My Weekend Epiphany (or “Oh . . . duh!”)

During the past two weeks, I have made no progress whatsoever on my novel, so yesterday I decided to celebrate Mother’s day by quilting and continuing to ignore the whole book project.   I began cutting and stitching fabric I had pulled a few weeks ago for a new project, but after I had it all cut and sewn a bit, it was awful . . . ugly even. 

After quilting for fifteen years, I know that I always get to the “I hate this hideous quilt” stage at some point during construction.  When I first started quilting, I would stop working and set the project aside.  Now, knowing that this stage is normal, I sometimes I set the piece aside, but more often I just power through it, knowing that my planning will pay off, and the quilt will ultimately shine.

Yesterday, when I hit this stage with my quilt I had a huge “well . . . duh you idiot” moment, as I was struck with an epiphany about my creative process.  

This is exactly where I am with my novel.  I have this great idea that at one point I really liked.  It’s all plotted.  I’ve written a few scenes, but for the past few weeks, I haven’t written a word because I’ve been at the “this book is awful and I hate it” stage. 

There are two major reasons I’ve told myself this:  one, I can’t think of name for my main character, and two, a large part of the setting is historical and set in the west (both of which I love), but I do not want to write a “western” – ick!  Can I write historical western fiction and have it not be a western? I think that’s another post.

I have to say this discovery made me sigh with relief.  If I get to this stage for every single quilt I’ve ever made (and I’ve made a lot) but end up loving it after I force myself to keep working on it, then clearly this is normal for me during my creative process. 

So these past few weeks that I’ve set my novel aside to read, quilt, write a short story, and write blog entries haven’t been wasted.  They are obviously part of how I work.  I just had to figure out that my creative process applies whether I’m sewing or writing.  I feel much better about my novel project now . . . and I also feel ready to start writing again, knowing that I just need to power through this.  It will all shine in the end.

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  1. C.B. Wentworth on May 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Congratulations on your epiphany! 🙂 When I was writing my novel, I hit the same wall . . . over and over again. The inner critic is brutal and your own worst enemy (just recently my inner critic and I had a major smack-down), but you can’t let it beat you.

    You might want to pick up a baby name book to help with deciding on a name for your main character. For around $8 you can have literally thousands of names at your fingertips. 🙂

    As for genre – it’s your story so you can do whatever you want! Fiction is all about breaking the rules. Good luck!

    • Amy Isaman on May 10, 2011 at 3:04 am

      The baby name book is a fabulous idea – thank you!

  2. laurastanfill on May 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    To respond to this–“Can I write historical western fiction and have it not be a western?”–why not? Go for it! I am writing historical fiction right now, and am taking similar risks. It’s great fun. I’m still figuring out how to pull this off, but I’m enjoying every day at the keyboard.

    • Amy Isaman on May 10, 2011 at 3:04 am

      Thank you for the thought. I love my story idea , and I adore historical fiction and (oddly enough) research, so I feel like its a good fit. And I’m having fun. It’s my own weirdness about “westerns” that I need to get past I guess.

      • laurastanfill on May 10, 2011 at 1:31 pm

        I totally know what you mean. I had to get past the same kind of thing when my friends told me to keep going with my great-great-great grandfather I had invented (as backstory to an object in the contemporary novel I thought I was writing). I got sucked into writing historical fiction and it took a while to recalibrate how I felt about the genre and whether I really wanted to be writing it. So how about redefining westerns? Doing one that’s a western, due to place and period, but using the conventions to your own ends–or turning them on their heads.

        • Amy Isaman on May 12, 2011 at 4:25 am

          That’s funny – we’re opposite – you went contemporary to historical and I’ve done historical to contemporary. I think I figured out a way to frame the story with a parallel contemporary story line (I have no idea if that makes sense) but it rescued it from feeling like a western. Maybe it still will be but right now, in my brain at least, its not. I guess since the subtitle of my blog is (re)defining myself as a writer, I’ll just go ahead and redefine genres or at least blur them a bit. Why not? Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Debra Mae on May 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Go Amy! I had the same sinking feeling on Saturday when reviewing a few of my book chapters. So good to know I am not alone in facing these inner hurdles. Thanks for sharing your strategy of “powering through.”

    • Amy Isaman on May 10, 2011 at 3:02 am

      Your comment cracked me up – I never thought of powering through something as a strategy but I guess if it helps me get it done then its a strategy! Thanks!

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