Friday, December 7, 2012

The Ledge

We've all been there.  Teetering at the edge, up so high there's no way we can safely jump, and we can't see any path to climb back down.

No, I'm not talking about the fiscal cliff.  (Although I can kinda see an analogy there... but we don't do politics at The Guide.)

What I'm talking about is that spot in your writing when it feels like nothing is going right and you can't see where the story you've worked so hard on could ever be going anywhere.  You suddenly want to put all your characters into a plane and crash it, because that's the only possible way to end this mess you've made.

This happens a lot this time of year.  NaNoWriMo forces a ton of writers to put it all out there so quickly that the beginning of December becomes like those cliffs in Africa where all the little birds nest.  Thousands of fledglings clutching the edge - afraid they can't fly, terrified they'll be crushed on the rocky landscape below, and sure as hell uncertain how they ever ended up where they are.

If you're feeling like those little birds, you aren't alone. 

If you're feeling like you're out on a ledge, hanging by a participle, stop for a moment.  You can do this.  You just might need to approach it from a different direction.  Look at it this way: It's not November anymore.  You don't have to sprint to the line.  You can take a moment - revisit the ideas that are all squirreled up in your head. 

Yesterday a friend of mine emailed me from her ledge.  She's working on a romantic suspense.  The majority is written, but she's hanging by her tippy-toes, looking down at the end and wondering how the hell she got where she was.  Plot threads were hanging all around and she couldn't see which one to hold onto to climb to safely.  My suggestion: Notecards.  Put each problem on its own card, and put the possible solution(s) to it on the back.  I think she said it took her two cards before the solution came to her.

As much as I was happy to help, it wasn't the cards that fixed her problem.  She just needed someone to throw her a rope.  She did the climbing.

And sometimes that's all you need to get off the ledge.  A rope.  A hand.  A friendly ear to listen to you vent.  Sometimes just putting your problems into words by telling someone else about them helps solve them.  And sometimes - when there's no one available - you can get yourself down off the ledge by taking a step sideways and looking at the ledge from a different perspective.

How about you?  You know you've visited the ledge a time or two.  Talk about your experiences and share how you got down.


  1. I'm all about rappelling. I grab a rope, leap, and hope I bounce a couple of times before I hit bottom. It's kind of like a roller coaster. If I don't scream at the lows, I haven't gone high enough and I need to ride again.

    Yes, I'm mixing metaphors. It's that kind of day. LOL

  2. Great analogy, B.E. - you always have great analogies ('afraid' and 'terrified' are brilliant words, too). Because, I think, the ledge is much more than just finishing the story, it's the scope of 'finishing' and what comes next!!

    Good friends are needed - and the cookies would have helped, too ;)

  3. I've tried to do notecards in the past, but my hands hurt so much by the end that I end up focusing on my arms instead, LOL! What works for me is venting to a friend. Often I just need to say the words and my brain clicks into place. =)

  4. LOL, sometimes it is like that, Silver. And hey, you can mix metaphors anytime.

    Thanks, Janet. I'm the analogy queen. LOL And cookies always help... well, everything but the waistline. ;o)

    Exactly, Natalie. Everyone needs to do what works for them. Sorry the notecards hurt your hands, though. It's a good thing to try when you're stuck.


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