If you’re one of those people who write without angst and torment and follow your outline that came to you in a burst of inspiration, stop reading. If you’re an author who espouses while facilitating writing workshops you don’t believe in writer’s block, just laziness and undisciplined minds, stop reading now. If you received a three-book and six-figure deal based on your query letter—the only one you have ever written—sent to the top-pick on your agent list, for the love of God, stop reading.
You are a liar. I told you to stop reading.
Most of us go through hell trying to write a sentence. I compare the joys and sorrows of writing to going to a birthday party with gourmet hotdogs and glow sticks. You’re going to have some fun, and then you will pay. Recently, I took my potluck dish and made my way to a friend’s backyard, complete with a new labyrinth. As I watched the children dance with their glow sticks, the darkness magical, I wanted to participate. A girl handed me a glow stick, and I turned it over and over in my hands while I engaged in a conversation with a local artist. I had already sprayed with industrial strength bug spray, but of course, not my hands. You guessed right, the mosquito critters ate me alive.
Such is my fate.
The writing process can be glorious when the pen flows across the page without effort, my characters wake me with the remedy for my latest plot problem, and I lose track of time because I’m in that illusive writer’s zone. For a while, the despair of self-doubt and the horror of rejection are temporarily vague distant memories, but then reality comes blasting through my world. I receive my umpteenth “we-don’t-want” your submission email, my manuscript is up for review in a week by my critique group, and I don’t have twenty coherent pages, and a well-meaning friend makes a side remark about the trivial fiction she reads at night to put her to sleep; that’s when the verbal comments about my work by “so-called” experts at writing conferences surface: “Brave beginning,” “Keep writing,” “I can tell you worked hard on it,” “Remember the cream rises to the top,” and “I know a great book doctor.”
Paranoia sets in.
I realize my friends have stopped asking when the novel will be done. They suppose “at least it keeps me busy,” as they look at me with pity equating senility and the writing of senseless fiction. What makes it worse is that I’ve forgotten why I plod along, alone in my 9’ x 10’ bedroom typing for hours each day in isolation. In fact, I begin to believe I’m inept or on the verge of slipping into Looney-Tuneville.
No. I realize I need to eat and get a full night of sleep.
I drive to Waffle House in my sweats with uncombed hair under a baseball cap and pray nobody will recognize me. I’m starving and my eyes are bloodshot. Then I eavesdrop on a conversation in the next booth. It clarifies my vision, an “ah ha” moment, and I scribble my epiphany down on an envelope I used for a grocery list last week. After I gobble down my food—for a week I haven’t eaten anything but leftovers and freezer entrees—I race home and write those beautiful, succinct lines using vocabulary I didn’t fathom I possessed.
The next day, I stare at a couple of decent pages, not Shakespeare, but my gut tells me they’re good. I’m getting closer. This small victory makes me ecstatic, but nobody cares.
All they want to know is how many times can you rewrite that “little mystery” about a quirky rookie cop, and where is the bloody book.