Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Making the difficult decisions

I'm not a fan of making decisions. I'm one of those indecisive people who never knows what restaurant they want to go to, or which movie they want to see. I tend to make sweeping changes to my life on whims, rather than based on any reasonable decision-making.

But there are times when I need to make a firm decision instead of just following a whim, and in those moments, I'm never quite sure how to go about it.

I've been revising the same book for four years now. I've had an agent waiting on it for over two years. So far she hasn't dropped me from her client list for a complete lack of ability to produce anything, but I wait daily for the announcement. And I am SICK of this book. I'm drowning in the details.

And worse, I don't have the time to finish it. It still needs tons and tons of work, and I have maybe 20 minutes a day to write. On a good day.  Let's say I manage to finally

So there's a part of me that says I should just let this book go. Pull the trigger with my agent myself, and take the pressure off myself. Start a new book fresh and use those 20 minutes I have each morning to enjoy writing a story again, instead of banging my head against the wallw ith revisions. Wait until I have a few books ready and then start over with the agent/publisher search in a few years when I'm not chasing a toddler.

The other part of me says that I cannot possibly give up now. This book is good, or would be good, if I could just finish it. And writing is a skill that develops over time--I can't just stop and expect to pick it up later without consequences. Giving up sounds very, very dangerous.

What do you do when faced with a bid decision? Are you naturally good at making sound decisions, or do you waffle like me? Do you fear giving up? How do you motivate yourself when giving up starts to look tempting?


Maureen said...

Well, when I was tempted to give up and just stop trying anymore, I challenged myself by committing to releasing a 30 book series in 7.5 years.

Then, in the last year, when I found doubt creeping in over this insane idea...I further pushed myself by putting it all over FB that I was going to do this. I even printed up 1000 buttons and paid to have them put in the registration bags at the Romance Novel Convention...and paid for covers, copy editors and a formatter for the first four books.

I can't back out.

And I know, because it's already happened, that I will want to back out many, many, many times in the next 7.5 years...but I can't. I went public. Even if no one noticed but me...I can't now.

And that's how I handled the doubt. I still feel it, I still cry a lot, I still scream and yell and stare into nowhere for hours at a time...but I don't stop.

Fear giving up? Constantly.

Maureen said...

Will this work for you? I don't know, sweetie. Big decisions, for the most part, terrify me. I have others coming up that really freak me out. But the writing one is made.

Or at least the editing one is made. Not sure how much new writing will be done thru this commitment, but enough I think, to count.

I agree, you need the joy back.

quantum said...

I favour a holistic approach to living. Joy and harmony is the thing to aim for. It sounds to me as though the writing is becoming a real chore, especially with that toddler making huge demands. The writing has to blend with the rest of your life for it to to be worth while. If it is not providing the fulfilment and joy that you deserve then you need to change. I used to have a room in my house that was dedicated to silence and thought. When in residence I hung a notice on the door saying "SILENCE GENIUS AT WORK". It helped a bit but my young son always ignored it! Haleigh, I think you should honestly prioritise your activities and if the writing is not high on the list, consult your husband and seriously consider shelving it, at least until that toddler is more independent......but then I'm just a man .... what would I know about it! LOL

Janga said...

I'm a waffler too, Haleigh, and a second-guesser after I finally make a decision. I am not the person to offer advice for your situation, but I do think it's important to remember that postponing something is not quitting. Neither is taking a new direction.

Marnee Bailey said...

I completely understand how difficult it is to write with kids underfoot. I feel your pain.

As to the book and the agent and the pressure.... Honestly, if she's given you 2 years, she's probably not in any rush to send you on your way. :) Maybe what you need is to just give yourself a hall pass for a little while. A little Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Set the book aside. Not infinitely, but for a little while. Think of it as marinading. Write something else, something fun. Even if it's just an exercise. Find your passion again. See how you feel in a couple months.

haleigh said...

Maureen, you continually inspire me. Thank you for the encouragement. I like that you used a combination of a financial investment (I'm the same way - if I've paid hard-earned money, I'm not stopping!)and the social announcement to commit yourself. There's a level of accountability in those announcements, even if there's no specific individual holding it over your head.

I also love that you're prepared for future doubts. I tend to assume (erroneously so) that once the decision is made, I won't have any additional doubts or hesitations. Then when they come, they make me question everything all over again. By expecting and being prepared for them, I think you give yourself a leg up on all those future rounds of second-guessing.

haleigh said...

Q - you clearly know plenty about it and thank you for your empathy and advise. I think you've touched on my exact problem, that I've lost the joy of creativity in the writing, and it's become one more chore on an increasing long list. I think a family discussion is certainly in order.

haleigh said...

postponing something is not quitting. Neither is taking a new direction

You're very right Janga. I tend to think I have two options - continue the current path, or give up completely - when there are a variety of options in between those two.

haleigh said...

Ah yes, Marn. You know, and I am so impressed at the speed and consistency of your writing! You're right that if she's already given me two years, she's probably not in any hurry.

I took a two-month hiatus during January/February, so I had felt like I shouldn't take another, but I'm realizing that part of the difference is that I took a hiatus from writing and thinking about writing, not from this particular project. Taking a month or two to recapture my love of writing through a new project is a different type of hiatus all together, isn't it?

Marnee Bailey said...

I think of writing as "my thing." It's the thing that saves my brain from mommy overload and keeps me from turning into just a mind-numb singer of Nick Jr jingles. I guard it.

It's not a hiatus, just a little writing exercise. I am sure there's some little story (something completely new, not something you feel needs to be revised) that has been nagging at you, whispering about how it would like to play with you.

Also, how do you *feel* about the story? Are you still in love with it, with the characters, with the theme of it? I found that after I had Ry especially, that my perspective about the story I'd been working on changed a lot.

And, finally, I bet, if at worse case you abandoned the story (just playing worse cases here) that if you write something else, that your agent would love to see that too. She knows what's up with your life and stuff, right? I bet you aren't the first person to be in this situation and I'd imagine she knows us artsy sorts are a little fickle at times and have to follow where the bliss goes.

P. Kirby said...

I've realized that over the past decade or so, my habit has become to agonize over decisions, and I mean agonize. To the point where I fell into the habit of avoiding situations where I'd have to make harder decisions. Or any decisions.

Looking back it's obvious that a fear of failure is a big part of the problem. And by "failure," I don't just mean fear that the book won't sell, I'll make a fool of myself, etc. I mean even little shit, like, "What if I pick this movie to attend and it sucks?"

Yep, crazy.

So a big thing for me right now is simply accepting that my decisions aren't always going to work out well, and that's okay. I don't have to be perfect, life doesn't have to be all unicorns and lollipops.

I know. Sounds bleedingly obvious, but not to me. Consequently, I've been having a lot more fun in life; having more adventures.

As for your book project, um, I'm going to state the unpopular and suggest that maybe that horse isn't just dead, but skeletal. Have you read through it and thought, "Damn, this is good!" or do you just tell yourself it's good?

I mean, if you really hate it, if the characters are no longer speaking to you, if it just isn't your thing, it's okay to say, "This isn't what I want anymore." Life goes on, our interests change and evolve.

FWIW, I don't think quitting is failure. No doubt you learned a lot from writing this manuscript, so it wasn't a wasted effort.

Marnee Bailey said...

Pat has hit the nail on the head for me today. :)

I don't have to be perfect, life doesn't have to be all unicorns and lollipops.

I need a t-shirt of this.

I mean, if you really hate it, if the characters are no longer speaking to you, if it just isn't your thing, it's okay to say, "This isn't what I want anymore." Life goes on, our interests change and evolve.

And THIS. So much this. I said this to myself earlier this year. And you know what? Life did go on.

MsHellion said...

I don't think "giving up" on a particular project is giving up on the craft altogether. Mostly because as with anything you enjoy doing and do well (as you do), you'd come back to it sooner or later anyway. It's why I keep odds and ends of various crafts projects. Just because I'm not quilting this year like I was last year, doesn't mean I won't be doing it next year. 2011 was the year of painting. I didn't do it at all in 2012. Now I'm painting again because it appeals to me. 2012 I think I might have quilted awhile...I'm not sure...I don't remember. I just know this crap goes in locust cycles of busy-ness for me.

I put aside the cowboy story because I was dreading it and allowed myself to look at another story...and swept ahead on that one. I think there's something nice about having 2 or more projects to write on, so whatever is going on that day or week, you wrote on SOMETHING and it will eventually pay off in some form.

I'm getting sick of the other story I picked up to work on now...and the cowboy story is looking good again. It just cycles. I think of it as adding layers. :)

Maureen said...

You know, Hal. I forced my hand. But my situation is different. No toddlers, I'm 53...

But doubt regarding decisions is nothing new. Pat is right, it can drive you absolutely bananas. And not in the good, Minion, way.

All of you writers doing it with kids underfoot, or working full-time, really just blow me away. And if you take a break? That takes a lot of accept that you aren't superwoman. And yup, postponing something is not quitting. Neither is taking a new direction.

I don't know when I'll write again, no new stories on the horizon...but during my monsoon season, I put a lot of writing down. I think I could edit and revise for the rest of my life and still have a new book out for probably a good 15 years.

I really fought it. As a writer, I should be writing! But I don't know, maybe this is just where I am... So I decided to ride it.

irisheyes said...

I've been thinking a lot about your question today because decisions paralyze me, or used to. And I think it's because I'm afraid of living with the consequences, or more specifically making the wrong choice. Once I learned that I could deal with whatever happened as a result of my initial decision and that it wasn't right or wrong just the way it is, deciding became a lot easier. I have my DH to thank for that. :)

I also believe that a lot of it is personality based. He's a fly by the seat of his pants kind of guy - he makes a decision and goes with it. He doesn't look at it in terms of right or wrong just a new reality he has to deal with. I'm more of a let's plan this out to the nth degree kind of gal - I won't make a decision until I've researched, studied and plotted out all the different outcomes. And if it doesn't work out I blame myself for making a stupid decision.

I find that I feel the most comfortable in making an important decision when I give myself options, even if one of them is going back to the way things were. :)

haleigh said...

Oh Pat, I know that crazy cycle of worry well. Reminding yourself that decisions don't have to be the right ones or the best ones, and that can be just fine is such a great strategy - I need to regularly remind myself of that.

I still really like the book itself, and the characters, and it's still good. I'm just too exhausted to give it the attention it deserves.

haleigh said...

Hellie, I do the cycles too. Sewing, gardening, cooking, I go through love and 'ehh' cycles with each. I tend to forget that the same is true for writing.

I think you guys are on to something with the idea to to switch to a new, fresh story for a while. I'm always afraid I'll never want to come back to it, but that's bullshit. You're right - I'll cycle back to everything

MsHellion said...

Half-finished WIPs are like ex-boyfriends. They'll call you for a booty call eventually and you'll be in the middle of it before you realize why you broke up in the first place. Except with the WIP, there's a possibility of finishing it and making something productive out of it.

haleigh said...

Irish, what good advice. I have worked hard to try take right/wrong out of the equation in dealings with other people, but I always forget to include myself in that. And you're absolutely right that there's no correct path that leads to me exactly the outcome I want, and a wrong path that leads me to the exact opposite.

haleigh said...

And thank you for the empathy and understanding and the encouragement. It's so wonderful to be surrounded by other writers who know exactly what I fear, and exactly what I should take into account with a decision like this. Thank you.

haleigh said...

Half-finished WIPs are like ex-boyfriends. They'll call you for a booty call eventually and you'll be in the middle of it before you realize why you broke up in the first place.

Hysterical!!! And so, so true.