The Messy Process of Creating Original Work


My creative process is a cycle, which means I go through the same stages over and over and over and over again. You’d think I’d get used to each stage and know exactly what was coming, what to expect, and how to handle it. But that never seems to happen. Instead, I get bogged down, confused, or lost, and only when I stop to look around do I recognize the place I’ve reached.

I’m working on a novel revision right now and the place I’ve reached feels like a dead end. I can’t move forward, can’t muster the energy or interest to do whatever needs doing. My book needs lots of work. I have lists of unanswered questions and details to be decided on.

I’m in a thinking and research phase of my project. This is always hard for me. It’s about gathering the material new story ideas will spring from, and the steps involved look like work.

So today, I am holding onto this thought:

Writing is a messy process that’s equal parts “mess” and “process.” — Julia Cameron, Finding Water, p. 98.

“Mess” and “process” describe where I’m at well.

My book is a mess right now, with parts that need cutting, parts that need re-writing, and parts to be written from scratch. The goal of this re-write is just to find my story and make it stronger, re-organize the mess into something orderly and interesting.

The word “process” reminds me that this whole thing is going to take time. It won’t be fast or easy. It will take plodding, determined, deliberate effort on my part. Most of all, it will take patience as I slowly get a grip on what I have and what I don’t have, and then chip away at the deficit.

My goal for the day is to enjoy the messy process of writing a novel, to inch forward, a little closer to a complete story. With patience, I can cover miles of territory, an inch at a time.

Do you get stuck on creative projects? Which part of the process is hardest for you?

4 thoughts on “The Messy Process of Creating Original Work”

  1. Revision is definitely the hardest for me. A lot of the time I feel like throwing everything out and starting over is easier. I’m trying to break myself of that habit because I’m worried I’ll never finish anything.

    1. I totally feel like I’m never going to finish anything. I have 9 NaNoWriMo drafts, three that I’ve worked on a lot, and not one is a complete draft yet. Starting over completely has happened at least twice. The novel I’m working on now has already had a re-start-from-scratch and I have lots of good stuff to work with. I just have to figure out the shape and content that works.

      What gets me is when I hit the unknown. Whether it’s “I don’t know what happens next” or “I don’t know how to solve this particular problem”, the unknown freezes me in my tracks. I have a feel for the novel I’m revising, but I haven’t got a clear vision of the story line, the things that need to happen and the things that need re-arranging/changing. So I’m floundering along at the moment, spending time with the draft and working on research and hoping it all comes together eventually. Probably, I’ll never see more than one section at a time, but even that would be a big help. I can build a novel if I have enough sections.

  2. Your post sounds exactly like what I’ve been going through revising my book. I keep painting myself into corners and, worse, realizing that my characters/plot points are bland and predictable. It gets incredibly frustrating! And so I try to re-imagine and re-write, again and again. I wish I had good tips or tricks to share, but really I just tell myself (over and over) to keep chipping away at it and try not to worry about how very, very long it’s taking. Writing is a lot of work with a few fun parts mixed in. I live for the fun parts. 🙂

    1. I get anxious about the time involved, too. Every time I try to push or rush it, though, things go even slower. So I think I have to go the speed I go, no matter how slow it may be, to get the job done. Looking forward to November — I need some fun writing, and NaNoWriMo will help with that. Good luck getting your novel straightened out!

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