Writing through Setbacks
During this year’s spring clean, I opened two reedy decorative baskets I had stacked in a corner and forgotten about. Inside one I found 20 skeins of this yarn I had purchased while my children were still at home. I jumped for joy and spread the yarn in the middle of the living room floor. I stood over my find and giggled while pondering what stitch pattern would best show the texture and colors. Too excited to wait, I shrugged my shoulders and immediately began the chain stitches for my newest project.
I finally found a pattern and labored for hours. The first evening, it was after midnight before I stretched and yawned before heading to bed, only to discover my rear-end had gone numb. Several mornings later, I examined my previous night’s labor, and fumed. The design had gaping holes throughout. And there is nothing I hate worse than pulling an afghan over my shoulders, only for my toes to fall into the cavernous holes. I unraveled each stitch and started over.
The next week, I worked many hours on another pattern, to the point that my eyes stung, and my hands and shoulders ached. First thing one morning, I took a gander at what I had accomplished, and the afghan curled in on itself. My yarn was too big for the stitch. I untangled every stitch, hand-rolled the used yarn into balls, threw the balls in a tote bag, and mulled over my options.
I found another pattern I absolutely adored, and commenced once again. With this newly-acquired stitch, I had the afghan halfway completed, then ran out of yarn. Extra yarn could not be purchased because, after all these years, the manufacturer no longer made that style or color. So, I pulled out every stitch, sat back, and considered my options.
My husband can testify that I began the project and pulled out all the stitches at least ten times. After a while, he looked at me like I had three heads and asked, “What are you doing? You’re never going to finish if you keep taking it apart.”
I could have agreed with him, and slapped something slipshod together. Or just thrown the whole thing in the back of a closet and shut the door, never to lay eyes on it again. But I knew if I threw something crappy together, I would have to look at it and know I could have done better. I had started this project, so I became determined to finish and show myself what I was capable of achieving.
Was all of this a waste of time and energy?
Not at all.
Crocheting is a hobby I’ve enjoyed since I was 12 years old. Even so, I know I’ll never learn all the stitches and patterns and new techniques. So while experimenting on this afghan, I taught myself five new stitches and five different patterns. I saved the swatches for ideas down the road.
I learned that while all patterns may not work with such thick wool as this, they will work with several other types of yarn in my stash.
I discovered how not to beat myself up when required to change strategies. It’s no sin or weakness on my part to seek expert advice—that is how YouTube became one of my best friends. I knew there was a pattern perfect for this type yarn, I just had to keep searching.
And this is the finished product.
Now, what does any of this have to do with writing?
Writing is a God-given talent that I enjoy crafting and polishing. And after several years of working with Word Weavers and The Christian Authors Guild, I’ve come quite a long way. Even through the setbacks.
When we moved to Georgia, I had to make new writing contacts and find other magazines willing to publish my stories. One day the editor assured me I had the lead article in an upcoming issue—then promptly left the publication. The new editor, determined to change the entire format and schedule, dumped my story, and made me look like a fool.
I went home, pulled some of my old writing and tried something different.
Later on, I signed a three-book publishing contract with a local publisher. But that deal fell through when the publisher went out of business, after I had done the rewrites and was preparing the book launch.
But like this yarn needed the right stitch, I know there are publishers out there just right for this manuscript; I just have to find them.
Now most of us have an idea for a plot or character that’s been rattling around in our heads for years. Like this yarn I had stashed in a corner, I had to find them. I suggest the same of you. Draw them from the corners of your mind and spread them out before you.
Experiment by putting those ideas on paper. If they don’t work now, unravel them and stitch those words into a written piece worthy of your skill and talent. But don’t ever throw away those tossed-aside words.
Learn as much as you can about writing. That’s what Word Weavers and The Christian Authors’ Guild is all about. We’re here to help you practice and hone your skills.
Never be afraid to seek help. That’s what we’re here for. Join, attend, and engage in Word Weavers critique groups. And don’t forget about their workshops and conferences. You may love your plot and characters, but your critique partners may find cavernous holes the reader can fall through. You will learn how to plug those holes with stronger characters and a tighter story line.
And if necessary, tear your story apart and begin again.
Listening to other writers in Word Weavers will show you what they found important in your story. Not only will the process teach patience, you will become inspired.
Living in a Word Weavers writing community was how I made contact with my critique and accountability partners.
At Word Weavers and The Christian Authors Guild, we never, ever discourage anyone in their writing, and certainly never to the point where you want to slap something slipshod together just to get it over with.
My writing partners have taught me how important it is to set a manageable goal for the completion of my manuscripts. We can teach you the same.
Persistence is the key. Work on your project until your hands and shoulders ache, your eyes sting and blur, and your rear-end becomes numb.
With a lot of hard work, like crocheting this unique afghan, you will develop your own definitive voice.
When you see what you are capable of, you will come to appreciate how wonderful and thrilling completing that manuscript will be. In time, you’ll come to know what works best to allow your talent to shine through.
And you’ll never be satisfied with anything less than your best.