Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Throwing in the towel....

            I embarked on a mission this summer.  Just 20 days ago, I wrote a post all about how I was going to spend this summer accomplishing a goal that I had set back last fall.  I was going to, out of sheer determination if nothing else, finish editing the novel I wrote back in November.  I would succeed at any cost!

November was a crazy month.  Despite having just started a part time job (my first outside-the-house job since having children), I signed up for NaNoWriMo 2012.  I knew it was a long shot- trying to write a novel while working and home schooling the children.  I knew my story idea was very vague and undeveloped too.  But one of the mottos of NaNo is “No plot?  No problem.”  It’s all about writing just to get the words on paper.  The hope, I guess, is that plot will come as you go along.   

            After I’d finished and “won”, I knew my story needed lots of work though.  The “No plot, No problem” attitude really did ring true for the duration of the month.  But in the months that followed….having 50,000+ words of a rough, plot-less, first draft, was a major obstacle to story success, of course.  I had my doubts even then.   I figured it was a good effort but not worth trying to fix.  I put it aside for the winter- both physically and cognitively.

But, I am not a quitter.  When I start something, I see it through to the finish.  So, over the spring, I kept thinking about that unfinished story and I talked myself into tackling it as a summer project.  The basic skeleton of a story was there (or so I told myself as I remembered my efforts)- so with time and patience and perseverance, I knew I could make something great of it.  I committed myself wholeheartedly to the task.  I was optimistic, excited, and, above all, determined.  I would succeed.

From day one, I was plagued with problems.  The story was just lacking.  It had no clear focus.  My characters didn’t know what they wanted or where they were going.  I liked the characters and who they were.  I had the tiniest details of their personalities and their lives worked out, but I didn’t have the big things worked out.  I kept getting caught up in the details and running into mental road blocks whenever I tried to work out the big issues.  I checked out books from the library all about novel writing and read them cover to cover.  But, the books, rather than shedding light on my editing efforts, ended up illuminated even more problems.

Anyway, suffice to say I was driving myself (and my husband who patiently listen to me rattle on and on about my struggles each and every evening) CRAZY.  It was an emotional process of trying to make something work in a story that nothing was working in.  I was fighting a losing battle but refusing, REFUSING! to give in.  I just wouldn’t fail and I wouldn’t quit.  

 Still, it wasn’t working.  So, I prayed and prayed and agonized and agonized.  

God told me what He wanted.  He asked me to give it up.  He reminded me that I need to be a mother first and that He wanted me with my children this summer, emotionally as well as physically.  (Incidentally, God speaks to me a lot- through Scripture, through the words of others, and through countless other sources too.  He gets His points across, if only I am willing to listen) 

I got the message loud and clear.  But, at first, I was still refusing.  I wanted to press on anyway.  I could do it.  I knew I could.  “I am committed to success,” I told myself.  But, that “no plot” thing is really obstinate when it comes to editing and God kept patiently calling me away.  

So, finally-- I threw in the towel on my 2nd novel.  

It was not worth the emotional struggle, not worth the time and energy.  My summer is now on a different track.  No more mission.  No more mountain climbing.  No more stubborn refusal to succeed at any cost.  

I am focusing on my children instead, and on enjoying writing (when I can) and on relaxing.  It is not what I planned or what I thought I wanted, but life is full of sacrifices and sometimes real success comes in being willing to fail…..


  1. Deep thoughts, but they ring true!!! I congratulate you for being able to to see the forest for the trees...don't feel defeated...just relieved! And when the time is write (pun intended!) start anew!

    Hugs, Kari!!!


    1. Val--

      Thanks so much for your positive thoughts! I'm trying to let go of my feelings of disappointment and be at peace with knowing I'm doing what's best, though it is a bit hard at times. But, in many ways, I AM relieved!

      Blessings, Kari

  2. Kari,

    I wouldn't be surprised if later on, when you least expect it, you will suddenly see how you can use your draft novel. Writing is never wasted. A character or a situation or an idea might be useful for another novel or short story. Sometimes stepping away and leaving a story for a period of time, will help us see new possibilities.

    A while ago, I had a story idea that wasn't going anywhere but I wanted to use it. It got very frustrating. Then a year or so later, I saw how to use the idea in a completely different story. It fitted into the second story much better. So all was not lost!

    Enjoy your summer relaxing and doing other things. You will return to novel writing refreshed, I'm sure!

    1. Sue-

      I hope you are right! I would love to be hit with some sort of revelation or inspiration as to how I can use, at least, some of what I've written. Right now, I will try to focus my thoughts on other things, but this may not be the end of my story......who knows?

      Thank you for always being such a support to me and always encouraging me in my writing (and parenting too). Hope you are doing well "down under!"

      God Bless, Kari

  3. Kari,

    I have found through my own faith journey that what God wants more than anything is our obedience. And what he may have asked us to start one year may not be finished until much later.

    You can read one such example of mine here: http://wp.me/p3APOM-3

    Having written in my spare time for almost 30 years, I've learned to look at every writing experience as an experiment. I don't really care if it is a success or not. Sure, I'd like every experiment to be a winner, but I'm more concerned about attempting something and, by the end of the process, I always find myself a much better writer for having tried.

    This has helped me a lot. Whether you end up using those 50,000+ words or not now or years from now, or only pieces of it years from now or next week... only God knows. But, it wasn't a waste of time. It wasn't a failure. I'm certain you are a better writer because of it. Not only by what you did well, but what you did poorly.

    I bet you never write without having a better thought out plot, right? Well, then that's a win. The experiment was a success on that level.

    Lastly, I can tell you I've had numerous times where I was trying to force my will upon God's and I could feel that I was swimming upstream. When I feel God and I are in sync, I feel a spiritual wind at my back. Even though the path may be hard, I feel that God's leading the way.

    When I try to force something, I always get a spiritual pushback. And when I'm really stubborn, the eventual realization that I'm heading in the wrong direction is that much more painful.

    You can read one of my more painful experiences here: http://wp.me/peKJr-16v

    So, I feel what you're going through. The end result though is that you were inspired, you wrote and you were obedient to God's request. That sounds like a win to me. :)


    1. Pete-

      This whole experience of "failure" has been very eye-opening for me. It's been the first time I felt called to write something and then had it just not work out. I'm sure it is God's way of teaching me so much about trusting in Him and following Him and being detached from anything that doesn't bring me closer to Him. But it has been hard to have to really look at myself and my goals and my motivations...and then let them all go.

      I read your blog posts and they spoke SO much to me about what this should really be about. Thank you sharing the links and for being so honest and open about your own struggles. I have unending respect for you and your family.

      And, like you, I promised in the beginning that this would be a ministry for me. And that it would be all about serving and glorifying God but now I do find myself running into my own pride way too often. I guess, you've been there too.

      I am hoping the rest of this summer can be about discernment and about taking my faith to another level. Maybe all this "failure" and letting go can help me to see what it really means to live out that promise I made that it would be all about and all for HIM!

      May God bless you! Thanks again, Kari



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