The number one thing that stops me from writing my novels isn’t a lack of time, opportunity, or ideas. It’s how I feel while I’m writing.
The act of writing hurts.
It goes a little like this. I sit down and spend at least 20 minutes getting into a good headspace. And once I get going, it’s not necessarily any easier. The whole process, from beginning to end, is painful. It’s basically “this sucks this is bad and dull and uninspiring” on loop.
And knowing it’s like this almost every time is depressing because I start to question my life choices. Why couldn’t I have picked a nice, happy hobby, like knitting?
There’s only one way I know to deal with this feeling. Not even to make it go away — just to get around it.
Yeah, yeah. Easier said than done, I know. (Trust me, I know.) Because it’s a bit like a catch-22. You have to write often to stop the feeling from being so intense, but the feeling is so intense that it stops you from writing often.
In that way it’s a little like exercising. It’s terrible until you like it (or so I’ve heard). But exercising isn’t a perfect metaphor because it’s not so much that I like it or that it gets any easier. It’s more like meditation. It’s uncomfortable and hard — consistently, no matter how much I do it — until that moment when it’s not.
It happens when I’m maybe an hour in, and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. But when it does, I call it falling into the “writing zone” because that’s about the time when my husband is asking if I’m ever rejoining the rest of humanity because three hours have flown by. I get up from my laptop all groggy and wondering where I am.
As a writer, I can only live for these moments. But it’s like getting in a car and every time having to drive with a blindfold on. You’re horrified and you want to get out because this is a bad idea, but then you can feel you’re on the highway, and you’ve forgotten anything is wrong because you’re one with your car or something. (No, I have not done this. Do not do this.)
If writing is meditation, it’s a struggle of trying to make it from one word, one sentence, one paragraph to the next while machete-hacking through a jungle of my own terrible thoughts. It’s a fight. It’s relentless. And then all of a sudden, I’m in the groove. I’m too deep and too focused to care or even notice I’m in the jungle anymore — I’m just there, slinging the words, too busy to complain about how hot it is or how hungry I am.
This is probably too many metaphors, but you get the idea.
Writing is hard. It’s hard. I don’t know that it’ll ever not be hard. And yeah, most of the time that makes me want to crawl under the blankets and never emerge.
But then I achieve that small moment — and it’s the tiniest indication that everything will be okay. That maybe I can do this after all.
So here I am. Still writing. Still going.