Stuck In The Middle, Again

As a writer, we’ve all been there. By “there” I of course mean a myriad of places. Especially the In Between.

We’ve all stared at a blank page, a blinking cursor, or the sharpened end of a pencil. We’ve all felt the elation of completing a chapter, an outline, or a whole project.

There is not a single greater feeling to a writer than being able to write those most famous of words: The End.

It’s almost like waking up on Christmas as an 8 year old child, which also happens to be your birthday, in which you get a car, all your friends show up, finding a $100 bonus in your check after finding a $20 bill long forgotten in your pocket all while going around a roller coaster and eating your favorite dessert. Almost.

Then, it happens. You find yourself “there”. The in between.

In between your emotions
There are a range of emotions here, and you seemingly feel them all at once.
What is the “In Between?”

The joy of the occasion wears off, your palms stop being sweaty, your heart stops racing, you wake up in a near panic and all that comes to your mind is “what in the hell do I do now?”

Perhaps you find yourself running around, burning coffee in the pot because you can’t remember to turn it off, or your next cup goes cold because you left it on the counter and walked away. Your mind has been focused on a single thing for so long and now that thing is over. WHAT NOW???

Welcome to the middle, my friend. The In Between, as I call it. Your mind is so ablaze with everything that has been neglected over the last… forever, that it tries to catch up all at once.

Should you start editing? Should you start another project? The next chapter? The next draft? Go for a walk? Put on clean pants?

It is actually a very stressful and awkward time. We truly are lost. Perhaps you can calm yourself momentarily, check your email or social sites. Do a load of laundry. Maybe you can sit on the couch and put music on or just stare out the window watching the trees blow and hear the leaves rustle.

Eventually (and I am guessing within minutes) you are back at it though. The pacing-panic stricken-walk of someone who is unsure where to head next.

Being In Between is Normal

You aren’t alone. Nor are you abnormal. You are simply an In-Betweener. Welcome to the club my friend, your laminated membership card is on the table and punch is being served in the ball room. Enjoy your stay.

in the middle as an in betweener
Being in the middle isn’t always bad.

Try as you might you can’t escape it. You can prepare for it, plan for it and hope that everything works out, but the fact remains, once you write The End, it is only the beginning.

If you are a self-editor, as we mostly are for our first several drafts, you know you must wait some time before diving back in. Even though every fiber of your being is screaming to get back to it, you know you just can’t, yet.

If you have finalized a manuscript, it is a tad easier because you can start a new project right away. Yet that, too, comes with it’s own mental gymnastics routine.

You’re stuck in the middle (again) and only time and patience will win the day. Time you have, patience, probably not.

Help is on the Way

I can’t cure it, friend. Perhaps, though, I might be able to alleviate it a bit. Follow along:

First, stop panicking. It is normal to be in this situation, it is a good thing.

Second, take a note pad and a pen, get away from where ever you do your craft. If you write on the computer, turn it off and go into another room. If you write long hand, perhaps using the computer will help.

The idea here is to remove the temptation to look at your works.

Just like any other habit, good or bad, we can’t just quit cold turkey. You are addicted to writing and you need to ease yourself out of it for the time being. So, take your pad and think about your work without actually going to look at it. Write down things you know you need to change.

Perhaps a characters name, or a setting, or some detail that sticks out to you. Write it down, write them all down. Edit without editing the work, as it were.

When you are done, remove yourself from writing all together. Go for a walk, play a game, clean the house, take a shower, something, that will keep you from writing anything at all.

It May or May Not Work, Though

You may find your mind going back to it, pulling you into that In Between trance again. Try to fight it, but don’t go crazy doing so.

Next, take the pad and pen again and write more edits. Surely something new has come to mind. Even if it’s just one thing. Repeat for a few hours (although I don’t recommend taking a shower each time, your skin and water bill won’t thank you for it).

It is a tad easier, as I said, if writing The End was in fact the end of that project. You can use the time away to brain storm your next project. Make up characters, scenes, ideas, plot lines, sub-plots, etc. Perhaps you are toying with several ideas for what to start next. Use these hours to make a decision.

Soon enough you will find yourself in the clam and collected state of self-happiness again. You are feeding the addiction small tid-bits to keep it happy and not over taxing your mind, so that it may rest before tackling the next objective.

I suggest a few hours, perhaps up to a few days before returning to the project. Hard as it may seem. You need to reset. If you go back too early, you will miss a lot of things. Give it the time it needs to get it right. Like opening expensive wine. It needs to breathe before being devoured.

If you are anything like me though, you don’t drink wine and you are a very addictive personality type person. So… strive for a few hours. It’s worth it.

Just remember, you are now an In-Betweener. You aren’t alone and there is fudge and cookies by the punch. Use a napkin.

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