The Best Might Feel Like The Worst

Let me set the scene for you. It’s Sunday night, 8:00 pm, on a tempestuous Spring evening that wants to be a thunderstorm. Branches are swaying against the lilac blue of dusk falling, I have an apple scented candle burning and a playlist of epic movie soundtrack music playing, and I may or may not at some point this evening be making words. I will also likely drink tea, eat cookies, possibly lay on the floor, mumble under my breath a lot, and scribble in my notebook in fits and starts interspersed with a fair amount of Twitter.

This book is going to give me gray hair, kids. I’ve blogged before about how my writing process seems to suddenly have taken a left turn, how it’s been much harder than I remember. It still is. It would be really cool if I got to come on and say OMG Y’ALL I WROTE 50K THIS WEEKEND AND IT WAS MAGICAL but alas. This I cannot do.

Here’s the thing – none of this is feeling good as it happens. My productivity is at more or less an all time low – the only time it’s been lower is when I wasn’t writing in all, like in college. I’m averaging 3-4 days, and 1-2k on each of those days. And in my head and my heart, this feels like a failure because why isn’t writing the way it’s always been, why is it suddenly HARD?!

But then there’s the objective, reading, knowing a little more about writing and publishing than I did before side of me, and that part of me knows somewhere at the very edge of my thoughts that this is actually a good thing. Every other book I’ve drafted has either remained in draft stage or required serious down to the bones revision. This one may not need that – it will absolutely need revision, but I’m already aware of where some of those places will be in the beginning, which is helping me craft a much stronger middle. I know exactly why I’m crafting scenes the way I am – everything they do, everything they say, the bits of history I choose to share and where, the reason certain relationships exist, all of that and more is deliberate and chosen for a place in a bigger picture. Which is not to say this draft isn’t a mess because man, first drafts. But it’s a first draft with purpose, and intellectually I know that even if it takes more time, this may just save me in the end.

But it doesn’t feel good.

Which is why I wrote this post to begin with. Y’all, not everything that is good for you is going to feel that way. I know that’s just very shocking, but it’s true. Reading craft books isn’t always going to be the top most interesting thing to do with your time, nor is diving into nonfiction for research when you could just eat ice cream and watch Netflix for six hours. Slowing yourself down to create a character arc or work out a thorny plot problem your characters are doing real, not just convenient, things, or acting just for the sake of an interesting plot, isn’t easy and sometimes isn’t that fun. Writing fast to fly through a section that scares you may not feel good either, you might be a little sick to your stomach or have to type with shaking hands.

But that doesn’t mean those aren’t the things you need to do. Just like there are times and places where maybe the very best thing you can do, the most you have to offer to your writing, is doing some reading, or scribbling 100 words per day into a notebook. There are stages, places, times. There are best efforts, and there’s discipline and there’s patience. There’s plodding and there’s plot firestorms, and there’s cookies and tea time.

You will not always feel good about your writing. You will not always understand your own process, or rather, each particular book’s process, because they can and do differ wildly. You may feel like you’re doing the worst, slowest, clumsiest work of your life.

But see it through. Because it just might be your best.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be here rocking and drinking tea and mumbling under my breath.

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