For one of my jobs, I work in an elementary school and one of my roles there is to work with small groups of students in “Tech Squads”. We have a 1:1 iPad scenario with our 3rd and 4th graders so these Tech Squads are great for helping with troubleshooting and working with new apps to bring back into the classroom.
When my 4th grade group met for the first time, they dove into all of these activities and kept going, non-stop. Whatever I throw at them, they take it and run with it. “Let’s figure out why this isn’t working.” “What can we do with this app?” One of my favorite “let’s see what they come up with” stories to describe this group is this: during our Thanksgiving week meeting I told them, “create a turkey story for me”. That’s it. No other parameters. Some used a collage app. Some used a screencast tutorial-type app. Others used presentation apps. More interestingly, some wrote about the turkey as food, others wrote about turkey as an animal, and another was searching around on the web and remembered that Turkey is also a country. I gave them a topic and they ran with it in all kinds of great ways. They’ve been at full speed all year.
My 3rd grade group, on the other hand, has needed more guidance. I tried to jump right in with all kinds of things with them, but we struggled. I had a hard time determining exactly what was tripping us up and finally realized this was not my 4th grade group. Sure, they’re a year younger, but really, they were just different. They didn’t have the same knowledge and experience and this is what brought me to the Full Stop with them. I discovered that they did not know what I was talking about when I used the terms “browser” or “link”, for example. Or that email messages might look the same, but have different subject lines, timestamps, and messages, haha. Essentially, we needed to stop and I had to re-think how to proceed. I backed up, did some basics with them, which also gave me time to plan out the direction we needed to take after that.
My current WIP is a full on rewrite of some earlier drafts from about 3 years ago. I’ve been having a blast with this project – making it so much better than it was with tightening both writing and plot lines. I remember at one point being worried about writing new dialogue for my characters and then discovering how silly that worry was. I know these characters so well that jumping into their conversations was no problem at all. Better yet, it has been so fun.
I dove right into the project and ran with it. Words have been flowing great and even though the last scene I wrote took over 2 weeks to write, everything stayed prominent and clear in purpose in my head. That last scene was tough, but not like writer’s block.
I finished that scene and then hit a whole mess of rocks. No more smooth sailing – at least for this next part. It’s a section that needs to change based upon this new plan I’ve set out for the re-write. I kind of sort of know how it should go. Maybe. Often I can just forge on through and figure it out as I go. Except there are lots of ways for this next bit to go and all those ways are crowding my head. Don’t forget this! Remember that you need that! But if you do this, then that won’t work! I can’t think of how to put it all together or how to sequence it or even if it’s a good idea.
So, Full Stop. A part of me is reluctant to do this since the story has been going so well and filling up so much brain space. On the other hand, I know I will just get frustrated trying to write a scene that has no… well, anything to it yet. It could very well change my trajectory into Writer’s Block (which is nothing more than fear… and by fear in this case I mean that I could suddenly fear that the whole thing is rubbish and what was I thinking in believing I could really transform this novel??).
What I’m saying is that I continue to keep learning. I’m learning to go further in my respect for the process which for me at this time means letting it sit and work itself out in my brain. Go for the walks that help me process it better. Step back and read. Maybe write something else to relax and come upon threads of that plot and weave them well. I’m blending my methods of running full steam ahead like my 4th graders, and also catching myself before I run off the rails like my 3rd graders.
When I look over the posts I included in my last Saturday Summation, I thought of how at least a couple of them brought “a-ha” moments to me. Those moments helped me see my present situation more clearly. I feel myself reaching one of many turning points in my writing – one of those points where you are ready to pick yourself up from wherever you were mucking about, shake off the latest mud, and step lively along the new path.
Where do your personal turning points take you? How do you honor them?
While I named this post “Full Stop” and it represents that I am, in some ways, doing just that with this manuscript, my brain, in fact, is still chugging away at how to approach the next scenes. Not all writing is done on the page, right? This song by the Pat Metheny Group feels like my brain clickety-clacking along the tracks to come “home” to the right plan. (Fun fact: this was also on one of the original “mix tapes” my husband made for me back in the day.)