Before my recent memoir writing course, I hadn’t heard of the term “the muddy middle,” but I had sure felt it. Some of my work is still there, trudging along in the muck like those quick-sand “walkers” in last week’s episode of the Walking Dead And like the zombies, you can’t just ignore the problem and hope it will go away, you have to figure out how to move on. And for this you need the ABC’s of Muddy Middle Elimination:
A. Action. No matter how stuck you feel, the only way you are ever going to get any forward momentum in your work is to MOVE. Step away from the computer and take a walk to clear your mind, or turn away from the monitor and free write for 5-10 minutes, about the frustration, or how you may want to write the next scene but are afraid to commit to it, whatever. But stick to the action of writing, even if you take a few moments to move away from it, be sure to make your way back.
B. Believe. I get in those moods to cook unique things from magazines or on Pinterest. There are step by step instructions called recipes, so I usually feel pretty confident that I can create something edible. However, during the preparation of many of these recipes, the processes don’t make sense. Why do I need to boil this down? Why can’t I just throw everything together in the pot and turn on the heat; why so many steps? Of course, real chefs know the answer to this; I just want dinner. But I know I need to trust in the process. It may not seem like the combination of spices, cooked in the order requested will make much of a difference, but if I don’t have that faith in the process, I will never know.When you are in that “muddy middle” of your writing project, you may be unsure if the ingredients you are adding there will blend in an appetizing way as you make your way to the end. You have to trust it, and to help, you need to develop your own set of ingredients and steps. You need…
C. Construction. I am an outline convert. Not necessarily a strict outline, but one Brooke Warner calls“scaffolding.” (Her intro to this concept here). To avoid getting bogged down like a member of the undead (does it seem like I am looking forward to the next episode?), give your work some structure. Just like those chefs that create culinary masterpieces from scratch, you, too, can add different spices and directions as you go along, but if you have the basics mapped out and written down, you have less of a chance of wandering into a direction that will make your writing project unappetizing.
Happy Writing and Happy Holidays!
And, (here it comes, my plug for my editing fundraising project) if you need some gifts, be sure to check out the great Pangea Organics skincare this month: Buy one, get one 50% off and free shipping (starting Dec. 3). Shop in this Virtual Party Link.
And because of so many Walking Dead references, I'll share my meeting with Michael Rooker, the actor who played Merle Dixon. It's a bit blurry because he made us laugh, after an impromptu dance we all shared to "Brickhouse." This is why I write memoir. You can't make this stuff up.
|Austin Comic-Con Nov. 2013|
|He stabbed his brother 7 times...He seemed perfectly nice to us...|