Moving Past the Middle Muddle Mood

by Angela Yeh
published in Writing

The creative life is filled with magic, passion, and adventure. This is the truth.

Writing, like reading, transports a soul. This is also true. Even if you’re only in it for the money and fame (ha, ha), if you keep at it, you will discover things about yourself and the world you could know in no other way. Writing changes you. It changes who you are. What you want. And, if we’re lucky, we get to pay the bills with it too.

Do you know what’s also true? Writing a novel isn’t all sunshine and unicorn butts. 

Whether you think being creative ennobles your life or not, I think we can all agree that when we create, something worthwhile emerges from the process. Whether we are playing with poetry, short stories, memoirs, or a fantasy about a girl and her dragons, each of us gains a small or large reward when we put pen to paper. This alone makes writing worthwhile and makes a life lived in pursuit of that exploration purposeful, fulfilling, and, dare I say…magical? 

My truth is that I would not trade this passion for all the gold in the world. Thank you to all the planets raining diamonds right now, but give me my stubby pencil and some lined paper, and I will be enthralled for all the ages. 

Starting a Project (opening the door to wonder and mystery)

Is there anything better than the beginning of a new project? The first sketch of an irresistible plot? When your main character bursts from your imagination onto the page? Then you watch as your friend reads it, and now that character that only lived in your own brain is now living in hers, too. What more thrilling kind of magic is that? Talk about sunshine and unicorn behinds.

In the shiny new beginning, it’s not hard to find the fire and passion that brought us to chase that thought or character through the rabbit hole of our pages. A fantastic new world awaits us. Literally, anything could happen.

Let’s move deeper for a quick second. Do you ever stop to think that our words can reach minds in far-off countries we may never visit? Our thoughts can reach into the future to minds not even alive yet. Our work as creatives comforts us in our darkest hours, inspires us, enrages us, and reveals the cracks and faults of ourselves and our societies. I ask again – what more potent kind of magic or technology is there? If you haven’t even started, goodness, what are you even waiting for? 

The Elephant Graveyard (the bones of our abandoned ideas)

Then, if we persevere, we get to the middle – that phase of the process where we need to buckle down and finish. This is where the elephant graveyard is. This is where our story sparkle can stall. 

The bones of our previous attempts are scattered around us, and the sky turns a dull shade of bruised blue. We are filled with anxiety, doubt, inertia, and overwhelm. For me, this looks like pushing through the middle even though I am absolutely convinced no one will ever read what I’m writing, and no one ever should. I am a fraud, a sham, a talentless hack with no business asking anyone to read even one word. The force that drove me to put pen to paper has fizzled. The demands and drudgery of daily life that must be done start to get louder. Because bills need paying and someone needs to buy the darned groceries. And because writing takes time. It needs space and room to grow, and I need to be a little pushy about my writing time. No one else will do this for you or me. Getting stuck isn’t the end; it’s just a mood that will pass as you keep writing.

Here, among the solitude of your abandoned works, you must grieve. Sit down and give a good, cleansing cry over the realization this isn’t going to be the easiest thing you’ve ever done. You remind yourself that almost everyone feels this way about the middle. There is some grit needed in this place. You, kind reader, have that grit. 

Completing the Process (the incomparable feeling of writing ‘the end’)

From beginning to end, the writing process takes time and intention, and being with our work to the end builds trust in ourselves and our work. I have committed myself to finishing what I started. There are large and small rewards to this, too. Completing the creative process feels liberating, a shot across the bow of fate. Finishing is a flare of fiery hope into the ragged darkness of our doubt. Because if we did it once, we can do it again. And next time, it’s going to be even better. 

To sum up, when your story stalls in the middle, and it will, you can just toss out the ‘beat myself up’ playbook and the ‘this means I’m not a real writer’ primer, sit down, and get it finished. Finish it rusty if you have to, but finish it. That’s the secret no one tells you. There is no secret. It’s just inspiration and tenacity that will get you to the end. That and a boatload of Cheetos. 

And remember, adventure and comfort are never farther away than the closest book or the nearest pen. You got this!

Tell me, what project are you in the middle of that you would like to finish?

Angela Yeh is an East Coast Canadian native that lives and works in the great state of Texas. Angela loves to garden, write about dragons, and eat cake. She is the proud author of her debut YA fantasy novel, A Phoenix Rises, a finalist in the Dante Rossetti Book Awards for YA for 2021. She lives with her husband, two lovely human children, and three cranky fur babies. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram or her website.

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