On Abandonment

ToledoYou may have noticed that it’s been a long time since I posted anything on the blog – more than half a year.

I’m still here. I didn’t die. I didn’t stop writing either but instead had something of a social media crisis which has kept me largely off the inter-webs till now.  I prepared blog posts, kept notebooks worth of ideas and planned (several times) to write reviews of books I’ve loved (and hated) over the past few months. Yet, none of it made it online. The longer I left it, the harder it got. I thought about giving up entirely and shutting the blog down. I no longer understood what it was I was doing, or who I was doing it for. I started to think that my time was not well spent here in internet-land and that getting something worthwhile done meant turning my back on it entirely.  Now that the fog of anxiety is clearing however, I can see the error of my ways.

I like this blog. I like writing posts and engaging, even sporadically, with like minded writers and readers. Somewhere along the line I forgot its purpose – to help motivate me to write ‘the novel’ and to share my experiences and thoughts on reading and writing with the wider community  – but now I see this blogging interlude for what it was – a time to think and re-focus.

For the past few days I’ve been thinking about abandonment – what does it mean when we lose our initial enthusiasm for something, neglecting it and letting it quietly slip out of our lives. Have we failed when we stop going to guitar lessons and bury the twangy old instrument in the attic? Have we failed when our five days a week gym plan becomes the two days a week gym plan after a month and then becomes someday soon I promise plan the month after that? Have we failed when we reach the halfway point in our novel and realise that it just doesn’t work anymore and that our daily ritual of coffee and 1000 words before breakfast becomes impossible to maintain?

When does it make sense to abandon the things we set out to do? And when does it make sense to try and persevere?

Following Nanowrimo last year, I had the first 30,000 words of what I thought was going to be ‘the novel’. I thought it was the one I was going to stick with. I loved the main premise (I still do – but no longer think that I’m the person to write it) but I didn’t write much of an outline in advance and soon got bogged down in a very thick and heady detail soup. The pieces refused to fit and no amount of re-writing or cajoling could make the story more interesting or the characters more compelling. I started calling the project “Etch-a-Sketch” because the cycle of writing and deleting was endless. We’re closing in on Nanowrimo 2015 and I feel like I’ve made little progress with it since last year. This is not because the story cannot work… I’m convinced that it can… but I have come to a realisation.  This is a book that I want to read but it is not the book that I want to write!

Last month I started to jot down some notes for a different story and since then have devoted a little time each day to outlining what happens. I’m on the cusp of abandoning a writing project I have worked on for nearly a year in favour of this new one. It’s possible that I’m abandoning the old story for the shiny new idea simply because it is shiny and new and that 30,000 words down the road I will be tempted to abandon this one too.

But here’s the thing – I now believe that I have been writing the wrong book. I approached it without outlining properly and ploughed ahead with the draft without spending some time thinking about what it was I wanted to do with it. I get to start again and to learn from past mistakes. So abandonment need not be synonymous with failure here but, instead, with new beginnings.

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