When Writing Gets Personal: Facing the Brick Wall

During the summer of 2012, an idea for a novel came to me. Over a frenzied three-month period, I created an outlandish, haphazard, wayward first draft. I was so proud of my accomplishments that I even stopped by the UPS store to print a few wire-bound copies. I unashamedly knew this draft would never be widely published. It was far too unrefined and unwieldy. But I had completed it, and it was mine.

Two and a half years later, I resurrected my story when I was accepted into an MFA program. I took elements from my wayward draft and entered my first semester with the goal of having written a publishable work by graduation.

For four semesters, I worked on improving my story. I altered its setting, adapted its characters, and advanced its plot, all under the conscientious and insightful guidance of my mentors. During the first month of my fourth and final semester, I furiously pieced together all that I had written and forwarded my mentor a completed manuscript.

…or what I thought was a completed manuscript.

After thoughtful discussion, my mentor and I came to the same conclusion. My manuscript needed a middle section. My story, in fact, wasn’t meant to be one book. It was meant to be three books.

I was writing a trilogy.

My initial reaction was despair and panic. I had the beginnings of the first book and a good portion of the third book, but I didn’t have a clue what to add for the second book. And how was I supposed to complete it all by graduation?

Obviously, I wasn’t.

I finished my MFA program with a solid draft for my first book. Over the course of two years, I had accomplished so much. And yet, amidst all the praise and recognition, I felt disappointed. Not in the program and, certainly, not in my mentors, but in myself. I hadn’t reached my goal.

Two years have passed since I graduated with my Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing. In that time, I’ve revisited my story again and again. I’ve restarted it more times than I can count. I’ve altered its storyline, changed perspectives, and tortured its plot.

And still, I come to the same brick wall. I don’t know what to write for the second book. 

My trilogy, like my writing career and, seemingly, like everything else in my life, is still a work in progress.

I share this story because I think so many can relate. We all have goals we want to accomplish. We all have something we want to show for our work, pain, and tears. We all feel disappointed when our goals continually seem out of reach.

Six and a half years have passed since the idea for my story first came to me. I could give up on it altogether, and yet I can’t. The barriers holding me back are as real as they are imaginary. And so I have to keep trying. I have to keep facing that brick wall.

Eventually, I will find the chink in its mortar. And I will break through.

Katie Signature001


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