Growing As a Writer

Over the past few months, I’ve returned to a story world that I started a good ten years ago (maybe more). Several people thought I’d given up on those stories (not true, but I was flattered to know that they were excited enough about the idea to worry that I’d dropped it). You can’t publish a book that you never finish (well, with serial publishing, I guess you technically can)—but even though the art of finishing is very important to your growth as a writer, sometimes breaks are okay. 

Even though I knew that taking a break from a project was an okay thing to do, for some reason I started feeling bad about the length of time that I’d let this story sit. I was excited to get back to it, but also felt like a “bad writer” for having abandoned a story for so long. And some of the people who were excited to learn I was working on this project again also asked me why I’d paused and why it had taken me so long to get back to it. I know they meant well and were just genuinely curious, but being the sort of personality that I am, I felt guilty.

For anyone else experiencing a similar situation or similar feelings, let me tell you what I’ve learned. You do not need to feel guilty or apologize for a choice that you make when it comes to your writing (or other art). Whether it’s the “best” decision or not, it’s still your decision, and your writing is your writing. You get to decide what to write, when to write it, and why you’re writing it. It’s okay to take breaks, change projects, re-start a project, or try something new. Even if you have a fan base who are expecting certain things from you, it’s still okay for you to make the best decisions for you

Now, here’s how I came to this realization. Even though I’d let this project sit for a good decade, I hadn’t been stagnant. I hadn’t quit writing. In those intervening years, I have published a novel, a novella, and multiple short stories. I co-wrote a non-fiction book about the creative journey. I have been blogging fairly regularly this entire time. I’ve been reading, building a business, trying other creative projects, and attending writing workshops and conferences. I don’t say all this to brag, but to show to myself and to you what progress can look like. I’ve been growing as a writer. 

When I finally went back to this dormant project a few months ago, I realized that these intervening years had indeed not been wasted. What I thought would be a light edit of my story turned into a months-long full rewrite. At first I was discouraged at how much work and time I was putting into this old story, but then I realized that I was making it much better. 

Over the past several years of writing, reading, and learning, my writing and storytelling skills have grown and matured. This old project was a solid plot and world and characters, but it really did need months of rewriting to make it a polished, viable book that someone else might want to read.

A teaser aesthetic image for the project I have returned to writing

I’m very glad, now, that I didn’t push through and try to publish this book ten years ago. I’m glad I let it sit for years while I worked on other projects and grew my writing skills. I believe I made a good decision by taking such a long break. 

Now it’s possible, of course, that in another ten years I may look back on this book, and the others that I’ve published, and cringe at my lack of skill. But that’s okay. I know that I’m on a continuous path of learning and growth, and I believe that will do nothing but help my writing as time goes on.


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