Pep Talk Week #2: Don’t Look Back

Dear Writer,

I have long been obsessed with mythology, specifically the Greeks. My favorite among these myths is that of Orpheus and Eurydice. What I find myself returning to again and again within this myth and my current work-in-progress is a lasting reminder. Don’t look back. This, dear writer, is a mantra to recite daily as you endeavor to fill one page after the next. 

No matter what stage or scene you find yourself in, you must keep your eyes on the forward motion of your story. Sure, there will be trials and roadblocks and wrong turns along the way. Writing is, after all, a journey with a destination. But the best adventures often arrive when we get out of our own way.

Most recently, I forgot the name for the location of the school I created in my own fictional world. I searched through reference materials saved in Scrivener, but could not find the answer I needed. Following this slight sense of panic, I took too many hours diving into archives of notes from 2014 to present day. I discovered folders from Phase One and Phase Two only to be struck by the realization that this story is now in Phase Three. Here, dear writer, is where my most beloved advice of don’t look back would’ve suited me well.

While I did find the answer I needed, too much time spent away from the writing dwindled the momentum I gained that Sunday morning. Perhaps, it was procrastination at a subconscious level. I knew that specific writing session would be about tackling a difficult chapter. In an effort to feel prepared, I lost that fizzle of alchemical obsession that often causes us to write in a haze. You know those days, dear writer, as they are often the ones which never feel tangible. The words are just there without a real memory of putting them on the page. 

But here’s the thing. Tough chapters will happen. There may be answers to questions you cannot remember in the moment. The key is to keep writing despite these challenges. And you guessed it, don’t look back. 

When facing troublesome scenes or struggling to make sense of what you think your story should be, consider the points of the journey you are most excited to write. It might be a small idea or image, it may be a conversation echoing on a loop in your head or an action scene you’ve imagined with perfect pacing. Whatever it may be, use these as an anchor to stay tethered to the act of writing.

As mentioned earlier, my work-in-progress novel began as a small seedling of an idea in 2014. During my time in the Mountainview MFA, I conceptualized a story filled with dreams. I  researched and wrote. I added more pages and ideas. My final semester of my graduate studies, I met with my mentor to pitch that story and discuss the plan for the next few months. Very quickly, my mentor let me know that this was not what my story was actually about. She gave me a deadline and urged me to rethink the concept. I must note that I have always thrived on setting a goal, and that night, I did in fact conceptualize a new version of this story. It felt right. And even then, there was a scene in a lighthouse I needed to write. It got me through to the end of my thesis. 

Now in Phase Three having finally gotten out of my own way, leaning into my strengths as a writer, and incorporating my love of mythology, I have finally found what this story needs to be, and I refuse to look back. As I approach the final part of the novel, I am once again writing toward that scene in the lighthouse. Even amidst the tough chapters, it keeps me excited to continue this journey. 

Throughout this month, you will encounter all kinds of chapters and scenes moving you toward your desired word count. This is your destination. And along the way, there is magic to be found in the journey. 

This is what keeps us returning to the page, right? There will be days when you’re tired and the words come too slow. And other hours may hurt because the writing feels too real, too authentic to ever consider sharing with the world. I’m here to tell you that this month, it doesn’t matter if the writing is scary so long as you put words on the page. 

Dear writer, the world is not always kind and life is not always easy. Some days, survival may be all you can manage. But on the other days when you find excitement for the scenes you’ve yet to write, these are the days when getting close is better than best because it means you haven’t given up. 

Believe in yourself. Take a deep breath. Drink some water because you’re probably dehydrated. Keep trying. And most importantly this month, don’t look back until you make it to the end, whatever that means for you. 

Wishing you all the very best, 

Kayla King 

Kayla King is an author of fiction and poetry. Her debut micro-collection of poetry, These Are the Women We Write About, is published by The Poetry Annals.

She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Pages Penned in Pandemic: A Collective, now available for purchase. All proceeds will be donated to 826 National, an organization supporting young writers.

Kayla is a graduate of the Mountainview MFA with her sights set on publishing the novel conceptualized during her graduate studies. She will be completing her YA speculative novel about dreams this summer before seeking representation, and always dreaming bigger than ever. To learn more and catch a sneak peek of her first page, check out her conversation with agent Danielle Chiotti featured on the Manuscript Academy Podcast! You can follow Kayla’s writing journey over at her website: kaylakingbooks.com or her twitterings @KaylaMKing. 

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