On Making Hard Decisions in Life & Writing

Listening to: Ellie Goulding – Halycon Days

Mood: Optimistic

Last week, I was presented with an opportunity that forced me to make a hard decision. The opportunity was in regards to my day job and an offer to go work for another agency. This isn’t abnormal in advertising, as people in this career field often switch agencies in order to grow their career. And this is a great opportunity to grow. Everything about it in terms of what’s on paper is an advancement over where I currently am. Should be an easy decision, right?

Well, not really. While it looks fantastic on paper, and I really like the group I would be working with and the client I’ll be working on, the decision was surprisingly hard for me because of the agency I’m currently working for. You see, I love it here. I really enjoy the work we do, and I have a blast in the process. The people are awesome, and I have made some close friends here. But despite how much I like the people and the work, I don’t feel challenged anymore. And I’m the kind of person who NEEDS to feel challenged. A decision had to be made, and no matter how hard it was, I had to make it.

In writing, hard decisions have to be made too. I’m not talking the first draft or even the second. I’m talking when you have spent so much time with your ms that it has grown into its own life form in your head. From the infancy of plotting, to the ups and downs of 2nd and 3rd (and 4th, etc.) draft revisions, to realizing it’s almost there. But it takes a lot to get it beyond “almost there.” You have to do things you may not want to do for the betterment of the story.

There’s a popular writer saying: “Kill your darlings.” And it isn’t a joke. It’s a necessary part of writing. You have to be willing to make the hard decisions— to cut characters, scenes, entire chapters…hell, sometimes half your book in order to shape your story into something truly spectacular. To get it beyond “almost there” and turn it into “holy fuck, this is great.”

Recently, in working on some revisions for BLOODBIRD, I’ve had to make some hard decisions, cutting out entire scenes I really love that, in the end, don’t help the plot or character development. I’ve already killed several darlings in the ms in the past, but for some reason, these chapter and scene cuts hurt worse. But I can see all the good coming out of the cuts already, and when I’m done with the revisions, I know the story will be so much better.

The decisions I’ve made in the story are giving it more clarity, and also furthering my writing craft. Just as the decisions we make in life should give us some kind of clarity about one thing or another. If you decide something but it still feels wrong, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your decisions. We all make good and bad ones, but no matter the decision, you should always learn and grow from them. That’s the beauty of humanity. Make mistakes, learn from them, grow, be better, and try harder.

So, I ended up accepting the new job offer, which means saying goodbye to my current agency (and the group of people I have enjoyed working with and the clients that have been fun to work on). But I really believe it’s for the best. Because just like the stories I write, I strive to live my life beyond “almost there.” I’ve never been very good at being average; I’ve always want to exceed expectations. I’m determined. I’m competitive. I make the hard decisions for a reason. I want to what I do—both in my advertising career and writing career—to be in the “holy fuck, this is great” camp.

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