Big Project Blues

I knit, or used to. I haven’t done any knitting in a while. I realized at some point that I had way too many time consuming hobbies and cut back on several of them.

I knitted a lot of small stuff, hats, mittens and socks. I did a few sweaters, but they weren’t my favorite. Here is the thing about sweaters, they take for ever. There is an old piece of knitting advice I read somewhere, “Don’t knit a man a sweater unless he puts a ring on your finger.” Adjust the saying to fit the times and whatever orientation fits your life. Don’t knit an androgynous sweater for the genderqueer individuals who is the latest point in the four, five pointed polyamorous star until they’ve reach long term status, or whatever. The point remains, unless someone is going to be in your life for a long time, don’t knit them a sweater. Because it’s a big investment in time.

There comes a point in any big craft project that you are too far into to give up easily and the end is still too far to see the light. Every significant project has it. I experienced with every sweater I ever knit. My ex experienced when making quilts. When we’ve undertaken building projects at the land we’ve experienced it.

The project seems to take over your life. It slows to a drag. You lose all motivation to continue.

A lot of people quit at this point. The world is littered with half finished sweaters, quilts that never got quilted all the way. And novels that didn’t get finished.

Because writing a novel is a big project. And you will experience the big project blues. For me it often comes just after the midpoint. You’ve laid the foundation, done the hard work. But the climax and the finish are still a long way away. Some writers call it the messy middle, that huge swath of writing between setting up the premise and fulfilling it.

How do you beat the big project blues? There is no quick, easy solution. Mostly you just keep going. You remind yourself over and over why you started in the first place. What the novel was supposed to be in your head before you started writing.

The same motivators don’t go as far as they did at the outset, when it was all shiny and new. And that’s okay. Dole them out faster now, more frequently. Celebrate every word you get down. You are making progress. Soon you will be through the forest. The subplots and characters will start to come together and rush toward the ultimate climax. For now there’s just slogging and putting words on paper. These are the moments that separate the serious authors from the want to be writers, so glory in them even as you struggle. You will break through.

As I write this, I am right there with you. I am thirty eight thousand words into my latest WIP. It’s been one of the funnest writing projects I’ve done, until about four days ago. I hit the midpoint and suddenly it’s dragging. Each scene is meant to build on one of the subplots, but right now it feels like another nail in the coffin of the spark that once ignited the novel.

I’ve been here before, lots of times. I know what I need to do, keep writing. It will start moving again. Until then, here we are.

It reminds of the Bob Dylan song about the Joker and the Thief. So I will leave you with that.

“No reason to get excited”, the thief he kindly spoke

“There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke

But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate

So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”.

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