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?