As you all know, I had a most amazing experience the last two months writing a book for fun in seventeen days. The book, Dawn at Birch Crossing, was magic when I was writing it and editing it, and it was this surreal, effortless experience of creation and beauty. Early feedback from a few readers suggests that Birch Crossing is every bit as special as I thought it was, and I'm over the moon!
Except for the fact that real life is back.
See, I've been on this total high for two months, but once I turned in Dawn at Birch Crossing to my agent and it was time to start something new, I've been totally unable to come up with a single idea for a new series. I'm utterly stymied. My self-confidence is down, I can't concentrate, I write 2k words of brainstorming and I feel like there's not a single useable concept on that page. Isn't that crazy? I just wrote the most amazing book of my career, and now I feel like I'm in some deep hole and I can't get out of it. No idea I'm coming up with can match the beauty and perfection of Dawn at Birch Crossing.
So, I sat back and thought about it. How was I going to re-up my mojo? I decided I need to look back at how I came up with the idea for Birch Crossing, and then recreate that process (easy, right)? So I went into my files and found my very first brainstorming document for Birch Crossing, and I started reading it to see how I tapped into such brilliance. As I started reading it, I had some very interesting realizations:
1) Fact #1: That first brainstorming document had many ideas that were absolutely NOTHING like what I ended up using in the book.
a. Lesson #1: Even when I created that amazing book, the great ideas didn't jump into focus at the start. It took time for Birch Crossing to gel, and I had to sift through a whole lot of ideas and a lot of different directions before it came together.
b. Takeaway #1: Since I had lots of false starts with the magical book, then clearly, it must be okay to come up with lots of rejected ideas for this one. Phew!
2) Fact #2: Every page or so, in the middle of my brainstorm, I had started to get frustrated with my lack of progress. Instead staying frustrated, I had immediately shifted my stream of consciousness brainstorming into a more positive direction, resulting in such random sentences as this (emphasis added for clarification):
a. Example #1: "What if he bought HER business, and he is funding HER business and it's all wrong? There is no pressure with this. It is just fun. And it will be really nice when I get that new table for my laptop. I am really looking forward to it. It sounds just perfect! I am so happy and it sounds great! I would love it if they shipped it really soon b/c it is sort of difficult for me to write easily on my lap with my extra keyboard, but this will be beautiful. I am very happy about this table and I look forward to it, esp since I have recently discovered that at night, I really like working on the couch. It feels really peaceful and lovely."
b. Lesson #2: Clearly, I was getting frustrated, and realized it. My first attempt to chill out was to tell myself there was no pressure to come up with a good idea. Apparently, that didn't work, because I then went on to focus my mind on something I was happy about, even though it had nothing to do with brainstorming. It took another three paragraphs of random feel-good-ness thoughts, and then all of a sudden, the notes shifted back into brainstorming again, and they were good ideas and positive energy.
c. Takeaway #2: When I am attempting something challenging, the most important thing I can do for myself is to maintain a positive frame of mind, no matter what it takes to get me there, and even if it means taking a break from actually working on the task at hand. I liked my approach of shifting the focus of my writing instead of getting up from the computer, because once my mind was clear, it was effortless and natural to simply slide back into brainstorming mode.
3) Fact #3: I broke my brainstorming into different documents, but by the time I finished all my brainstorming, I had NINETY-SEVEN pages of notes (single spaced, mind you). That's how long it took this amazing, marvelous, effortless story to come together before I launched into my 17 day writing glory. Hmm…
i. Lesson #3: What felt effortless by the time I was writing, and what felt effortless even in the brainstorming stage, actually took a lot of effort and sifting of ideas.
ii. Takeaway #3: BE PATIENT! Even though my only memory (at this point) of my last book, is that effortless gallivant through the actual writing, it had actually taken a lot of patient work to get the story to gel before the words began to flow. So, that means, I should allow for the possibility that it will take time for my ideas to come together on this one, and that sifting through lots of ideas is simply part of my process. The fact that it is taking time for the ideas to gel doesn't mean that I can't do it, or that it won't work.
My final conclusion? I need to enjoy the ride, bask in every idea as it comes, regardless of whether I keep it or not, because it's in that patient, magical process of brainstorming that the best ideas find each other, bond and begin to glow.
Lesson learned. And now I'm off to brainstorm one more time, and this time, there is no more pressure...
P.S. Less than three weeks until TOUCH IF YOU DARE comes out! I'm giving away ARCs on Twitter this week and next so come visit me at stephanierowe2 and win your copy!