Today I am stuck. I am in the early stages of writing the third Leah Nash mystery, and I know what the two main threads of the story are, I know how they will come together, I know who died and why.
I’ve got a large 3-ring binder full of research, I’ve got confirmation from an expert that a key item I’m hinging the plot on is actually possible in real life, and yet I’m hesitating. My ability to generate excuses for not actually writing is boundless. I need more research. I need a more detailed outline. I need more notebook tabs. I need more colored markers. I have to pack for a trip. I have to clean my closet. (That last one shows the level of my urge to procrastinate).
It’s the same thing each time I start a book. I’m excited to move into a world that is familiar, but different from mine. I’m eager to once again inhabit the mind of a character who is not me, but part of me. But like a skydiver before she leaps out of the plane, I am paused on the precipice of unknown outcomes. Will I land safely in the drop zone, or will I get caught in the metaphorical branches of a miscalculated plot line, or even worse will I crash to the ground in a tangle of poorly conceived characters and improbable clues?
The journey into the unknown is always daunting for me, as I am not an adventurous type by nature. In fact, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being Marco Polo and 1 being Emily Dickinson, I’m probably hovering at about 2.5. I always have to fight the urge to stay in a perceived safe place, in life and in writing. After all, if you don’t risk starting, you don’t risk failing. But in my heart I know that what I have to do is face the fear of failure and push on.
To launch myself into unknown territory, I sometimes refer to the lines from a childhood poem, The Lobster Quadrille, in which an exuberant fish urges a cautious snail to set off on an exciting journey that will take him to a happy new place.
There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.
The further off from England, the nearer is to France—
Then turn not pail, beloved snail, but come and join the dance.
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?
Regardless of how this next work comes out, I know it’s time to join the dance in earnest, leap from the plane with abandon, set out for the farther shore, and trust that all will unfold as it should. I’ll keep you posted on how the adventure is going.