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Are you experiencing writing overwhelm?
There’s a place in the writing process that my friend and colleague, Stuart Horwitz refers to as “the messy middle,” where you may feel overwhelmed and stuck.
For me, that messy middle period can drag out to months or years. It can stop a project in its tracks. The overwhelming messy middle, the bane of my existence as a writer.
Today, though, I’m on the other side, returning to all the holes in my manuscript and filling them in with the perfect random tidbit I’d filed away at the end of the manuscript. Or new inspiration bursts forth to tie everything in the chapter together.
An exercise I thought might fit in Chapter 12 wanders into Chapter 14 and a more perfect fit takes its place in the current chapter.
What once felt overwhelming and truly almost stopped me from completing my book has faded to a distant memory.
But wait, how did I get here? What can I share with you (and my future self) if we find ourselves in the messy middle (again)?
So, how do you do it? Get from writing overwhelm to inspired flow? Here are a few tips from your writing coach:
Make notes about the stories and lessons in each chapter. Have a printed copy of your outline with chapter notes by your side as you work through revisions.
When you come to a confusing or messy section, ask yourself if there’s a more fitting place in the manuscript for the messy material. Also, does some of the material in other chapters fit better here than what you currently have in the messy spot?
I prefer working with hard copies but it’s also easy to have two documents on your screen (manuscript and outline) if you prefer to work digitally.
When I arrived at the messy middle phase, it felt like a slog. However, by the second round of editing, at some point I could feel the momentum of the project carry me. The energy felt different, a sense of the different parts falling into place.
In fact, although I thought I was mostly done writing new material, several times I experienced something unusual that found its way into the book and strengthened the chapter it went into.
It felt like my life unfolded in order to give me a great story for a chapter I’d been working on–an invitation to a gong bath materialized overnight; my friends summoned me to meditate at their magical farmhouse at four in the morning, a quirky dream woke me up in the middle of the night and begged to be recorded.
Where are you in the process of writing a book? What challenges are coming up? How are you working through them? Any insights to share? Share your comments and questions!