I’ve been working on a short story submission for a women’s erotica magazine. I started with an idea that inspired me, and I enjoyed the process. Then, I got stuck.
The problem is, sometimes (or oftentimes) the wrong story can seem right for a little while. Sometimes it can seem right for a long while. My erotica story felt good because I had the images in mind. I thought it could be sexy and beautiful. It was. And it was boring. As the story neared 1000 words the woo-woo-woo of a dying motor sounded in my head. “Blah,” it said.
People in my circle are big on “signs.” Often you’ll hear the maxim repeated that “everything happens for a reason” or about intention-setting and universe-heeding.
The problem with this wisdom is that, following this logic, I often encounter the conundrum: When I’m pursuing a goal (like the completion of a story, for instance), and I encounter a big roadblock, I always wonder is this 1) the universe testing my resolve and my passion in the pursuit of the goal, thus indicating I should work harder to achieve it or 2) the universe telling me I’m on the wrong track and I should course-correct?
I’ve asked around and a lot of folks seem to have the same anxiety I do about this.
In writing, however, I usually defer to choice #2. I’ll course correct. Life is too short to spend months crafting a story that feels bulky and unfun from the start. Writing is magical because it allows my imagination to dictate the course. Literally anything I can imagine is fair game for writing. Why should I waste my time on a story that doesn’t thrill me? Why should I spend time with characters that bore me or plot lines that feel cliche? This mood will undoubtedly translate to my readers and then I’ll bore them, too. No thanks.
The rules are different if you’re trying to make a career as a writer, where you sweat blood and keep your head down, rushing to the finish line over and over again. But for most of us, people who have a story to tell, people who may just want to write one book or two, the question has to be, do you want to spend the next year, two years, five years, or ten years working on the wrong story?
There are plenty of subtleties to this. Sometimes the wrong story is actually right for a little while. Sometimes the wrong story has more to teach you, and you’ll become a better writer and/or person in your development of it. That’s a decision you have to make for yourself.
Just pay attention to what your block looks like. Is it an impenetrable block of doldrums and blah-inducing boredom? Or is it anxiety that your voice doesn’t belong in the canon, that you have no right to speak up, that you should be ashamed for making such a racket in the first place?
If your block looks like the latter, cowgirl up and power through; that’s just your shame trying to take hold of you. If it looks like the former, chalk it up as practice and come up with something new, something that gives you tingles, something that you can’t wait to hang out with for hours every day.
Good writing comes from passion and from love. It comes from the belief that what you have to say is interesting, engaging, and inspiring. If you don’t feel that way when you’re writing, your readers will see it too. Don’t waste your time trying to wrangle a boring story into a framework you can live with. Find the right story and the rest will fall into place.