When the Going Gets Tough, Walk Away, And ROW80

Sometimes, you get stuck on a project. You’ve tried powering through, you’ve tried researching possible solutions, you’ve tried banging your head on the keyboard (or whatever), and you get to a point where the only thing left to do is walk away.

And this can be the best thing to do. I don’t mean permanently, but just take a break and go do something else. Later, I’ll usually come back to the first project with an a-ha solution to whatever was blocking me!

This is something I’ve internalized years ago at the day job (I am a web developer), and it works for other things, too–graphic design projects, sewing, even restoring a car (my husband’s current hobby project). This week, I was reminded that it’s great for the writing, too.

The “something else” we walk away to doesn’t even need to be something entirely different–it can be a different project of the same type. A different web development project, a different part of the garment I’m constructing, a different part of the car in restoration–or a different story.

I didn’t think I could work on two stories at once, but I tried it yesterday, and my wordcount added up fabulously fast!

It might be because the project I switched to is related to the primary project–a short story in the same world, and almost functions as a subplot, so while it was different, it wasn’t too different.

So I met the writing portion of my ROW80 goals by doing something seemingly counterproductive–by walking away.

ROW80Logo175Here’s how the rest went:

  • 12,000 words on WIP: split between 2 WIPs, but I’m calling this one Done!
  • Review video lessons for Promotions workshop first three weeks and take notes: partial–got through 2-1/2 weeks.
  • Refine layout of Shopping Cart page for family member’s web site: Partial–worked on it, but it’s not quite finished.
  • Fitness 4 times, no matter how short: Done!

Here’s what’s up for this week:

  • Finish out NaNoWriMo by writing 11,000 words on either story or both
  • Review remaining lessons for Promotions workshop
  • Finish Shopping Cart and Checkout pages for website
  • Fitness 4 times, even if short
  • Survive Thanksgiving–yes, it’s that time! And yes, I’m hosting, but this won’t be difficult, as my family is small and others contribute.

What about you–have you had to “walk away” from a project lately? Did you come back to it with renewed vigor and ideas? If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, are you on track to hit 50,000 words by Saturday? If you’re in the U.S., what are your plans for Thanksgiving? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.


11 Responses to \

  1. Jennette, I recently went through sort of the same thing. Two weeks into starting the 3rd book in my series, I stalled. I didn’t change projects right away. Instead I spent another two weeks banging my head against the keyboard. When I finally came to the conclusion that the story wasn’t developed enough and needed more time to simmer, I set it aside and picked up another story project, one thats been in the back of my brain for years. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been mapping out the characters and plot, and now I’m excited to get writing.

    You have comes up with a terrific way to work on two projects at the same time…connecting them via story or subplot. Ingenious! 🙂

  2. Great job this week, Jen. The next WIP I want to finish, I’ve tried to finish it a couple of times. I can’t seem to get the ending the way I want. I now know two ways that won’t work. Maybe the third try, after time away, will work. Walking away has worked for me a couple times and I really hope it worked this time too. Fingers crossed. Hope you have another great week. Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Excellent that you’ve made this realisation and that you’re using it to your advantage!

    I’ve walked away from a few things and allow myself that privilege. Usually happens with reading. If a book doesn’t grab me I’m off. I used to struggle through it, then mourn the loss of time. Now I stop reading and open another book.

    I also walked away from my first novel several times, but always go back. Same with the second novel. It always improves quite a lot after I come back with fresh eyes and new ideas. Stories are like onions: they need layers and for me, those layers come with time, not through rigorous planning. This means Ill never be prolific (unless I get quicker at this process, which is possible with practice) or learn to write on several WIPS at once (which I find difficult).

    I have a lot of shorts, some of which I’d like to re-write and publish at some point. I’ll get around to them when I read them and something sparks another layer, a renewed interest in the characters/storyline. If that doesn’t happen to me, it wont happen to the reader. So no point publishing it. (IMHO)

    Best of luck for the week ahead and those Thanksgiving celebrations. X

  4. Definitely true, Jennette! I walked away from a project earlier this year, came back to it this fall, and the novel is coming together so much better now.

    Congrats on nailing your goals. Best wishes for the final push with NaNoWriMo!

  5. I guess I did walk away from my current project. I got stuck when I came to scenes that featured John and Sarah (yep, they return!) and realized I needed to resolve Bite Me before I could go on. So…back to Bite Me and back to my editor (she’s still reviewing it) to see if my fix is fixed! Once I did that, I was able to continue with my current project and the words actually flowed. It was a relief! Yay!

    Of course, I’ll be jumping for JOY if Bite Me sells. Keeping my fingers crossed.

    Congrats on all that writing you’ve done! I really need to get my stuff together. Won’t be today, though. Still trying to get caught up in everything.

    Happy Thanksgiving!!!

  6. Didn’t walk away, but the WIP had a very mushy middle. So I stopped and started outlining. Probably something I should have done before.

    And that’s how I’m spending Thanksgiving week.

  7. Going back and forth between projects used to always be my modus operandi, and I did for exactly the reason you’re describing — let it simmer for a while and go back to it when it flows again. At some point, I stopped doing that, I think about the time the first book was traditionally published and the publisher wanted a second. I forced myself to power through that book, and I really didn’t enjoy it.

    Now I’m slowly returning to my old method of doing things, and it seems to be working quite well!

    Congrats on all the goals achieved. 🙂

  8. Sheila, I’ve done that too many times, and wasted hours, though sometimes powering through is just what we need. And thanks!

    SJ, hope taking a break works for you this time – and you have a nice Thanksgiving, too!

    Shah, life’s too short to read books we don’t enjoy IMO! I didn’t think I could work on two projects at once, but it’s working well now, so might be worth a shot?

    Julie, this has happened to me many times, too. And thanks!

    Stacy, good luck with Bite Me – I’ll cross fingers for you too!

    Jim, going back to outlining is a different sort of walking away, and sometimes just what the story needs. I had to do that with this one a few weeks ago myself. Good luck getting it straightened out!

    Thanks, Coleen, and you have a great Thanksgiving too!

    Ruth, thanks! I’m surprised how well this is working. Definitely will try again!

  9. I like the idea of working on a different but connected project, like your story in the same world. Or just stepping back from the actual writing to work on an outline or character sketches or something. Walking away can definitely help. I was beating my head against a few things I thought I should be writing, and then a shiny new idea attacked me 4 days into NaNoWriMo. That’s going swimmingly and I’m almost to 50K. I do plan to go back to the short stories I was originally going to write, but I don’t think any of them were ready yet.

    Have a great week!