Starting Over (and Over and Over)

connectingexercise_bvcThere’s a reason why the idiom “changing horses in midstream” has a negative connotation. Every horse is different, and every time a rider or handler meets one for the first time, a whole new set of parameters comes into play.

Of course there are common factors and ranges of approach that work for various horses, and the more experienced a trainer or handler is, the wider the range of options becomes. But it’s never as simple as just walking up to the new guy, giving him a once-over, and applying one from column A and two from column B. There will always be something that you haven’t come across before. That you have to solve, or not be as successful as you’d hoped.

That’s why, in film and fiction, the guy who just leaps off his dead horse and onto a live one and gallops away is not quite accurate. An experienced rider can do that, of course, especially if the horse is trained by the same cavalry unit with the same aids and cues. But the horse might have different sets thereof, or take exception to being ridden by someone it doesn’t know, or be wounded or tired or terrified and accordingly uncooperative. Then you’re trudging along the trail minus horse, and the horse has taken off for parts unknown.

Same applies to the writer’s art. No matter how many stories or novels you’ve written, the next one is all new. That blank page stares at you. That first line dares you to figure out what comes next. That ever so cool idea triple-dog-dares you to follow it through to its best conclusion.

Experience isn’t always helpful, either. If you’ve done things in a particular way before, you might find that this time, the tried and true isn’t working. You have to change your approach; try different ways in. Make mistakes. Hope something works.

If you’re open to change, you can find you learn a great deal from a new horse or a new writing project. If you cling to what’s always worked, and insist on doing it this way this time, and keep insisting until by yiminy it works or else, you’ll eat dirt if it’s a horse, and run up against the great block wall if it’s a novel.

There’s an art to starting over. Trusting that experience can offer choices, but keeping the mind open and the body relaxed, ready for whatever the new book or the new horse might decide to do.

It’s scary. Trust is hard. You have to let go, and let be. And let yourself be different–this time. And the next time and the next.

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Starting Over (and Over and Over) — 6 Comments

  1. I find the ancient concept of the Muse helpful, at least at the writing end. Is there an equivalent Epona for horses? The Muse has her own idea about what this new book is going to be, and to write it you have to work with her. Annoy her enough and she will go away and sulk; give way to her completely and the novel may be full of holes. She needs you, to point out that the hero is acting like an idiot or that nobody is going to go into the jungle without packing a lunch.

  2. Good post. Starting over is one of the toughest things to do–but can prove to be the most exhilarating.

  3. Writing is, in this regard, like raising kids: you start out with one, think you’ve got the process figured out, start another, and realize that the needs and requirements and personality of the thing are, in fact, quite different. In a sense, each book raises you. And once you figure that out, it makes the process both much easier (“Oh, I know what’s happening here. I’ve been through this before”) and terrifying (“But I don’t know what you want of me! Give me a hint. ANYTHING!”)