When I first started writing my book, it was intoxicating! I spent hours thinking about my characters and story and prattled on and on about it (…to my husband, because I was too much of a chicken to tell anyone else). I was excited, inspired, smitten.
Halfway through my first draft, the sparkle started to dull. Writing a novel became a chore; more of what it really is, which is damn hard work. And I started to cheat. I’m not proud of it, but I started giving my love, and spare time, to other projects.
I’ve always believed that there are two kinds of people: Starters and Finishers. I, along with many other right-brained, creative types, would consider myself a starter. That’s why business writing is a good fit for me. It’s generally served in bite-sized pieces.
With bigger projects, I begin with gusto, propelled by creative energy. And then it gets hard; my groove is snagged by self-doubt and lack of discipline. I start to sputter, to crave the high that would come from flitting off to the next project. I want to fall in love again.
Writing a novel requires both sides of the brain, both types of personality. Creative, inspired, right-brain says, “This is fun. Let’s write a novel. I’m so inspired right now!” And then halfway through the first draft (and probably multiple times in editing), it says, “This is soooo boring. If it’s no longer fun, shouldn’t we just start a new project? No sense being stuck in a loveless relationship, right?” This is when Type-A, left-brain steps in (hopefully) and says “Nope! Sit your ass down. We are finishers, remember?”
Let’s use the running analogy. I do a couple of cursory stretches and begin strong, bounding like a caribou. I most definitely look like The Terminator with my precise, robotic running form. Then, at the ¾-mile mark, my breath gets jagged. My heart starts to try to claw its way out of my chest and I start to knuckle-drag.
It doesn’t matter how much I run; I want to quit when I get to ¾ of a mile. Every. Damn. Time. I think to myself, “Wait. I hate running. What the hell am I doing here?”
At the 1½- mile mark, I find a rhythm. I may not be caribou-quick or have terminator form but once I’m over the hump, I start to forget I hate running. (At least enough to do it again)
Novels take a long time to write. Gone With The Wind, one of my favorite books of all time took TEN YEARS to create. Imagine if Mary Mitchell would have quit writing when SHE started knuckle-dragging.
So… when writing becomes a sweaty, miserable endeavor, how do you keep going? I can only speak from experience…
A Drop In The Bucket – Writing Goals With Moderation
Writing a novel sounds overwhelming because it IS overwhelming. But writing a page isn’t so bad. Smaller writing goals make me feel productive when I’m not inspired and crazy-productive when I am inspired. This can range from taking a half hour to write, or producing a single page daily, to writing a chapter a week. (If you have this kind of time for your novel, I’m jealous.) It only matters that you are still slugging along, sweaty and miserable, until you find your groove again.
Fall In Love Again
Sometimes, I pick a random spot in my book and read what I’ve written. I’m not looking for edits or flaws. I’m just reading as I imagine my “someday reader” will, trying to enjoy the story. This often keeps me moving because even if no one ever likes my book, I do. I actually like it a lot. Reading it makes me remember why I wanted to write it in the first place.
“Just Do It”
Yep… such annoying advice. But this IS what it all comes down to. Finishers are the people that just do it when it doesn’t feel fun or exciting. Because finishers know that finishing feels fun and exciting. I have more to say about this. SO. MUCH. MORE. But that’s for another day.
Who Needs Clean Socks?
When trying to write something that doesn’t have a deadline or paycheck on the other end of it, it’s easy to put it off. Drudgery is the slippery slope to procrastination. Sure, your to-do list is long. Of course you have a busy life. Not many people I know write a book because they have nothing else to do. (Although that IS how Gone With The Wind was written) But if this matters to you, carve out the time for it.
I have kids. I know that parenting comes with a slew of never-ending jobs that eat up free time like a wave of locusts. But if your book deserves no more than the picked-over, remains of your day, you might want to question how much you really want to write that book.
If you can’t come to terms with this, or some other, sacrifice (… Ahem… candy crush/facebook creeping/Us Weekly) might want to do some soul searching.
(You should see my laundry pile right now. Sorry kids, no clean socks today. But look how much editing I got done! AND I wrote a blog!)
Even better, My Upcoming Blog on Ninja Writing will address some ways to write and have clean socks too. The picture of success.