I don’t often write about writing but since I’ve been finding it challenging lately, I thought I could share with you why sometimes I think persevering with the writing of my novel is insanity, and why I persevere, anyway.
Firstly, for context, this is my fourth year of writing. I call the draft I’m working on Draft Four because I’ve started again four times. The beginning and end have never changed. The themes and characters haven’t either. The changes happen in the guts of the story and the quality of the writing.
The moments when I question my sanity come when I’m struggling with a scene; it’s the difficulty in creating a story that is right for the character, right now.
The thing is, there has to be a point to the scene. It has to have enough nutritional value for the character to grow or change in some way. There has to be a reason for the chicken to cross the road, and it’s not just to get to the other side. It’s what is going on in the chicken’s head or heart that the reader needs to understand.
And then, the series of scenes need to progress in such a way that the reader wants to go further with the chicken because they can sense that the chicken has great potential and will one day be the mother of all chickens.
The problem comes when the difficulty causes so much struggle that it provokes the fight, flight or freeze response. I glue myself to the desk and write anything because I won’t let it beat me and Liz Gilbert has drummed into my head that perseverance is the way. Or I find an urgent task to do, like rearrange the shoe cupboard, or go to Bunnings for, well, anything. Or I lie on the floor because suddenly, my body is so tired, and I think, how did I come to be doing this?
But then I remember why I’m doing it. It’s because I have a message and my characters are living and standing on the side lines, never leaving me, wanting me to write them in so they can convey it.
And also, because I’ve come so far. Let me explain.
I have spent so long on it that I couldn’t bear to have wasted my time. And I wouldn’t like to be judged a bailer, or worse, a failure. Especially by myself.
I have become a better writer. At first, I was a beginner. Learning a new skill takes time and practise, and with every draft, I’ve given my writing plenty of both. The expression and style have improved as my skill grows. Which reassures me even now, as I struggle, because I know I’m still learning, and I will still improve.
Rewardingly, as a person I have grown. Becoming skilful in something creates confidence. Persevering at something that’s difficult improves resilience. Writing a believable story requires understanding of human nature and the world we live in. I am becoming wise. I am transforming along with my characters. We’re in this together. I can hear them cheering.
Finally, the moments of struggle pass and the words flow. I feel sane and deliriously happy at the same time. Perseverance pays. I will do whatever it takes to cross the line. And whenever I can, I will stop to admire the scene. Eventually, this novel will be done.
PS: To any struggling writers (or creatives) out there – You’re not alone and it’s worth pushing through. Imagine the struggle to be fog. When the fog passes, it will be a brilliant day.