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Yanked from my Comfort Zone

I've never been a proponent of "toss 'em in and make 'em swim" type of logic. Tossing someone to the wolves, so to speak, always makes me shudder. This is true even if I'm seeing someone else experience sink or swim. I mean, if I want to learn something, enjoy something, try something new, you have to give me the opportunity to wrap myself around these new...whatever's.

I'm the dip-my-toes-into-the-water-first kind of girl. This doesn't mean I won't go in all the way, it just means I have to get used to the idea. If I dip my toes in, I've already committed to submerging myself completely, but I have to take in my surroundings.

I don't care if this refers to eating a new food, going to a new place, reading a new genre or even writing a new story.

Especially when writing a new story. I like to take my time and immerse myself into the whole process. Unfortunately, my desires aren't always the way a story occurs. As much as I'd prefer to nibble into the tale, there have been times when the tale takes me for a spin. Then, I'm playing tug-of-war between my characters, my muse and my sanity. Eventually, all these entities in my head become exasperated with my tip-toeing and beat me down until I dive right in. Rip me a new one, why don't they?

But it works.

I've had a story, let's take for example, that is now two plus years in the making. I'm determined to finish the sucker this year, come hell or high water. The story line and the relationship are unlike any I've ever written. The topics are nothing that I would normally place personal interest in, but the characters and the story are there, in my head (and half on paper), nagging at me. Yes, I admit to dipping the toes. Here's how I did it...

When the story began in my head, I questioned everything. Why did I think of X and not Y? Why were the characters wanting this and not that? Why couldn't I make the tale turn another direction instead? My questions weren't the norm of what their conflicts were or how to progress the plot, but I was questioning the very motives and behaviors in the first place.

Every single day I would continue to question and second-guess the way the story wanted to flow. I stalled. Completely. It was as if the characters shut up and refused to cooperate with me. How dare them! I was writing their story, after all.

But that was the problem. I wasn't writing their story, I was trying to force my ideas into their lives.

Major fail on my end. This is why the beautiful tale gathered dust.

One day, about two months ago, the characters started niggling at me again. Loudly. With a heavy sigh, I pulled their story out and agreed to try it their way for once. If it worked, great. Still, I was doubtful. I opened myself to the characters, shut down my own thoughts and wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote. And I fell in love with the characters again and with THEIR story. The way it's meant to be.

Yes, I ended up diving into this one, as much as I hated doing so, but I'm thankful right now as well. The story is nearly finished, I'm thrilled to report, and turning out better than I'd ever imagined. Once I let go, sinking into new territory has become uplifting and fulfilling.

To a degree, we as writers always dive in, eventually. We have to let ourselves go and give ourselves over to the story. Even if it's a tale we may doubt or be uncomfortable with on the outset. It's in our heads for a reason. To keep it bottled up, or to try to manipulate it into something we think we'd want, hurts not only us as writers, but it also hurts the words that were meant to be.

So here's a toast to letting our muses yank us around. Enjoy whatever comes your way,

Ayla Ruse
~Ensnare yourself in love

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