Writing is like my dog. No, really.

I recently had a writing epiphany, and like most of those that hit me, this one came out of left field when I was thinking about something else. In this case, it was thinking about my dog. His name is Peju.

Peju is very cute and very sweet but also very much a pain in the ass. I love him, but sweet baby Jesus, do I loathe walking him. He pulls so hard he’s been known to snap a leash in two. He stops to pees in every.single.yard we pass. He wants to sniff a blade of grass right up by my next door neighbor’s front door. He gets tired and just decides to lie down on the sidewalk. And please keep in mind most walks we go on are only a mile. A mile. And he has to stop and rest. That one mile can take upward of 30 minutes to complete.

I started dreading taking him on walks. I’d skip a day. Then another. Then another. And then I wised up and realized that wasn’t fair to him. He is who he is, and he is an annoying walker. There’s no changing that. So I decided the only way to get over it was to embrace it. So now I get myself ready before we go on a walk. I tell myself this is going to take a while and it’s going to be annoying, but it’s also going to be my time. Thirty solid minutes when I can let my mind wander and puzzle over plot issues. I get through it by just going with it.

Cue transition to writing analogy.

I don’t enjoy writing first drafts. WHEW. I finally said it. It’s not a secret anymore. But it’s true. I really don’t like writing first drafts. Sure, it’s all new and shiny and fun in the beginning, but after fifty pages or so, I always derail. Always. I’m really good at outlining beginnings and endings, but the middle of my outlines tend to read something like “Fill in with stuff.” And that stuff is not so easy to come by.

Somewhere along the way, that first draft becomes a majorly annoying chore. It pulls at me and I yank back. It wanders into a neighbor’s yard and I don’t know how to get it back. And yes, sometimes it lies down on the sidewalk and refuses to budge. I want to cry and scream and pull my hair out, but mostly I wind up just walking away from the computer for a day or two or three … and you see where this is going.

So I’ve learned to attack the problem the same way I handle my dog. Just go with it. Accept that the first draft is going to be hard. Know that I’m going to have a lot of work during revision but push through and get it done. Revision is my light at the end of the tunnel. I love revision. So I let my mind wander during the first draft stage. I’ll go on tangents I know I’ll have to cut. I’ll use filler scenes. I do whatever I have to do to get to the end, so I can pick up the red pen and really go to town. And that works for me.

What about you? What keeps you going when the writing gets hard?

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14 Responses

  1. This is a really good analogy! And honestly, I haven’t been able to find that magical answer to your question. The only way to finish, to get through that impossible middle, is to JUST DO IT.

    Yeah, how helpful is that?

    Great post!

  2. Susan says:

    YEP YEP YEP. I HATE first drafts too. LOATHE THEM WITH EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING. Hacking out a single page is excruciating, exhausting work that I find every excuse to avoid.

    But…it’s gotta be done gosh darnit. >( I just crossed the 50K marker in the SS&D sequel, and all I think is: SO CLOSE TO REVISIONS. SO SO CLOSE.

    I <3 revising.

    "I hate writing. I love having written." -Dorothy Parker

    • Meredith says:

      I LOVE that quote. I haven’t heard it before, but it’s going to become a new favorite. Sounds like you’re really getting close to finishing SSD: Part Deux. I’m only at about the 35M mark, but I’m going to force myself to be done by the time we go to Europe. We’ll have a “Yay, we’re done, let’s drink champagne!” party in Paris, k?

  3. Great analogy Meredith. Makes a lot of sense. Sometimes half the battle when tackling anything difficult is accepting that it’s going to be tough. That alone, ironically, makes it easier.

    Your method of doing what it takes and getting through to the revision stage is a smart strategy. It’s called a rough draft for a reason!

  4. Holly says:

    Oh ME TOO! I HATE first drafting. HATE HATE HATE. Which is why I give myself strict deadlines — it motivates me to just push through it and get the words written. Like you said, worry about the rest in revisions, because that’s where the real fun is. :) Great analogy.

    • Meredith says:

      I’m finding a lot of solace in the fact that we all hate first drafts. This is oddly comforting. I’m hit or miss with strict deadlines. Sometimes they work, but sometimes they backfire. I’m on one now though, so we’ll see how that works out.

  5. Pam Harris says:

    Loved this analogy! I myself am neither of fan of walking my puppy NOR writing first drafts. I like what you said, though–just accept that it’s going to be rough. These are words to live by as I start outlining my next novel. :)

  6. Meredith says:

    You can do it! This time will be better! (Ok, I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s always good to start off on a positive note, right?)

  7. Great analogy. I don’t have a problem with first drafts (now) but I think this is because I’ve been doing them with a set goal. The last 3 drafts I’ve done have been associated with NaNoWriMo. So maybe the key is to have a deadline so you don’t get bogged down.

  8. Karen Strong says:

    Ugh, hates the first drafts! But I just tell myself that they can be really bad and I can improve them later. I keep telling myself that in the 2nd draft, 3rd draft…you see the pattern. LOL.

    Aw, look at the cute bow on Peju. :)

  9. Shel Delisle says:

    I actually LOVE first drafts because I know I can write any old thing. And I usually do. LOL.

    Even with letting myself do that, I do get stuck. Sometimes — most times?– it’s a bridge chapter that links two others that ties me up in knots. As for what I do? Walks are good. Also, I play BubbleTown online. It’s this silly game and I kinda zone out and sometimes the answers come and sometimes they don’t. I should probably scrub a floor or something. It would definitely be more productive.

    BTW, Peju is so cute. I can’t believe he’s a PIA! πŸ˜€

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