I wanted to share something I’ve discovered, while completing two first drafts of novels and a memoir which has had a bunch of re-writes/edits, and beta readers.
4-5 years ago, I never ever thought I’d have accomplished any of this. I could never see anything through, always flitting from idea to idea, only writing when I felt inspired, etc. I still have a writing folder on my computer with literally hundreds of documents. Some are complete poems, or short comics, a few completed short stories, but by far most are beginnings and ideas. I still routinely jot down ideas or write a few paragraphs and then abandon something, but I’ve finished things too.
I can’t tell you exactly what changed, except that I went through a lot of “life stuff” and decided to re-evaluate my priorities and goals. But more than anything, what changed was my perseverance.
Some days writing is fun and easy, I’m in the flow and I feel inspired, and I get this warm glow and a certainty that I’m on the right track. But 90% of the time I don’t feel like this. Those are the times where I’d previously give up. Though when I decided to get serious about writing, I forced myself to continue. Often I spend hours, or maybe even a whole day alternately staring at an almost blank page, writing and deleting sentences or paragraphs and getting increasingly frustrated and gradually becoming convinced that I’m worthless. It’s rough. It hurts. But by now experience has taught me that it’s worth it. Because eventually I will get through this. I will come out the other end and I’ll have figured out a way to move on with the plot, solved a problem, written a good paragraph or even just a good sentence – something that will allow me to move forward the next day. This has never not happened, if only I persevere.
Now of course I realise not everyone has a whole day to write, maybe not even several continuous hours, but the same still goes for whatever time you have: don’t let yourself get distracted. Stare down that blank page. Write something. Delete it if you must – if it really doesn’t work. Then try again. And again. And again. Eventually you will get it right.
Finish your projects. Honestly, at this point I think both of my novels suck and I’m reluctant to pick them up again (I will, though). But just having completed those first drafts did something with me. I know that I can, because I’ve already done it. It may not be a great story, or great writing (in fact those first drafts are overwhelmingly shitty writing), but I did it. And as long as I continue, I’ll keep getting better. I’ll edit, I’ll learn, I’ll get more feedback, and I’ll continue writing. Because there’s no going back now.
We’re all different, and what works for me might not work for you, but I encourage you to give it a try if you’re feeling stuck or demotivated. I suggest setting aside a certain amount of time per day, or per every few days if you have a busy life, rather than have a word count goal. Just make sure you spend that time working. Don’t go research things you might need to know at some point in the future. Don’t go on Reddit. Don’t look at your phone. Stare that blank page down. Write some words. Any words. And keep going till you get to the good part, because it’s out there waiting for you – a reward for all your hard work. Also a good tip that I’m sure you’ve heard before: try not to stop for the day when you’re stuck. Stop when you know what you want to write next, so it’s easier to get into it the next time.
And in case you didn’t hear me the first time: finish your projects. Writing a shitty, but complete, first draft is better than writing 200 amazing opening paragraphs. Why? Because it’s the only way you’ll actually learn, get better, and develop consistent writing habits.
Good luck out there. Now go, write!