This is a struggle that many creators often face. The idea they want to write is so perfectly formed in their head and yet when it comes time to put pen to paper, the story doesn’t quite match what was in their head. It’s much rougher and not as fully formed as they would like it to be.
I recently faced this with a project I’ve been working on. I had plenty of passion for the project, it’s a story that has been on my mind for 4 years or so…But after a few months of working on characters and plot, I realized though I loved the characters and my idea, my skills to tell this story weren’t up to snuff.
When you hit this crossroads, you can do one of two things:
- Give up and throw your hands in the air.
- Put the story away for a little while. Build your skills. Come back to it later.
If you give up, it’s over. If you put the story on the shelf and keep working to become a better creator, you can come back to it someday and do it justice.
I’m an avid Neil Gaiman fan. I loved his writing advice before I fell in love with his writing, because he is often very raw and very honest. There are a few times where he will mention that he started a story or got an idea, only to finish it years later, long after the initial spark.
Sometimes you just aren’t ready to tell a particular story, even if you love the story to pieces. I find that I know I’ve hit this point when all the pleasure goes out of writing the story. Writing is a job, yes, but for me I never want it to feel like hard, monotonous work.
It’s important to have passion and skill for any project you plan to work on. If you are pursuing a creative endeavor, if you are making stories or art you should love it. It shouldn’t be just a job, if it feels like a constant slog and you can’t find your passion for the project…Switch projects. If switching doesn’t help, maybe it’s time to find a new passion. You want to be excited about what you are working on. If you can’t find that excitement no matter what you try, then it’s either time to take a break or time to try something else.
There are much easier jobs that pay better that don’t require creative stress. Creating is labor, but it should be the kind of labor you enjoy doing.
I’ll end this post with a great quote on this topic from Ira Glass:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.
Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”