Moving On and Saying Goodbye

Sometimes, you have to be able to say goodbye and put your writing project to rest.

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There comes a point for every writer when they have to make a decision regarding a project they are working on. It comes in the form of a question: Do I scrap the project, or do I carry on? A lot of people have the same initial reaction to that question, and would say that you should never scrap it, but instead keep going. That isn’t always the answer, though.

As writers, we have a very strong emotional attachment to our work. At times this can be an unhealthy attachment. We pour our hearts and souls into these works and they become this figure of love for us; it’s quite common to hear writers talk about their books as if they are children. There is nothing wrong with this, by the way. It is a very natural process and it helps you in your writing.

Where it doesn’t help is when you need to move on. There are dozens of reasons for this to happen. Maybe the initial idea doesn’t work as a novel, or you don’t have the skills to tell the story in the way that the story needs to be told. It’s impossible to say when this occurs as it will be different for everyone. However, if it ever does afflict you, you’ll know.

When—if—it does happen, it’s important to weigh up both sides of the decision. There is a temptation to see the work invested so far as a waste if the project is scrapped, but that is just not the case. Every word you write makes you a better writer, whether other people read that word or not. Chalking things up to experience, rather than hanging on when a project is no longer something you should be dedicating yourself to, can be the right choice. Are you enjoying working on it? Is it worth more of your time? Would you be happier finishing it or stopping? Be honest with yourself. There really is no shame in this. It’s a natural part of writing and it can happen to anyone. Sometimes, just like in relationships or other affairs of the heart, you have to move on and say goodbye, no matter how much you care for whatever you’re leaving.

If you do decide to give up on a project then you will need to say goodbye properly. Don’t just abandon it. Personally, I don’t like to lose any of my writing, even if I’ve put it to rest, as I never know when I might want to take another look, or borrow an idea, or even try again. Just because something is dead, doesn’t mean it can’t be resurrected. I have a place in my online storage for old projects that I’m no longer working on, so they still exist but they’re out of the way and more of a reminder than anything. For me, moving it into there is enough to say goodbye to a project. I know others who will print the entire work out and keep it in a special drawer somewhere, or burn it to a CD or put it on a special USB stick and lock it away in a drawer, then print out a paper copy and set fire to it like a Viking burial. Whatever you end up doing, you have to put it in a place that’s akin to a graveyard. Lay it to rest.

Davina Chime is a Thanet-born hopeless romantic.

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