If I’m going to be honest about writing, I have to admit that last month wasn’t much fun for me. Coming up to a deadline, I felt as though I spent every waking minute at my keyboard. I lost weight despite all my voracious snacking, I slept badly because I was obsessing about my characters’ motivations and I somehow managed to crack a tooth. I didn’t actually cry, but I considered a career change at least twice a day. I went through all of that, as well as quite a bit of wine, and yet I STILL DON’T KNOW if my book is any good – and this is my ninth book! You’d think it would get easier, but it doesn’t. So today’s blog asks why –
Why doesn’t the writing process get any easier?
You know how they say it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert at something? Well, that means to be an ‘expert’ writer requires 416.667 days of practice. More time than most of us have to spare. Obviously we’d all like one of those machines that transcribes our daydreams into some kind of readable formula, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way – which is a good thing because otherwise we’d be out of a job – but that doesn’t mean we can’t fantasise about it. Because it’s SO HARD to get ideas out of our heads into some kind of satisfactory arrangement on a page. Perfection is impossible. We’ll never reach it, but as writers we’re compelled, sometimes masochistically, to get as close to it as we possibly can. And that’s not easy.
And we’re COMPLETELY ALONE. Yes, we might have supportive families and editors and beta readers, but ultimately, the work we produce comes down to us. And that makes us – or some/a lot of us – neurotic. Self-confidence is hard to hold onto, whether you’re starting out as a writer or whether you’re already published and at the mercy of people who want to tell you your latest book wasn’t as good as the last one… which means we have to work even harder on the next. So the vicious circle continues. Also not easy.
And did I mention the dedication? The effort it takes to show up and write every day even when we REALLY don’t want to, not to mention the emotional exhaustion, the self-analysis, the sacrifice of nearly all your free time… None of this is easy.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that the writing process itself doesn’t get much easier. Maybe some aspects might, and maybe some books are easier to write than others, but it’s hard work at any stage of your career. Even some of the most successful writers say that the pressure of expectation (or, ironically, the relief of financial pressure) can actually stifle their creativity.
So this month’s hint/tip is to accept that it might not get any easier, but not to let yourself feel bad about that either. In fact, I think we should all give ourselves a pat on the back. Because, in case you missed the subliminal message of this post, writing isn’t easy. It will probably never be easy, but if we can accept that and still show up, well then, I think we should all be proud of ourselves.
So have a happy and word-filled October – and until I hear back from my editor, I will be tidying the house/visiting the dentist/catching up on some sleep… until it all begins all over again.
Jenni Fletcher writes historical romances for Mills & Boon and is a visiting tutor at Bishop Grosseteste University.