But sometimes you just get that sinking sensation: You’ve strayed too far from your outline and now you’re waist-deep in the big muddy. The big fool inside your head says to push on, but should you listen? Sometimes you become obsessed with making the wrong solution work, but it never will. Instead, you realize that you need to step back and spot that much better, much simpler solution that’s been eluding you.
But try as you might, you fail. You know it’s there, and you know that there’s no point in going on until you spot it, but you just can’t see it…yet.
This is why, if you’re committed to writing everyday, you need to be able to jump to a parallel project. Some writers advise against this, because they say that you need to be able to totally immerse yourself in your world, rather than dipping your toe into different ponds, but I disagree. I would say that it’s more important to maintain perspective, and the only way to do that is to take a step back occasionally.
Writing a few pages of another project is helpful in multiple ways:
- It buoys you up out of that sinking sensation and allows you to start fresh on new challenges.
- It reminds you that not everything is riding on your main project, so it can be what it needs to be, instead of being all things to all people.
- It allows you to move that big problem to the back of your mind, but it keeps working the muscles that you need to solve it, which makes it more likely that you’ll have that “Eureka!” moment, when a solution for the supposedly forgotten problem suddenly flashes into your head. If you take days off to just think about the main problem, it’s more likely that you’ll forget it entirely.
But it doesn’t really matter—Just keep flexing that muscle until you’re ready to go back to your main project in a few days. You might just find that all those false solutions have melted away, and the real solution is staring you right in the face. (And, most importantly, you haven’t broken your writing momentum.)