So I’m writing a book. Actually, 3 books.
It is overwhelming, baffling, exciting, and mind-numbing.
I used this pie chart because it gave me comfort – and oddly, courage – to know that every artist has the same type of internal struggle.
I’ve been writing my whole life, and amongst yearly filled-to-the-brim journals and sporadic blogs, there have even been a few short stories and film scripts.
But a novel? A full-bodied, pull-it-off-the-shelf-and-feel-your-hand-dip-with-the-weight kind of book? How does one even begin to attempt that?
Books I read in the name of “research” only seemed to highlight ways I was severely less talented than these authors. Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, Eregon. Words drip from these writer’s pens like their ink was made from freakin gold.
And I think I can cast my anchor into this raging sea of talent?
Well. For once it God made it pretty clear that’s exactly what I was supposed to do. So like a blind-folded flamingo on stilts, I took my first steps.
Here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way:
1 – The masters of my craft all had the same worries and struggles, and probably still do.
One thing that stood out when I finally got out to hear what some published authors had to say, was they actually sounded strangely…human. One novelist talked about how she had to find scraps of time to write despite having a newborn baby. Another talked about how having to delete thousands of words felt like failure or a waste of time. Yet another wondered if anyone would even be interested in the topic she was slaving over.
All of these authors faced the same things I do, and continue to lose sleep, worry, make massive corrections, and get difficult feedback. The thing is, they keep going. The one thing I kept seeing as a through-line was that every successful author didn’t accept any of their worries or obstacles as a good enough reason to quit- they found some sort of solution.
It comes down to this:
To successful people, there’s no such thing as a permanent obstacle.
2 – I decided to just do it, even when I don’t feel like it.
There is nothing better than creating art in that magical moment when inspiration is welling up inside you, but the fact is, that’s rare. It certainly isn’t every day. If I’m going to make consistent progress on something, it has to be every day- not just when I’m in the mood.
If I’ve learned anything it’s this:
The phrase “I don’t feel like it right now,” is obsolete for anyone determined to build true skill.
Now, this is especially hard for someone like me who has come from a background of being really legalistic and bordering masochistic with herself. As soon as I even think the phrase “I should..” I begin to shut down. I spent so many years “I shoulding” myself into doing things that I felt more robot than human. So I’m not saying I need to get out the whip and write every day “or else.”
Or else I’m a failure. Or else I’m weak. Or else I’ll disappoint my family…my God…myself..
I’m not going down that road again.
What has helped me get past guilt and still remain disciplined is to remember this was my idea in the first place! I want to do this. Yes I should write every day. But overall this is something I wanted to do.
I started to use this trick frequently:
I literally said to myself (or thought to myself…if I was in public) “This was my idea, I want to do this!”
3 – Discovering my process is half the work, and half the fun.
There are tons of writers, athletes, artists, businesspeople in the world…and the successful ones all have advice on how to do it right. The thing is, no person is wired the same as someone else. We all have different personalities, schedules, circumstances, and relationships. It’s super valuable to seek out wisdom and knowledge from those who have gone before and found success in a field. But once I did my research I took things that worked for me, and scrapped things that didn’t.
Waking up at 5am in the morning to write wont work for me. Mornings haaaaate me. But, drawing sketches of my characters when I’m lacking motivation does work for me. I’ve gathered knowledge from several different authors, tried different methods out, come up with a few of my own, and I’m slowly getting into a process that works best for me.
It finally dawned on me:
Taking time to discover myself and my process wasn’t a delay of the real work, it was part of it.
Sometimes we think only a certain kind of work matters, but discovering what will produce quality work is just as important as the work itself.
I’m still a little dumfounded by the thought of writing 1 novel, much less a 3 book series. I could put hours upon hours into this and still fail miserably!
But then, as the great Michael Jordan says:
I can accept failure. What I can’t accept..is not trying.