…But I wanted to look at something pretty while I complain about something.
It’s been my experience that people who become and people who aspire to become professional writers are the people for whom writing has always been easy. Something about writing just makes sense to us. Many of us showed early promise. Many of us were always the star writers in our class or the star writers in our school. Teachers praised us for our work even when we put in minimal effort simply because our minimal effort was better than much of the work our peers were doing.
That all sounds great, but actually it’s a bad thing. It’s a really bad thing. Because if writing is always easy, working hard at it doesn’t necessarily become part of your process. In fact, having to work hard at writing feels wrong. I would guess that a lot of the people who never finish that novel (or novels) are the people who get to the hard part and go, Well, this clearly isn’t working. Let’s try something else. That has been me many a time.
But the thing is is that writing is work. Writing is supposed to be work. Pushing yourself to do better and write better means having to work. The process of turning something from merely good or okay to great (or at least marketable) involves lots and lots of tedious work, lots and lots of refining and rewriting and frustration.
That’s where I am with my current project. There are so many things that need to be fixed. Many of them are fixable, but it takes a lot of focus and a lot of writes and rewrites. The idea of tearing the manuscript apart, of cutting out big chunks, of rewriting other massive parts (literally an entire 50 page section has to be rewritten) is daunting.
Plus, it doesn’t fit with my normal conception of how successful writers work. I don’t imagine Stephen King sitting at his desk with his head in his hands trying to figure out how to get his characters to move organically to where he needs them. I don’t imagine J.K. Rowling rearranging chapters so that the flow works better. I don’t imagine George R.R. Martin fretting over a plot point not working and not being sure how to fix it (actually, that last one is a bad example–I can totally picture Martin doing that. I think that’s probably all he does when he sits it down because that book is never going to get finished).
But probably, they all do that. Probably they all have moments where they want to give the fuck up. They don’t, though. The publication of their books is proof of that. My suspicion is that that is much of the difference between people who get published and people who don’t–the people who get published are the ones with enough grit to keep going even when they reach these places. If you want to be one of those, even if your normal inclination isn’t to stick with something that’s gotten hard, you’re going to have to figure out how to keep going through the slog.
So, I guess this post is really a little bit of a pep talk, mostly for myself but if you need it too, that’s great. We can finish our projects! We will! These hard parts are part of writing. We just have to buckle down and not let ourselves get distracted by the internet and television and life. We can do this! Write write write!
What’s your trick for breaking through the tough parts?