E. M. Williams

a car drives away down a suburban street at night; streetlights reflect in the wet pavement

‘Don’t Stop Believing’

I’ve been writing some version of this Medium essay about ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ in my head ever since I finished the first draft of Chaos Calling.

Time does funny things to your worst days.

From where I sit now in my 40s, that moment in the car no longer feels as visceral as it did in my early 30s. I’d like to think I’m less binary in my thinking about life, creativity and achievement than I was then.

I also have more concepts with which to think about creativity now. Books like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic widened the lens through which I think about and understand creative work.

What I needed someone to tell me was yes, that particular book was dying. Given the time and energy I invested in it, that loss was real and deserved to be mourned.

But it wasn’t the end. Not by a long shot.

Transitions and creativity renewal can go hand-in-hand

City lights at night refracted through a rain spattered windshield. The mood evokes the despair I felt in my Don't Stop Believing essay.
It’s easy to stop believing. Persisting is harder.

Sometimes as writers, we have to turn over the field and let the earth go fallow for a while. I don’t mean to imply that it’s easy. It’s not. This particular experience felt like the worst of failures.

Yet, in reality, my subconscious was already planting new seeds and preparing me for what was coming.

For instance, one big difference between my old project and Chaos Calling was the commanding urgency that came with it. The new idea seized me by the throat. The story and its characters were, quite literally, all I could think about. Writing on the subway became one of the highlights of my day. I looked forward to those short blocks with a feverish intensity, and brought more joy and fulfillment to me in all areas of my life.

Letting the old story go was painful, but my new project was so much more exciting—for me and my readers.