Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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August 6, 2018

The Perk of a Side Writing Project

Tasha Seegmiller

If you took a brief glimpse at my life, you would see that I’m the kind of person who wears many hats. In fact, when I describe all the facets to my day job, I usually just end up calling myself a bridge, because I cross over into several different areas. I usually have an audiobook I’m listening to, a hard copy book I’m reading, and a digital book I’m reading (they are never similar in story though).

Yet, for some reason I thought I could only write one thing at a time. And that project I’ve been working on has been a beast. Life hasn’t helped, but it has taken me longer to draft this novel than anything I’ve written before. I keep trying, I’ll get 500 words one week, maybe that the next, but really, the thought of writing it feels too big. I have told myself, of course, that this means it’s the story I’m supposed to write, but it got to the point where writing at all was daunting.

Dear writer? That’s not a good place to be.

This book isn’t under contract. I don’t have a deadline for it. If I did, I’d probably push through because I hate letting people down.

I tried imposing my own deadlines, but that didn’t help. And a backhanded slap from my mental health during all of this did me absolutely no favors.

So, instead, I started researching, you know, on Pinterest. Because I like to dabble in a little bit of magical realism, I glanced through lores and myths, through the meaning and healings of different times of days, of crystals, of various herbs. I let myself imagine a story with something like that in them, saved some ideas to my secret research board, where ideas are safe to marinate without expectation or judgment.

One idea in particular kept visiting, inspired by a place I visited in Europe last year. There was finally enough that I wanted to put pen to paper, to see if I had a character or a setting, which are the two elements that usually come first in stories for me. And soon enough, I had a paragraph. Then two. Then an epiphany of where the story could really start, and where it could maybe go.

This is my new treehouse story. 

You see, when I was younger, I would climb trees during my free time, always taking a little snack and a book with me. In that tree, I could forget about the real world and get lost in a story. I never had a proper treehouse (I still covet the one in Swiss Family Robinson), but that idea of a place where I can go to get lost in a story allows me to get the body and the brain writing again.

This is a lot like how I warmed up for practicing the piano – there were the pieces that got the fingers loosened up, that signaled to the mind that it was time to make music. Having a side project that is fun and developmental lets the fingers and brain transition into writer mode, and, for a while, the fun that was started when I was playing with my treehouse story trickles into the one I need to finish. This kind of exercise is quite a bit like visual artists who carry a sketch pad everywhere – it’s a low cost way to nurture their creativity. Playing with our art allows us to better tap into our art.

Obviously, I do NOT recommend developing a treehouse story to the point where it’s at the same hard to write part as the other story. That’s a dangerous practice (and another article all of its own).


Have you ever played with a treehouse story?

Other suggestions for when the writing just doesn’t want to come?


Tasha Seegmiller believes in the magic of love and hope, which she weaves into every story she creates. She is passionate about helping women nourish their creativity, is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association,and trusts in the power of Diet Coke. The former high school English teacher now assists in managing the award-winning project-based learning program (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. Tasha married a guy she’s known since she was seven and is the mom of three teens. She is represented by Annelise Robey of Jane Rotrosen Agency.


26 comments on “The Perk of a Side Writing Project”

  1. I have never thought of a tree house story, but I have always written more than one thing at a time, now more than ever. I am behind with my novel, but in the meantime published short story and novella collections, wrote stories for the little people in the family and I have been doing more blogging.

    1. I wish I had been as productive as you've been, tidal scribe, while not working on my novel!

  2. I find working on two stories at once keeps my writing fresh and the ideas flowing. Kind of like you, the story, which is due to an editor the first of September, is stagnant. I have two chapters left to flesh out and I'm finding ways to walk away from my computer. So, I delve into another story that hasn't been worked on in years. Suddenly, the ideas are flowing again. I know this doesn't work for everyone, but having a backup story works for me

    1. Though I don't actually begin writing the next novel, that seems like cheating on my WIP!, I do a lot of "head-thinking" and get a solid backstory, settings, character arcs, and the entire plot while I'm working on my WIP. It's hard to stay on task; I feel your pain, Tina!

  3. Tasha, your post is spot on for me. I find that a morning walk while composing a haiku about what I see primes the pump. Deadlines work for me, usually, because I'm a retired newspaper reporter. They work better for contests & blog posts than my self-imposed deadlines, so the trick for me is to schedule myself to write for contests & blogs. Rewriting a short novel now with a Dec. 1 contest deadline. Best of luck & happy writing!

    1. Great idea, Nan! Short means you finish sooner. I wish I could bring in a book under 400 pages.

  4. Although I force myself to finish my first draft, going through a second draft hasn't been easy LOL. I like the idea of delving into a side project. Mind you, I've never written about tree houses before. But I do have a YA on the side that I keep slowly developing.

    All the best on your treehouse novel!

  5. I'm writing two at once now, Tasha - I love doing that. Except for one downfall. Of course I want to ignore the one on deadline, and write the unsold one! Best to you!

    1. But you always finish your contracted work on time. I love your work ethic, Laura!

  6. I'm going to try this. I have been procrastinating the revision of a novel. Perhaps spending a little time writing a side project would help.

  7. My ADD Writer absolutely demands more than one project. A short story alongside the big one. A piece of flash fiction. A blog. I think it absolutely keeps the words flowing to do it this way. I think this is the psychology behind Julia Cameron's Morning Pages, which many writers swear by. Do you keep that practice, Tasha?

    1. I have tried morning pages and would get lost in my own head (ha!) but blogging and other smaller projects definitely nourish my writerly self.

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