I’m sure that all of us have had an idea or a scene or a character that we come up with that simply makes us fall in love. We think it’s the best thing since sliced pizza, and we can’t imagine anyone disagreeing. And when we’re right, it’s magic.
Unfortunately, sometimes we’re wrong.
Oddly enough, a lot of the time, it’s the big idea that started the whole book (or other project) that stops working as the book goes on. Maybe, the goal was to make an allegory or use a particular style of symbolism. Then, as we write, we get more great ideas for the characters and the plot, and they take on a life of their own.
But they don’t work with the original idea anymore.
Singer and songwriter, Anne E. DeChant, talks about a song that started with a phrase she heard. If I remember correctly, she worked on it off and on for several years but simply couldn’t get the song to jell. When she finally got the song finished with the help of a friend, she had a very good song.
And the original phrase was nowhere in it.
Can you imagine how difficult it must have been to finally accept that the phrase wasn’t going to work in the song? That was the whole point, right? But they obviously made it to a stage where the song was stronger without the phrase than with the phrase.
I’ve had similar issues with projects before, and I honestly think that one of the hardest parts of being an artist (of any kind) is to accept that something isn’t working and let it go*. Sometimes, you simply have to because if you don’t, you’ll ruin the whole project. And that’s a tragedy.
It’s heartbreaking to see a person on the verge of having a great story who can’t sell it because he/she won’t make the changes needed to fix the problems in the way.
That’s when blind love for an idea becomes dangerous. And it’s mainly the blind part that’s the problem. A certain amount of love and confidence in a project is good – let’s face it, it’s necessary, or we’d never dare show our writing to anyone. But we cannot afford to be blindly in love with our work. We have to be able to step back from it and look at it as a whole.
And sometimes, we have to be able to let go.
*My apologies to everyone who now has Frozen stuck in his/her head.