We shouldn’t feel guilting when we need to take a break from long-term projects. Sometimes it’s best. Other times we need the space to reassess the project. A pause can reinvigorate our efforts. This is so true if your memoir and life story writing projects aren’t getting close to completion.
You’ll know, because the cadence of the storyline feels clumsy or lacks research. If you sigh at the thought of sitting down to work on it, something’s wrong. Sometimes you need to hit the pause button to realign your goals
Recently, I was discussing this idea with a client. For two years we tried to write a memoir together that was a difficult subject. Her memory was becoming stronger and she was eager to tell the whole story. Together we struggled with deciding what stories go into the manuscript and what stays out. She wanted to include every detail she remembered. I pushed back, telling her there was too much craziness. To me, the writing process felt like a top spinning franticly out of control. I didn’t want readers to be left more anxious than inspired.
So we stopped everything.
We gave it time. We thought about. We also made time for other work and personal interests. When we finally returned to working together, which, ironically, was just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down in New Jersey, we reorganized.
While the rest of the world was living in a quiet pause, we got busy telling an amazing tale of addiction, sobriety, abuse, recovery, an accident, stoke, near death, and survival. It took all year to complete the way we wanted it. The pause was just what she needed to tell this story in one length, as if she was standing in a packed stadium telling listeners, “Don’t give up on yourselves. You deserve to work on your. Long-term goals are hard, but your joy is in the journey. Don’t be afraid of your challenges.”
None of our renewed efforts are necessarily noticeable on either of our social media sites. She didn’t want to talk about it until it was completed. As a personal historian business, I always keep stories private until given permission to discuss opening. You can’t easily see the 1,000 hours we spent in virtual writing session, the lengthy phone calls, brainstorming, musings, or the editing sessions.
What we do have is a fully completed 45,000 word manuscript that has been tweaked three times. Now we’re developing a strategic plan of finding a traditional publisher.
What we would say to others is this: If you only ever want to write a few stories that get tucked aside to share with family – say something that accompanies your last will and testament or other legal documents, like an ethical will – allow yourself the time to write it the way you want it to sound. Make sure it’s in your own voice. If you feel like you’re losing the energy to get it completed, then allow yourself a break. This will allow you the time to assess whether it’s going the way you want it or if you need assistance from others.
It’s your story.
As for my client, the break also gave her the momentum to begin her next project, a faith-based book.