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Your Fiction Ideas Are Shriveling Away

I’ve had an article open since March about how all of my unused skills are shriveling up, becoming liver spotted and hunched over from disuse.  I’m totally at peace that guitar is on that list.  Printmaking is on that list, too.  Horseback riding.  Despite being archery trained, I fear that archery is being pencilled in on that list since I haven’t picked up a bow and arrow since the training.

The only thing that I have regrets about is fiction writing.

I know what you’re thinking: Melissa, you write every day.  How can fiction writing be on that list?

All types of writing are different, and while I’ve completed 1 1/2 non-fiction books, I haven’t worked on a novel in a long time.  I’m midway through a book, but I set it aside when life got busy.  The arc of the story feels a little muddy from sitting outside of my brain for so long.  I only meant to be away from it for a week; let me just get myself settled with this new project and I’ll return to it on Monday.  But that Monday was last summer, and I’m nearing the one year anniversary of setting the project aside.

I keep meaning to begin.

But I don’t.

It’s not that I don’t love the story; I do.  I love the story, and I think about it all the time.  I think about the characters; not just the fact that they’re all frozen in place, waiting for me.  I think about what they would do in various situations.  I miss them like friends.  And I want to sit down and visit with them.  But then I think about how I first need to do X and then Y and then I’ll definitely get to them after I finish Z…

I never finish Z.  There always seems to be a new Z.

But this article scared me; the idea that something I’ve done all my life, for which I’ve gotten multiple degrees and taught and published 3 novels won’t be there forever if I let that skill sit there, unused.  I know why I’m not working on the book: Because it’s hard.  If I wanted to make time for it, I would.  But it’s easier to point out reasons for why I can’t work on the book than it is to sit still with a project and go through that terrible re-entry period.

You know those days: You sit staring at the screen, trying to find your groove.  Sometimes it only takes a day or two to find it.  Sometimes it can take weeks before I find my rhythm again.

But that’s it.  It has to happen.  I need to make a half hour for it every day.  Just 30 minutes.  Not that much time, when you think about it.  This skill matters to me.  I need to snatch it off the endangered skill list.

What will you snatch off your endangered skill list?

11 comments

1 Cassie Dash { 05.15.16 at 10:46 am }

I feel the same way! I used to write fiction all the time, but it fell by the wayside when I started having babies. I keep meaning to get back to it…and tried once…but it was hard. Getting into the GROOVE is freaking hard! But it has to be done because those characters need us to tell their story, don’t they? They call for us. We owe it to them, and to us, and to the readers who may potentially read their story. That’s what I tell myself anyways, but most days, even that isn’t enough. And yet, thinking of my fiction-writing muscle atrophying is too sad to contemplate. Maybe I’ll try again.

2 Mali { 05.15.16 at 4:50 pm }

I see this with languages. It’s a case of use it or lose it. Every time I go back to Thailand I realise I speak less and less Thai. My Mandarin teacher cheerfully told us that the first time you learn a language you forget it!

My piano skills are being lost, despite my piano sitting there in front of me every day. Flute has long gone.

I do find though that once you get back into something you’ve neglected, that lost skill comes back very quickly. You haven’t lost it forever.

3 Catwoman73 { 05.15.16 at 6:11 pm }

This is timely- I just started playing the piano again after a 20 year hiatus. My technique is incredibly rusty, but I’m shocked how quickly it’s all coming back. I also used to play the clarinet, flute and cello… I suspect those skills will never be rescued. The last time I tried to play the clarinet, my cat hid from me for a week!!!

4 Lori Lavender Luz { 05.15.16 at 9:15 pm }

After awhile, re-entry seems so impossible. Maybe we can encourage each other.

5 Justine { 05.15.16 at 9:42 pm }

My brain is shriveling up. I’m worse than my students … at least they come to me for help! There’s also yoga, painting, poetry, piano, dance, even baking. :-O (I guess at least it all gets equal neglect?)

6 md { 05.16.16 at 12:58 am }

how depressing that i cannot even think of any skills that i have/had!!

7 Karen { 05.16.16 at 10:01 am }

I’m okay with my clarinet skills going by the wayside, I think. I miss dance and being creative. Working on writing though. It really does erode if you don’t use it.

And I love this: “But it’s easier to point out reasons for why I can’t work on the book than it is to sit still with a project and go through that terrible re-entry period.” Re-entry is terrible. So hard.

8 Jess { 05.16.16 at 10:11 pm }

I get this — I feel like during the school year my time slots are so limited… and I need to play my violin more. I worry that my 30 years of playing will suddenly revert to a bad rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star if I don’t pick it up more frequently. I love the idea of writing fiction 30 minutes a day to keep it fresh and going… It’s so hard when time seems to speed by so quickly. I hope your schedule works for you!

9 Queenie { 05.17.16 at 11:42 pm }

Mel, you need to write so that people like me have something to read!!! Get it together!!! 🙂

Honestly, it makes me feel better that you have trouble juggling sometimes, too.

And, while on this trip to Central America, what I’ve discovered is that my Apanish speaking ability has atrophied. Youch! I read and listen much more than I talk, these days. I’m like a rusty can! It has been a bit embarrassing how the words tumble out.

10 Vera { 05.21.16 at 8:53 pm }

Saving my blogging! Been gone from it far too long. Thanks for the inspiration.

11 Battynurse { 05.28.16 at 7:05 am }

I can see this. All my projects are sitting undone in my sewing rooms. I keep thinking some day. Then I get frustrated, put it down and walk away.

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