The hard and holy work
The thing about writing is that it sucks.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes writing is the best thing in the world, second only to finishing a really good book, or taking the first bite of a still-warm cookie. But sometimes — most times — it sucks.
I’ve been struggling with this a lot lately. Part of it is the seasonal affective disorder — the sun sets at 4 p.m., and as an animal in human skin, I need as much sunlight as possible to feel even remotely okay. December is a weird month, because on one hand you have the holidays and the sheer giddiness of a new year, but on the other hand, you have cold, gray days. Who wants to be productive when the half the day is spent in darkness?
But it’s more than that. 2022 was a hard year for me. I’m only just coming to terms with some of the trauma I’ve been wrestling with since early spring. Is it any surprise that I don’t want to write when parts of me are still healing?
I’m only just hitting my stride with this round of revisions, even though I started way back in September. It took me three months just to accept the fact that things will take as long as they take. I can’t rush the work; I can’t rush myself. Art requires a certain amount of patience and a whole lot of stubbornness.
I thought I would be querying by the end of the year. Haha! Joke’s on me, what was I thinking, so on and so forth. I’m lucky in that I am surrounded by talented writers who are big-hearted enough to tell their critique partners when something could be better, so that’s what I’m doing. I’m making it better. My professional brain knows I’m increasing my chances of getting an agent by, like, a thousand, but my lizard brain is looking at the clock and wondering if maybe I should give up.
Who takes an entire year to revise a novel? Me, apparently!
I’ve written about this before. The importance of trusting in your own timing. Things will take as long as they take, and there is no wisdom in judging your art by someone else’s timetable. (Just because someone else revised a novel in six months doesn’t mean I have to.) I would rather take a year and a half to perfect this story than rush through edits and submit a less-than-ideal manuscript.
Still I chafe. Still I watch the clock. Still I wonder if I have what it takes to make it in the industry.
Every day I open Scrivener. Sometimes it’s hard to see the progress I’ve made. I feel like I’m treading familiar ground, rewriting the same sentence a dozen times only to cut it all together. In those moments, writing sucks.
But there are glimmers. I step back and look at the story as a whole. Not every change is groundbreaking, but when you put it together, the cutting and pasting and molding and shaping, you start to see a difference. This scene reads better. This character arc is more compelling. This page of dialogue needs some work, but that’s okay, because therein lies the magic, therein lies the joy.
I am building a world with nothing but my mind and a dictionary. Of course it takes time! Of course it feels like I’m running around in circles, chasing something perpetually out of reach. Isn’t that what art is? Isn’t this living?
So I show up. I start my timer and write my words. Between sprints, I read a book about craft that’s setting my brain on fire. This is hard, holy work, and I do it willingly, knowing it will be worth it in the end.
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