know that each month my writerly tribe and fellow-trekkers will show up at another camp to re-energize ourselves and to re-focus. I am grateful for this companionship.
So, I take a breath and begin again. One step, one word, in front of the other….
See you at (or from) the top. -Rebekah Young