Why the Middles of Projects are Tough (Part 3): Middles Have Middles!

I previously wrote about how the middles of projects are tough: *They're the place where the work seems to get much tougher right at the same moment that your enthusiasm starts to ebb. *They're a much bigger part of the project than most people realize. (Around 80%!) However, there's another problem with middles: they have middles! Yes, you can have a middle-of-a-middle. Here's how it works: Many endeavors begin with a “honeymoon period” where the work is fresh and new, the possibilities seem endless, and you're filled with energy and enthusiasm. That's the beginning of the project. Alas, like all honeymoons, it too soon comes to an end. Reality sets in, and inevitably disappoints. The work doesn't come together as easily as you had at first imagined, and you become aware that what you write may never live up to your pristine early vision. Your motivation wanes, but you resolve to soldier on. And then, you hit a point where everything seems particularly bleak. I call that the “anti-honeymoon,” … [Read more...]

What To Do If You Are Stuck in the Middle of a Project

Middles are tough. It's no accident that Dante began The Inferno, his allegorical journey through Hell, thusly: Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost. Or that Christian, the pilgrim in John Bunyan's allegory The Pilgrim's Progress, encounters the bog called the “Slough of Despond” midway along his journey. At Grub Street Writers, where I teach, many writers refer to the “Murky Middles” of writing projects. Dark forests, bogs, murk: you might get the idea that a lot of people find middles not just difficult, but confusing and downright scary. Here's the problem with middles: The piece (or project) is no longer fresh and new and shiny. Your early energy and enthusiasm are waning. At the same time, the piece is at maximum entropy: meaning, what you've done up till now is super chaotic and disorganized. You've also become more aware of the piece's problems. It's not living up to the pristine, Platonic vision that … [Read more...]