The Creative Process Isn't Solitary, Even When It Seems Like It Is by Danielle Ellison
You are not alone.
When we are writing, it can often feel that way. It’s up to us to make words appear on the page. It’s up to us to build a character, find a story, tell it well and make it to the end. It’s up to us to then take those words and make them better. Writing is a very solo concept – and even when you’re writing with a partner, you each still have a role to play.
As solitary as writing may appear to be, it is not a solo practice. At least not for me. I’m never writing by myself.
Sure, I make the words – but my beta readers and critique partners work with me develop the story. My editor works with me make it better. My agent works with me to direct my path. And then, when it’s finished, readers experience it and sometimes their feedback can help guide me in the next book.
While the platform has evolved in the last couple of years, other writers are also part of the process. When I first got connected on twitter, I found myself surrounded by like-minded writers, made lasting friendships, and the result of that has changed me as writer. Creativity can be draining. We need other people to encourage us, to push us, to remind us that we are not alone. Whatever struggle we are facing with a story, someone else has faced it before—and if we’re connected then we can see them overcome the same way we will too.
It’s easy to forget that when we’re writing. Sometimes you can feel like you’re trudging through mud and you’ll never get out. I know I have felt that way. I very recently (this week!) made it out the other side. At least I hope.
I started working on my current novel back in July. I spent a lot of time trying to develop the characters and the story. I talked it out with my friends, with my beta reader, with my editor and agent. I talked it to death, and I plotted, and then I started writing. At about 25,000 words in, I realized something wasn’t working. So then I talked about it some more…before starting over. But something still wasn’t working in the story. I couldn’t seem to figure out why I couldn’t actually write when I knew the whole story and the characters. I tried and tried. I finally turned to my agent again, asking her to read the pages I had, new and old, to help me.
No chemistry, she’d said.
No chemistry? Well, that’s no good – this is a love story after all. How could that be possible? I sat on her notes and thought about my story before turning to my trust beta reader again to discuss the notes. Immediately, she agreed and we both had a similar thought at the same time: maybe this story isn’t theirs. We both know one of the MC is supposed to be here, but maybe, the love story belongs to another character.
This is just one example about how writing isn’t solitary.
If it was only me, I would’ve kept trying to make it work—and probably kept failing. But because I had other people who know my process, know my characters and know the story I am trying to write, I was able to start the process of figuring out the right story.
While writing itself is solo, the creative process isn’t done alone. And trust me, without my group of excellent people, I would probably paralyze myself into never writing again, because my first drafts can be wrought with overthinking and self-doubt. When I am my own worst enemy, they keep me going. I’m very lucky, and I remind myself of this every day, to have a fantastic community of readers, writers and friends supporting me when I don’t think I can do it. If you ask them, they’ll tell you it’s often.
But I can do it – and so can you. If you ever feel like you’re stuck, like you’re alone, like you’re trudging and failing repeatedly, look around and reach out. I know from experience there will be someone reaching back to pull you up.
The Sweetheart Sham
In a small town like Culler, South Carolina, you guard your secrets like you guard your cobbler recipe: with your life. Georgia Ann Monroe knows a thing or two about secrets: she’s been guarding the truth that her best friend Will is gay for years now. But what happens when a little white lie to protect him gets her into a fake relationship...and then the boy of her dreams shows up?
Enter Beau Montgomery: Georgie’s first love, hotter than ever, and much too much of a southern gentleman to ever pursue someone else’s girl. There’s no way to come clean to Beau while still protecting Will. But bless their hearts, they live in Culler—where secrets always have a way of revealing themselves.
Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a hilarious “fakeship,”a scorching-hot impossible relationship, and a heartwarming best-friendship that will make you want to call your best friend right here, right now.
Danielle Ellison is a nomad, a lover of make-believe, and a bit of coffee snob. Always on the lookout for an adventure and the next story, she has had more zip codes and jobs than she can count.
In addition to writing, she’s the founder of the NoVa TEEN Book Festival in Virginia and a teen librarian. When she’s not busy with books, she’s probably watching her favorite shows, drinking coffee, or fighting her nomadic urges.
She is settled in Georgia (for now) with her cat, Simon, but you can always find her on twitter @DanielleEWrites.