It’s easy for a lot of us to lose our way in the middle of a writing project. We start out fine, but then we get confused. We start to ask ourselves: where is this story going? What is the theme? Why am I not feeling this any more?
We can also doubt whether the story has a place in the world. We can start to wonder: Will anyone want to read this?
Here’s one question that I’ve started asking myself about every writing project, and I’ve started asking other people when they tell me they’re feeling stuck or lost in the weeds. It’s very simple!
Why do you want to write THIS story?
Out of all the stories in the world you could have picked, you chose this one. If you heard this type of story was trendy or hot, or if the concept simply interested you on an intellectual level, you might have started it without making a real connection with it. Otherwise, though, there’s a personal reason why you picked this story, even if you’re not aware of it yet.
I heard someone from Pixar (sorry I don’t remember who; I’ve heard a few people from Pixar speak over the years) talk about this principle. The movie Up began with the drawing of a house being carried away by hundreds of balloons. The artist who drew it had a lot of responsibilities and pressures, like most of us do, and the drawing symbolized his longing to float away from it all and go far, far away. Preserving that fantasy of escapism was crucial to the movie.
I believe we all start writing projects with an emotional need or something we’re yearning to say, even if we aren’t aware of exactly what it is. Identifying it can make it easier to figure out what we’re doing and give us confidence.
Here’s how I would answer this question for my current writing projects. I think that can help explain what I’m talking about.
I wrote my romantic Southern ghost story, Wicked Garden, because I wanted people to feel brave enough to confront and overcome their pasts. I also wanted to show that a person (in this case, my hero) can struggle with mental illness and still be charming, kind, sexy, and strong.
I’m working on my story about a medieval knight who was turned into a statue and stayed that way for hundreds of years because I want to express the joy of simply being alive and fresh appreciation for the familiar world around us. While I’ve never been turned to stone, I’m often “living in my head” and I can certainly feel stuck.
I’m writing my paranormal romance series because I have a yearning for physical heroism and self-sacrifice that just isn’t met by my regular life as a writer. It’s the same kind of urge that makes people want to be soldiers, but in this case, I’m telling stories instead.
What about you? What’s the drive or urge behind the writing you’re doing? I’d love to hear about it! Have a great week, and happy writing!