You’re a writer.
And there’s nothing like pouring your heart and mind onto the page, devoting hours, days, weeks, sometimes years to see a glimmering idea grow into a completed manuscript, and, if it’s good enough (please let it be good enough), polished into a finished book.
But this life, this Writing Life, this quiet, introspective life between the pages eventually makes you question EVERYTHING.
You know…like your sanity. Your intelligence. Your ability to put one word in front of another in a meaningful, coherent way. Whether you remembered to eat lunch. (You didn’t.) Whether you remembered to feed the kids. (Nope. But they’re used to it by now.) What the hell you were thinking in the first place when you thought you should write a book, because you know (you just KNOW) that you’re sailing into unchartered waters here (every time, every book) and what if it sucks buckets of dead snails?
Maybe you shouldn’t keep writing. (But you should.)
I mean, if, at heart, you love it. If you keep coming back to it again and again. If it makes you happy (for the most part…you know, outside of the soul-crushing doubt that brings you to your knees every so often). If it fulfills you in a way that nothing else does. If you get high on a beautiful turn of phrase or a well-placed word. If you feel an Everest kind of triumph when you type the last word of a manuscript or send a finished book out into the world.
Of course, every time you finish a book, you find yourself in the crosshairs of a first draft again. Going from finished book to first draft feels brutal—plucked from the ecstatic throes of (near) perfection, you’re suddenly slogging through a sloppy, chaotic, flawed mess of words. When you’re not sure what the next word should be and you know (you just KNOW) that what you’re writing is complete crap and you were delusional to think you could write ONE book (which was obviously pure luck) and now here you are writing another as if you actually know what you’re doing. (You don’t.)
(And yet you DO.) Because when you come back to it the next day or week, you discover that what you wrote ISN’T total crap. That it’s actually halfway good (maybe even more than halfway, not that you’d admit that to yourself) and after several rounds of revision, it could, in fact, turn out to be kind of great. That these characters you’ve created are now living and breathing in your mind, they’re having conversations while you’re in the shower, when you’re stuck at a stoplight, or right before you drift off to sleep, telling you their life stories, fixing the plot problems simply by being who they really are, and you love love love them like no others before.
When you finish that first draft, you’re no longer questioning your ability to write (at least for the moment) but you ARE wondering who the hell thought it was a good idea to write a 90,000 word novel which you now have to go back to the beginning of and revise over and over again until it’s just right. (I mean, couldn’t you have written something shorter?)
Through the editing process you get to the point where you question how many more times you are going to have to read this thing before it’s perfect because it feels like you’ve already read it forty-seven thousand times and if you have to read it again you just might put out your own eyes with a red pen.
But the thing is, each revision is better than the last, and you (almost) stop questioning yourself. You have this shiny, gorgeous book that you’re pretty sure is the best thing you’ve written yet (please let that be true), and it’s at THAT moment, while you’re cresting the high of a beautifully polished, finished book, that a tempting new idea starts clamoring for your attention. You can’t shake it. Your mind sinks its hooks into the idea, turning it this way and that, observing it from different angles, poking at it during the day and at night, giving you what-ifs and maybes, getting you excited. And there’s nothing you can do but give in. You start thinking, I have to write this!
You’re sunk. Again. (In the best possible way, but, oh, the road ahead is a rollercoaster.)
And so you sit down to start writing, start fleshing out this idea, but you’ve forgotten that beginnings always feel daunting. With the entirety of the story looming ahead, you wonder what the hell you were thinking getting all excited about this new idea because you know (you just KNOW) that you have no clue how to actually write a book…the ones you’ve already written were clearly just flukes.
(They weren’t. You’ve got this.) After all, you’re a writer.
Jen Meyers is happiest when she’s creating—characters, novels, coloring books, salsa, sweets, sweaters, art, etc. She has worked as a professional actor, singer, and artist (among other things), and she writes fiction because she’s totally in love with making things up for a living. She is the author of the Happily Ever After series, Anywhere, the Intangible series, and co-author of the Untamed series. She also creates totally inappropriate self-affirming sweary coloring books (which make her ridiculously happy). Find her on Twitter and Instagram as @jmeyersbooks or visit www.jmeyersbooks.com for more information about Jen and her books.
2 thoughts on “Writing Makes You Question EVERYTHING”
“Going from finished book to first draft feels brutal—plucked from the ecstatic throes of (near) perfection, you’re suddenly slogging through a sloppy, chaotic, flawed mess of words.”
Brutal is the perfect word for it. It is a brutiful process!
Loved reading this, Jen!
Thanks, Dawn Suzette!
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