I need a new metaphor.
Last week I compared the act of writing to playing poker. “Stick it out,” I said. “You’re book will never get written if you fold your hand every time the going gets rough.” I believe that, too.
The problem is, writing really isn’t like gambling (unless you’ve quit your day job to do it, that is).
No, a more apt metaphor is fishing. You take your boat out on the lake, bait your hook and drop a line in the water. Maybe you jiggle the line a bit here and there, but you spend a lot of time waiting for something to come along and bite. Sometimes the fish gets away, sometimes it’s too small and you have to toss it back. Sometimes you land a keeper. Dinner!
The thing is every fisherman has one of those days where the fish just don’t bite. You spend hours out there with your line in the water, waiting. Waiting. Waiting. At some point you have to decide: stay here, or move to another spot?
The resistance to movement is strong: why would any other place be better? You’ve spent all this time here, you've been successful here in the past, you know the fish will bite if you give it just a little more time. And then there’s the fact that the act of moving – pulling in the lines, stowing the gear, firing up the boat – takes time; time that’s spent not fishing.
Developing a story takes time and energy. You’ve invested time and energy thinking about your characters and their world, constructing a plot, and crafting dialogue that is true to your characters. You’ve lived with these people in your head. You’ve laughed with them and cried with them, and now you’re telling them, “Sorry, I’m going away for a while. Maybe I’ll see you again sometime.” It requires a mental change of gears to get into another new world and populate it with new people with new problems. It requires stowing one set of gear, moving the boat, and dragging the gear out again. Time and energy.
But again, there’s a time when it’s the right thing to do. The reason this post is so difficult for me to write is because I really can’t tell you when that is. It seems to be something you ‘just know,’ a matter of feel. So here’s where I cop out. I’m going to turn it over to you, the dedicated few who follow and read this blog: How do you know when you’ve really reached the end of all you can do with a particular story? How do you know when it’s time to move the boat? Feel free to comment or write your own post on your own blog. Thanks, and have a good weekend!