The Angel Is In The Action

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We’ve often heard it said The Devil is in the Details, which is certainly true in writing. We can plot and outline all we want, but when one truly writes, that’s when we find out just how many unexpected details and findings can bedevil us. Writing is often overwhelming when we dive into a work because there’s so much we have to think about.

Worldbuilding is a prime example. No matter how much you plan, you’ll quickly ask questions, find holes, or create problems for yourself. Worldbuilding is challenging, and not everyone embraces it with the same (masochistic?) fervor as some.

Characters are another example. We’ve all had writing experiences where characters made up their minds to be different. These moments are delightful, but not so blissful is the realization 70% of your plans got tossed out.

Language is yet another example of bedeviling details when we write, in nonfiction or fiction. As you write, you keep putting yourself in the shoes of the audience – and we may find that we’re not wearing the right shoes. Creating something is a hellish chance to find that you’re not speaking to the proper audience, or you don’t know that audience as well as you’d like.

Our own outlines may cause us problems. We can see a beautiful map, a wonderful path, and then writing it down only brings out many confusing questions and issues. For some of us, the best laid plans don’t even get set down before they go wrong in our heads.

Any moment like these can derail us, confuse us, and make us despondent. We’re writing and our own writing is making us miserable.

A break may be in order, but let me suggest this – if the Devil is in the Details, then let’s keep going. The Angel is in the Action, as it were – moving forward we find salvation from our problems.

If we address the problems we find as best we can – even if taking a note to fix it later – we go on, accomplish things, and can revise work later. We may even find the problem can be revised elsewhere in our work.

If we keep writing, we’ll accomplish work, achieving both our goals and having a reminder of just what we can accomplish. By continuing to write, even when harassed by our own fear of details and fine points, we at least move forward and maintain our confidence.

If we work around our problems and fears and challenges, we may find we don’t even have to deal with them. Sometimes a retrospective reveals our fears weren’t an issue all along.

If nothing else, completing a work or a piece lets you revise it from a point of surety – even if you’re sure it’s not that good.

We don’t really learn something until we do it, and that includes fixing our stories or overcoming issues of missing detail. If we let the Devil hiding in the details get to us, we forget that it’s our work and we have the power to fix problems. Powering through, keeping going, lets us leave him behind, lets us find our Angel – be it a new idea, a solution, or a workaround.

Take action when writing frustrates you. Keep moving forward – even if it’s in circles. Maybe take a little break, but don’t let the Devil whisper in your ear you can’t do it. Find the Angel in your actions.

Steven Savage