a creative partner
You had a great idea for a story, or a comic, or a book. And you were so excited to get started. You know it’s not supposed to be easy—if you want it to be good, you’ve got to put in the hours, and that’s what you’ve been doing. But now the realization is dawning…sitting your butt in the chair and getting to work was just the beginning.
Writing a non-fiction book about something complex; crafting a novel; or pulling together a brand’s story. Sure, it’s a challenge to motivate yourself, to sit your ass in the chair every day.
But once you’re there, doing the work?
You didn’t expect it to be quite this hard.
Whether you’re formally trained in your craft or taught yourself, you’re not a shirker. You weren’t expecting it to be a walk in the park. But you’ve always heard that the secret is you’ve just got to show up and do the work.
And you’ve done work. A lot of work. But now you see a wall of words, just all this stuff, You’re not blocked, you’re the opposite of blank, but you’ve got no sense of what’s better than anything else. You’ve got no way to grapple with material you’ve produced.
It’s not that you haven’t been doing anything; in fact, that’s almost become part of the problem. You’ve created so much that the thread you started off with is now a messy tangle of wool.
Behind closed doors, you’re asking yourself questions that never crossed your mind when you started.
- Am I really cut out for this?
- Do I have it in me to finish this project?
- Is my idea actually any good?
- Is it time to give up?
- I’ve put so much into this, I can’t turn back, but how can I go forward?
The thing I hear time and time again from fellow creatives, the mindset that’s the biggest barrier to creating your best work, is this:
If I can’t figure it out by myself then I’m not a real artist.
The idea that you have to do it alone is so demoralizing. Because all the encouragement in the world to sit down at your desk alone and grapple with the work can’t answer that one big question going round in your head:
Is this worth it? Am I up to this job? Should I just quit?
The good news is, the projects where you find yourself lost like this are really only the big, important ones. This kind of stuck doesn’t happen with little things, with easy, non-challenging work. If you can get through this one, it will be creatively life-changing.
It hurts because it really matters. It’s complicated because it’s full of ideas. It’s hard because you’re too close.
I know what it’s like to find yourself in what I’ve come to know as the “Dark Forest”. Every worthwhile project I’ve ever done has led me to that place where I’m in over my head and feeling lost.
You get so deep that you can’t remember what it was like to feel that original spark – to feel the tug of the story pulling you forward – and that’s a story-killer. You have to keep that spark alive. Eventually you’ll find your way out. And both the fight and the forest are transformational, creatively. But it’s a long and lonely road if you do it by yourself.
Maybe you’ve tried talking to your partner or friends. They probably have some good advice, some encouragement. But they might also say things that confuse you. They seem to think that with talent and hard work, stories write themselves. That behind the curtain you tap into some kind of secret artist’s code that makes it all flow easily.
So you consult other writers or fellow artists. Join a writer’s group, perhaps. And they may have some good feedback. But in my experience, often they can’t get to the heart of the problem. It’s so easy to get caught up endlessly rewriting sentences or chapters, when the problem’s much deeper than that.
The thing is, well-meaning supporters can’t tell you which direction your story’s going in; show you which choices you need to make and where they’ll take you; identify whether the fundamental structure of the project is sound, what the project is even actually about.
Find your path
Spoiler alert: There is a way to escape the morass, and you don’t have to do it on your own.
And I am here to tell you: It’s not cheating to share your work with someone else. In fact, I’ve come to understand that it’s essential to do so if you’re to find the distance you need from your own thought process.
Because wherever you’ve got to with your project, one thing is certain: you’re too close.
The fastest way to get back on track with your project and find the story that’s waiting to be told is to talk it through with someone who can see what you’ve written and understand what you really mean – what the story wants to be. A creative partner who knows what they’re doing, to reflect back the essential core of what you’re expressing and help you see your way through the project.
Imagine feeling the elements of your story clicking into place, clear, in the right order, just as they will for your readers.
Picture knowing that you’re on track – that your story has everything it needs to keep your audience on the roller coaster, gripped right to the end.
Think how it would feel to be confident that you have the talent and the tools you need to actually finish the project; knowing that you’re spending your time and energy in the right places to get you through to the end.
I learned the hard way that the idea that artists are required to working in isolation is a crock. Time and again, it wasn’t until I scheduled structured conversations with a fellow creative who understood the fundamentals of story structure – of what’s compelling for an audience – that I found the right path and got out of the woods.
I’ve learned, practiced and taught the fundamentals of a compelling narrative for decades. I can give your work the one-on-one attention it needs to get you back into flow.
Together we’ll draw the map
I’m not medium-agnostic. I’m a cartoonist, and proud of it. My native form of narrative, comics, combines visual narrative and prose. I’ve written three prose books and been an illustrator. Between that and the massive amount of time I’ve spent studying narrative audio (massive for someone not in that field), I’m more comfortable thinking of how all these forms of narrative are similar (and how they can be mixed and aligned) than how they’re different.
So yes, I’m a writer—I like words and crafting sentences as much as you do.
But what I’m really interested in is how things fit together. I’m a puzzle master; what I’m great at is looking at the deep structure of your project and identifying the missing part of your story; the one piece that fits perfectly and makes everything come together.
I know which questions to ask. I love strategic planning. Narrowing down, focusing in on what the important choices are and when they need to take place. I love to talk through complicated problems and find step-by-step solutions. To make plans, create systems, and get things in the proper order.
Yes, being an artist is about doing the work. You knew that already.
But the idea that you need to do it all on your own? That’s just wrong (and, frankly, scary).
I can be your story Sherpa. Having a guide means you can focus your energy on finding firm footholds – without worrying about taking a wrong turn, walking off a cliff, or being eaten by a (metaphorical) yeti.
Together we’ll come up with a map to get you from where you are to where you want to be:
- A concrete analysis of what your story is doing: What works, what doesn’t.
- A clear path out of the woods: What to change, what to fix, what to focus on.
- What your choices are for the different aspects of your story, and more importantly, what the implications of each choice are.
- How to prepare for the next stage of a story before you get there. (In a narrative context: laying the groundwork/planting seeds for later developments)
Do The Work
As a practicing artist I’ve tried and tested strategies for productivity that will give you the energy and the structure to work through even huge projects without getting overwhelmed.
I can help you to figure out:
- How to get your work started, and get your work done.
- How to set goals that have meaning, instead of driving you crazy.
- How to get out of a rut and back into a state of creative flow.
- How to be a narrative artist who actually works.
Email me at contact (at) jessicaabel.com to book a free Skype consultation, and find out how I can help you find your motivation, hone your story, and finish your project.
You don’t have to do it alone.