Sometimes You Just Need to Get Out of Your Own Way

Now and then I need a boot in the ass and just get out of my own way. I thought I stalled out on writing my next book as I fine-tuned the previous one. And figured out how to write a query letter. A synopsis. A pitch for Twitter. An interpretive dance of my main plot points. So, with Book 1 occupying my brain space, how was I going to move forward on Book 2?

Turns out I put roadblocks in front of myself when there didn’t have to be any. I wasn’t using my lateral thinking. Don’t underestimate your brain. It’s capable of holding two stories, several poems, and an essay without breaking a sweat. I just had to compartmentalize. I thought. Book 1 in the top file cabinet of concrete things to get done. (I don’t like to think concretely, it hurts my brain. Probably why I don’t get along with Scrivener.)

Poems are stuffed in the middle file cabinet of ways to play with language. Essay lying on the top in a folder overflowing with ideas. Book 2 in the bottom drawer of long conversations with myself. The child playing dress-up, but dressed in the persona of my characters. (For the record, the characters are snappier dressers than I am.) Sometimes I rearranged the files in the cabinets willy-nilly. That shook loose a lot of ideas. 

Looking for answers

So did meditating with my character in my head, posing a problem for my character and consulting Tarot cards for an answer, and writing a variety of solutions on 3×5 cards, shuffling them, then picking one to play with. Or alternatively, burning the cards. Because it felt good. 

My panic was, “I’m not getting this down on paper! Ack!” Logical me, who stops by to visit infrequently, pointed out I’m writing it down in my head. Whole conversations I revisit and revisit, smoothing and refining until it’s just like a memorized poem. Then I can put it on paper. I’ve finally accepted that’s just how my mind works. All the writing advice in the world can’t help if it doesn’t mesh with the way you do business. My ND brain wants to look at the outline, pick up on a scene, play with it from every angle until I run out of steam, then write the best parts of what went on in my head. 

Head Hopping

It’s still a first draft but it’s one I can live with. Book 1 took so long because I word vomited on the page after a year of thinking about the book. I overthought the story arc and had to step back, reoutline, and cut about 12,000 words in the rewrite. Scenes fleshed out in my head that were more background than was needed for the story. That’s when I stopped and wrote a long background novella for the story. Once I got it out of my head, it was easy to move forward without thought ghosts rattling my brain. 

When I thought of Book 1 as the backstory for Book 2, it all fell into place. I could do the analytical part of prepping to submit without stepping all over Book 2. With analytical-me (I know, I know, shocking to me, too.) safe in her office down the brain hall, I could move between invent-a-story me, and write-poetry me. Poetry-me likes to wander the Big Horn mountains in my head while story-me traipses around cities and towns. Easy enough to keep separate. It’s kind of like having a work persona, a friend persona, and a home persona.

Does everyone do it that way? Or do all your brain parts just play together? I love hearing other people’s writing methods. Maybe there’s something I can steal.

Other articles on writing

My Wips Get an Intervention

Pulling Words Apart to Smash Writing Together

Advice Paralysis

Genre Reading and Writing. Arithmetic Free.


  1. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

    I like this peek into your brain and process. As you’ve come to know from our working together, I’m much better at one project at a time. I hate holding more than one project in my head because the one I’m not working on is always niggling me in the background while I’m working on the other and that makes me anxious and unproductive all the way around. This got much clearer during the pandemic when I was reassessing how I did everything and tossing out what didn’t work for me anymore (or maybe ever). I also know if I veer off into a new idea, I seldom go back to an old one; I lose interest in the old one. That means I damn well better finish one thing before moving onto another! It’s really helpful to know what kind of writers we are, how we hold projects in our heads, and how much we can juggle. Not knowing that causes a lot of burnout and frustration, which spills over to frustrating those who work with us no doubt.

  2. Constance

    It’s interesting how people approach things. I don’t think I could work on one thing at a time. Even in artwork I have several projects going at once. I wonder how much is personality type/ND stuff/and or upbringing? One reason I always liked psychology, to try and figure things out.

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