The Problem with Expectations

Songs, movie previews, book jacket summaries, they all create an image in your mind of how a story will unfold. Your mind fills with colors, accents, and ghosted outlines of the characters. Music videos can make you wiggle with excitement or really let you down when you’ve fallen in love with a song.

Sam Smith’s video for Stay with me, lost me within the first 30 seconds. The opening lyrics:

Guess it’s true, I’m not good at a one-night stand
But I still need love ’cause I’m just a man
These nights never seem to go to plan
I don’t want you to leave, will you hold my hand?
Oh, won’t you stay with me?

The video begins with him singing and leaving his one night-stand and heading home. Now, every time I hear the song, I picture him leaving and the song is ruined. How can they shoot an entire video of him singing ‘stay with me’, and he, be the one leaving?  It’s a beautiful, heart-wrenching piece, but the video utterly wrecked it for me.

I expected something different.

I’ve had the same issue with my story, Sarah Blue. The last three weeks, I’ve had a hard time committing time to sit and type. I’ve blamed work, home, exhaustion; but the truth is, that parts of my story have been nagging at me. Pieces I wanted to improve and things that didn’t seem true to life, were circling around in my mind. I did a big rewrite a few weeks ago, which left me drained but also, with more questions. Sometimes you need to leave your work alone to really work on it.

Two nights ago, bleary-eyed from my day, I finally crawled into bed and curled up around my pillow. As the comforting blanket of black settled over me, my mind snapped open and I saw my answers clearly. I was quickly up on one elbow, flailing around for the journal and pen I keep on my nightstand.

I’m going to have to cut a few favorite scenes and rework some awesome lines; but it’s all for the greater good (of my story, of course, not man-kind ;)).

It’s much more interesting and realistic with the changes. I’d been plugging hard at my story for weeks, but a little distance made everything come into focus. I’m excited to throw myself back into it. I started last night and loved the feeling of the paper back under my hands as I made notes.

As for Sam Smith and his video, I’m sure he, and his bank account, are unconcerned with my two cents.

Your Homework: Having a hard time with a scene? Walk away from it. Walk away from the entire thing, give it some time.

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