Editor’s Note: the original version of this article was first posted on the C2C in 2010.
The Ups are always more “up” than we imagined they would be. The Downs are always so much more “down” than they really are, until you give them some perspective–and a dash of context. But why does it always seem like your Ups and Downs never correspond to anyone else’s? Your coming out of one of your Downs just as your good friend is coming in to theirs. You’re on a high about one of your Ups while all the rest are deep in their Down. Or you are drowning in your Down while everybody else is flying Up.
But is that so? Are we really seeing things the way they really are? Are people always out of sync with some pure and ideal universal rhythm? Or are people just growing at their own pace?
What if your Down is really an Up that’s ready to flip? What if your Up is really a Down that’s about to turn? What if your Down is an upside-down Up, and your Up is a downside-up Down?
How. Would. You. Know?
You wouldn’t. Unless you learned to trust the process.
I was stuck at Ch. 7 of my novel for the longest time. I was embarrassed to admit on this blog that I had reached a Dead End. It’s not that I didn’t know where to go next, or that I was trying to avoid writing because I did not want to keep going (which I would characterize as a Block.) The real problem is that there was something missing, some important point, that I could not grasp, or explain, or illustrate, or understand, until I understood it.
A huge shift happened. In a closed room. Something in my past had to be dealt with. I had to confront a truth about myself. I had to grow. I had to learn.
In my novel, my heroine had reached a crucial moment. In order for her to beat her foe, she had to have gained a piece of wisdom that I, as the author, had not yet gained. That’s why I had been stuck. That’s why I was at The Dead End. Before I could finish Ch. 7, I had to grow. I, as an individual, had to grow. It was painful, it was scary, it made me incredibly vulnerable. But it was something I had to do for the story. I had to learn my hard lesson or else I would not be able to move forward.
In the moment, it seemed as if my Down was really bad. It was ugly, embarrassing, depressing, hopeless even. But something told me I had to wait. I had to trust it. I had to trust the Down. It was there for a reason and after waiting long enough, in one fell swoop, my Down suddenly lifted me UP UP UP into a moment of absolute clarity.
The Dead End wall crumbled and suddenly my whole life, for a moment, made sense. Then and only then was I able to give my heroine the wisdom that she needed to beat her foe, and move forward to the next part of her journey. Then and only then, by trusting the process, was I able to finish the Chapter.
Sounds intense, huh? I guess it kinda is.
There is an Eastern philosophy that goes something likes this (I will paraphrase): If you are confused then that means at one point you saw things clearly. If you see things clearly then at one point you were confused.
Confusion is essential to wisdom. Being lost is needed in order to eventually be found.
This is part of life and it is also essential to the writing process.
I used to hate having to wait. I hated Blocks and Dead Ends, I hated life getting in the way. But now I love it. I love the wait, I love the Blocks, the Dead Ends, the life getting in the way. Because I know it is all there to teach me something, to help me grow–it’s always an Up, disguised as a Down.
Something essential had to happen in Ch. 7 before I could move on, and yes I could have just moved on, but I didn’t. Maybe it’s a writer’s instinct, I don’t know. All I knew is it felt that it was going to be much better if I waited than if I moved forward. This process made me realize that there are times in life when things do feel right. There are times when your gut feeling is right on the money.
There are times when you no longer see the Ups and Downs as Ups and Downs, but as one great spiral, spinning directly towards all that was meant to be.
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