last fall, i gave myself permission to “start over” with a project that i’d been wrestling with for the better part of two years. it was a tough decision, but one i knew i had to make, and six months later, i totally thought i’d finally arrived at the new, shiny version.
while i had a new direction for the story, and had re-purposed characters and tightened up motivations, i was still carrying around these old drafts full of sentences and passages and scenes that i loved. i remember thinking, “this is great! i can still use some of these scenes! i can re-purpose them, too!”
cut to this past weekend when i realized that i couldn’t, in fact, re-purpose them.
turns out starting over doesn’t always mean starting again. sometimes starting over means starting anew.
while the story is the same story—same bones, same muscle, same heart—the rest of it has changed. it’s a frustrating realization—that so many of the things that i loved about the old draft simply won’t hold in the new one—yet it’s also exciting. i’m excited about all the new things i’ll fall in love with and the surprises that await me as i get to know my characters again and explore the relationships they have with each other.
it’s so easy to see starting over as a type of failure: why couldn’t i make it work the first time? i’m a horrible writer. maybe i just need to kill the idea once and for all. i’ll totally admit that i thought these things more than once, and not just about this particular project. but just like most things in life, writing is a learning experience. it’s a growing experience. and just as it is with learning, people do it differently.
i happen to learn by unpacking or taking things apart, and starting anew. it’s frustrating and heartbreaking at times, but it’s also challenging and rewarding. i see the growth and i see the improvement.
it doesn’t matter if i find myself here, starting anew, a dozen times. if, at the end of it all, i have the story i set out to tell, then all the re-starts, all the frustration, all the cupcakes i ate and cups of coffee i drank, will be worth it.
because in the end, i’ll have my story.