Wednesday, June 8, 2011

When It All Seems Too Hard ...

... what keeps you going? With the writing, that is.

See, I’ve been looking at my calendar, calculating the days and weeks and months that have run like water through my fingers, and I’m feeling the panic rising.

There’s still so much work to be done on my WIP. There are still so many ways in which that work is interrupted each and every day. This week in particular, any progress I’ve made was achieved at a rate equivalent to that of continental drift (which is one to ten centimeters per YEAR, should you wish to know.)

At times like these I start to hear those depressing, moaning, voices in my head.

Why keep going? What’s the point? It’s all too bloody hard.

And I have to work hard at blocking them out, because there is a kernel of truth in what they say. Especially the part about writing being bloody hard.

Nicholas Sparks has spoken about writing and the grind it can be. Now, his books may not be to your taste, but this quote of his resonates with me:

"When asked if I love writing, my answer is always, 'No.' I don't love it. I make my living at it, and some might think I'm good at it, but I don't love it. Writing, for me, is far and away the most challenging work I've ever done. I've hauled bricks, rebuilt houses, worked in offices, sold pharmaceuticals and writing novel is far more difficult. Maybe that means I'm not a natural writer ... okay, I can accept that.

Still, if I don't love it, why do I do it? Because I love a challenge. It's the nature of my personality to want to do something difficult just to see if I can do it. And, at the end, I am always proud of the work I've produced, because I did my very best. I often say, "I don't love writing. But I do love having written!" It's a myth that a person has to love something to be good at it. But you do have to care about doing the best job possible."

In a way, this is exactly what keeps me going when the writing chips are down - the intellectual and emotional challenge of crafting a damn good story, the intoxicating afterglow of having written, the thrill at going back over my work and finding the little nuggets of gold that my subconscious pushed to the surface while my conscious mind was wrestling with the words.

The fact I am very, very, stubborn also helps me to push on through.

Added to this is the fact that every time I write, I am getting better at it. It’s not obvious on a daily, weekly, even monthly basis, but over time, I can see it. And what I really want to get better at is actually, properly, finishing a book. Even if it turns out to be a terrible book. Because if I don’t ever finish a book, how will I ever learn to do so?

Now, I am sure everyone has a different thought or hope or mantra they hold on to in those grim days when writing seems like an endless chore - the mental image of your name on the cover of your book, the joy of disappearing into another world, the certainty that the satisfaction of seeing something that started off as a single thought in your mind become one hundred thousand words will make all the pain worthwhile…

So, you tell me - what keeps you going when the writing feels all too hard?

And in the meantime I will turn to those moaning voices in my head, tell them to shut up already, I’m trying to write, and get on with the job.


  1. Thanks for that Nicholas Sparks quote - I can really relate to it. I've just come back to writing after a long hiatus, so my answer to your question isn't very profound. I try to focus on today's writing task, putting one foot in front of the other, so-to-speak. I remind myself that every day, every word I'm getting better (which you mentioned, too), learning something new, and progressing. If I get too ahead of myself, I get overwhelmed. Gotta concentrate on today's story/writing/research and find the joy in that. It is still a struggle some days, but if I can pull in my focus, I calm down and write.

  2. Rachel,
    I think we all had doubts. Heaven knows, I do. some days the act picking up the pen is too much. But. I have to do it. It's what I am. The stories would turn on me and bite if I don't let them out to play. ; ) And I find the day after a do nothing day is always better.

  3. Does it help to know you're not alone Rachel??

    I have these voices in my head every day and it seems like the panic is always bubbling under the surface.

    I'll keep editing and I still won't reach the end. None of these words are even worth editing. Look at Author A, he has all the same daily tasks I do - and kids - and he still manages to finish books.

    Ha, that's cos he doesn't have to do research!

    Yea, well look at Author B, whose writing in your time frame and -

    Shut up! Shut up! I like my characters, okay? I want to do this!

    Yea but what about Farmville? And the 30 day song challenge? And the bbq at your in-laws'? And a night out at the pub? And another Cat Who... book to read? And Q's guide to the UK music festivals? And -

    But I *like* my story! I love writing romance! I love feeling the words flow through my pen onto the page. I love words!

    Yea but what about -

    Shut up! I'm inching towards something. Can't you see I'm *writing*?

  4. Rachel,

    Isn't it crazy how we all seem to post about the same thing at the same time? LOL. But yeah, I feel ya on this one. Sometimes it all feels so insurmountable... that I'll never these dang books to my satisfaction. I find one thing to fix and that leads to ten more...

    I don't know what the answer is, but to keep plugging away and doing the best that we can. Butt in chair...butt in chair...(no running away allowed). (g) I should probably write while barefoot.... lol

  5. @Jennifer -- I think that's a great approach. I read that someone--I think Natalie Whipple-- makes short "to-do" lists for each day. Finish this scene. Write a transition between two scenes... add some description to that scene... and she focuses on small changes rather than getting overwhelmed by the larger picture that can seem absolutely insurmountable at times. I'm trying to utilize this idea in order to get back into my manuscript. Small changes...don't freak out. :) Good luck to you!

    @Zan Marie -- Exactly. My characters are NOT happy that I've left them on their own for so long. They want to play and they need me to provide the tools... must think about them in all of this. :)

    @Deniz -- LOL! The distractions are many and varied, aren't they? Today mine is a Top Chef marathon. I'm turning off that dang TV and plugging in my iPod. (g)

  6. @ Jennifer - breaking down your writing like that is a very wise approach. As you said, it makes it all a little less daunting. Keep it up! :-)

  7. @ Zan Marie - Ack! Don't want those stories nipping at you! LOL. And yes, you are so right, the day after a do nothing day is always so much better.

  8. @ Deniz- LOL! Ah, your voices must know mine! (g) And yes, things do not seem so dark when you realise a goodly proportion of the writing population suffers from the exact same neuroses as do you. :-)

  9. @ Jen - LOL! Yeah, weird, isn't it? Must be that great minds think alike.. :-P

    Butt in chair. I think that really is the final word on the matter, isn't it?

  10. Rachel, sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is you and the other ladies here. I can't imagine a writer going it alone without any one to encourage and cajole and kick-ass.