The hardest thing to deal with when writing is that you have to find your own way. Nobody else can do it for you. You can read about what other writers do, you can certainly be helped by others, but in the end only you will know if it worked. And the only way to know is to try and, most likely, fail.
I hear from professional writers that what works may also vary from work to work. So even if you do figure it out, the ground will change out from under you anyways. Enjoy!
In this way, writing reflects what I’ll call hard-core problem-solving. You may know them as brain teasers. To deal with problems such as cross a rickety bridge in 17 minutes or die, you need to find a way to frame a representation of problem components and relationships in your mind, and thence come up with ways of attacking a problem that you, as a problem-solver, feel most comfortable with. Not to mention that the actual solving of any single problem is unique to that problem, so you must be adaptable.
I’ll go further: writing is problem-solving, with the representation of a solution being the story. The problems posed are more poetic—less the mechanics of splitting sixpence amongst logical and untrustworthy pirates, and more detailing the tale of Jenny the Pirate and the Treasure Everyone Wants to Kill Her For—but they are at their heart, very hard-core problems. To make things more difficult, usually hard-core problem-solving deals with problems that have a “trick”, that once you know makes the solution fall into your hand. As far as I can tell, while this can happen with stories, it seems to take at least several tricks to untangle a story. And unlike manufactured problems, you can’t know that there is even a trick in the first place; the story may be unviable.
This comparison between writing and problem-solving, while mostly untrue, has helped me cope with my current difficulties in spinning a story-length yarn, or rather what appears to be a novella-length yarn. For instance, in hard-core problem-solving, it’s quite acceptable to come up with multiple failed approaches, only to return to the first one as being closer to a true solution, while incorporating the lessons of the others. It just takes a crazy long time compared to figuring out which of your meds is which without pill differentiation and is more complex to boot.
I wouldn’t call myself stupid for backtracking in a problem-solving situation. Why should I do so when I’m writing?