I’ve often heard that writing a second book is in some ways harder than writing the first. Wow. I really underestimated the truth of that statement. I always thought that writing a book would be sort of like writing a bicycle. Once you figure out how everything works, you just sort of hop on and go wherever you want, whenever you want.
But it has become apparent to me that writing a second book is more like climbing a different mountain. Maybe you have the endurance, the muscles, the oxygen, but there are different obstacles, unknown paths, slippery slopes, unsure hand and footholds. You don’t even really know if you will make it to the top or what it will look like when you get there. This can be extremely scary, especially when you have written a book before and felt that you succeeded in some way. To come to the base of another mountain and not be so sure how to scale it sort of takes the oxygen out of me.
For weeks I struggled to get anything down on the page, and what did come felt stale and forced. I found myself avoiding my writing time just so I wouldn’t have to feel the frustration. But I felt it anyway. It pressed down on my like a fat black cloud.
Finally I took a step back tried to evaluate my mental place, what I was thinking and feeling, where I was writing from. I realized that one of my biggest focuses was on getting something. Getting more inspiration, getting more ideas, getting more down on the paper, getting more praise, more money, more, more, more. This seemed a rather selfish mentality, and it obviously wasn’t working for me.
As an experiment, I decided I would try to flip this around. I would try to let go of the feelings of want and constant reaching for ideas and inspiration. Instead, I decided to focus on giving what I already had. The result astounded me. I suddenly had an outpouring of words and ideas. Scenes and chapters flowed from my fingers and what came out thrilled me. I felt an energy I haven’t felt in a long time. Not since I penned RUMP, I believe.
We all have something to give, but I think so many of us are afraid to let what is there come out because we’re not sure it’s good enough. We don’t think what we have should be interesting to anyone else, and so we reach for things outside ourselves, grab ideas that seem exciting and strange or in line with the current trend, whatever we think might service our artistic needs. And maybe that works sometimes. As a writer of fantasy, it’s obvious that I’m not writing about my everyday life, but all too often I think people ignore the already interesting things that are quietly resting inside of them. We don’t always need to look beyond ourselves to find the powerful, creative material that can become a wonderful story or painting or poem or song.
So the next time you are feeling stuck, stop reaching to get something. Give. Give the things that are already inside of you and you will be filled with more. 


6 comments

    • gaylene

    • December 11, 2012

    • 5:37 pm

    Wonderful post. I think this could be put into practice in any part of our lives.

  1. Interesting thoughts. I definitely get the idea of reaching for what’s trendy and trying to make that work. Sometimes we have to reach beyond, but if it’s a struggle, then I definitely get what you mean about being more introspective about writing and listening to what we want to do rather than trying to make something else happen. 🙂

    • Sarah

    • December 12, 2012

    • 2:16 am

    I totally second @gaylene and her comment – this is a really inspiring perspective for anyone struggling to achieve something, which is essentially trying to get something. When I try to get something specific, I reject everything I have/receive as “that’s not what I want!”, instead of taking it for what it is and using it. And a lot of times if you can use what you’ve got, you end up with something better than what you were originally hoping for anyway!

  2. This post comes at a good time for me, because I’ve been feeling insecure about my own manuscript. I’ve been reading over my latest draft and at certain points I keep thinking, “Why did I write THAT?” So it’s good to take a step back and look at the things I did right and what I still have to offer, like you said.

    • Robin

    • December 12, 2012

    • 10:03 pm

    Perfect post, Liesl. I’m struggling with that “next” novel and finding myself using the holidays as an excuse not to write. Off to give what I have inside me.

    • Shallee

    • December 16, 2012

    • 1:00 am

    This is beautiful, Liesl. I never thought about writing this way, at least not in these exact words. But it’s perfect. I need to bookmark this as a reminder!

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