Writing quicksand is a term I like to use to describe when writing is doing more damage than good. You know, the more you move, the faster you sink? It can happen in writing, too. Of course, writers should write all time. Whenever they can, really. But sometimes, it’s best to walk away for a little while, too, especially in regards to specific projects.
I found myself in writing quicksand the other day.
While working on a certain sequel, I hit a snag, but I didn’t back down. I pulled out my Sticky Notes. I displayed my plan. I switched it up. I rewrote Chapter One, and then, I edited Chapter Two and Three. From there, I redesigned a few characters…and then, I face-planted.
It was all wrong. Everything was worse. The “issues” I thought I was fixing were only multiplying in numbers.
I tore it all down, and I stubbornly tried again…and again…and again.
And every time, I only sank further into despair.
It’s a dangerous trap, and when you’re stuck in it, you can start doubting everything you’ve ever written—in the past, in the current, and even in the future. You can start thinking every project is silly or useless or mundane. But then, you tell yourself it’s just writer’s block, and you try to power your way through it…only to hurt the project again.
It’s okay to walk away.
It’s okay to take a break for a little while and clear your head elsewhere.
Personally, when I realize I’m in writing quicksand, I put the laptop away, find an awesome read, and try to write something else completely unrelated to anything else I’ve worked on recently. I listen to a podcast, I research some history, I challenge myself with some ridiculously hard crosswords. (I still need a 10-letter word for Koussevitzky’s wardrobe.) But taking a break lets me enjoy writing without the deadlines or pressure or worries that come along with any writer’s career. And sure enough, within a day or two, I was back on dry land.
My project even continued forward.
One article I LOVE LOVE LOVE is When to Put the Baby (Your Book) to Bed by Stacey Lee on Publishing Crawl. (If you haven’t read Stacey Lee’s YA historical novel, Outrun the Moon, do so now. It’s amazing. Here’s my 5-star review.) But her article about when to walk away from a manuscript is a fantastic, honest read about how to know when to give up. (And why it’s okay.)
For now, I’m continuing forward with the project I sunk into the quicksand with, but there has been numerous books I had to walk away from, too, and that’s okay.
As long as you keep writing—and keep trying—all the adventures are worth it, even the ones with quicksand.
12 thoughts on “#WW Writing Quicksand”
Thank you for this, Shannon! I think I’ve been in this writing quicksand lately as well. My job entails a lot of writing for other people and I’m really starting to become so unmotivated that I find myself procrastinating till the deadline. I get so frustrated with myself because I can’t write and this often results in an endless cycle of doubt.
So really, thank you for this. I needed to read this. I shall go and take a breather now.
I’m so glad you enjoyed this article! I completely understand feeling the way you do. I work all day as an editor, so I’m constantly reading and writing. Getting off work and trying to write and read more (even though it’s for myself this time) often seems draining. But taking a break definitely helps me! I hope your break helps you, too. 😀
That is so true! Thank you so much, Shannon! Have a great day 🙂
You, too! 🙂
Been there many times, which is probably why I’m so meticulous with my pre-writing planning. Character bios, outlines, and whatever else I think I need before I get into the actual book. All because long ago I had a habit of editing and making changes for the sake of making changes. Guess the hardest part of writing quicksand is realizing you’re in it before you do too much damage.
That is so true! Realizing you’re in it is definitely the hardest part. I was in denial for weeks and I’m undoing my damage now.
It’s hard, but sometimes you do have to take a break and trust that your muse is still working on this deep inside you.
Absolutely! Thank you for commenting, Deby!