Wading Through

Well, we did it. We muddled through the holidays and made it to the other side. Thank goodness we don’t have to do that again for another year.

Sometimes lessons seem to come in clumps, and lately the clump I’ve been dealing with is wading through the muck. Just keep moving forward and eventually you make it through to solid, and usually better ground.

The first noticed lesson on this subject was when I went back to college at 48 years of age. In some ways it was incredibly easy because I was finally studying a subject I loved. In another way it was incredibly difficult because I hadn’t read critically or written an essay in almost 30 years. Week after week I would face an assignment, tell myself I just couldn’t do it, and contemplate dropping out of the class and trying it again later. Week after week I would realize that would set me back from my desired graduation date and I would give it another try. Week after week I waded through the muck and felt proud of the papers I turned in. It became obvious that if I was willing to wade, there wasn’t much I couldn’t accomplish.

When I decided to pick up and move, I knew there would be a lot to coordinate to make that happen. It was overwhelming. It was scary. So many decisions to make. So much hard work ahead. So much upheaval to go through. I just knew I wanted what was on the other side of that upheaval more than I wanted to continue where I was. So I made one decision at a time, dealt with one unpleasant task after another, and surfed the waves of upheaval. I slogged through the muck, and somehow made it all happen, and pretty smoothly, too.

Most recently I discovered the power of the wade in my writing. Here’s how it goes for me with story inspiration — the idea hits. There’s a brain high that goes with that. The mind starts playing out the story. It seems fresh, original, exciting, and I can’t wait to tell this story. Then, as the high fades, reality sets in. Some of those ideas I had under the influence of an idea are ridiculous and won’t work. When I find enough that does work, I can start. However, once it becomes a daily slog through the muck, it becomes more like work. The excitement fades. It’s just trying to add more to the word count every day.

A couple of months ago, as often happens at this low point in story telling, I got hit with another idea for a book. That idea high kicked in. I wanted to jump ship on the boring slog, and start working right away on the new idea. Thankfully I have enough experience under my belt to know that would be foolish. I’d hit the slog soon enough with the new idea.

So I waded through. Day after day, step by step. Not to say I didn’t do a little research on the side for the new idea, but I didn’t stop working on the old idea. Miracle of miracles, there was an end to the muck, and I didn’t have to wait to finish writing the book.

No, right in the middle of the muck I hit solid ground. I got to the point where I can’t wait to write, because I can’t wait to hear the next bit of the story. With screenwriting I had become a slave to a pre-planned, intricately outlined story to assure I hit all the right beats. Stephen King’s book, “On Writing” took me in another direction, one where you let the story tell itself. I think I’m beginning to master that process, because I’m really and truly excited to know what happens next. Such an exhilarating feeling. Last weekend I discovered a character that I’d included… for what reason, I had no idea. I often considered cutting him… this character was vital to the story, and would have a major character arc. Who knew? The power of organic story-telling is heady.

I think I’m finally getting it. No matter how hard the road ahead seems. No matter how much you want to just give up and crawl in bed and cry, if what you want is across the muck, it’s totally worth it. Put on your hip waders, take one step at a time, over and over and over and over. The goal is always attainable, if you’re just willing to wade through.

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