“The road to writing hell is paved
I said this the other night to some writing buddies when we were talking about how hard it is to finish a manuscript.
Philip Roth had once said, “The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress,” and while this is true, I want to argue that it isn’t the WIPs that are the problem. It’s our fearful, resistant energy and attitude that are the problem.
Listen, it’s the third week of NaNoWriMo, and manymanymany writers are buckling down to reach their personal finish line. Maybe it’s the traditional 50K words in 30 days, or maybe it’s something else entirely.
Regardless—it’s a goal. How many will actually achieve it?
First off—I want to say that having multiple WIPs hanging around, waiting for you to do something with them, isn’t a bad thing UNLESS YOU ARE BOTHERED BY IT.
And if you are bothered by it, then make a decision, a firm decision about how you’re going to tackle them and turn them into something that brings you satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy.
But staring at your long list of unfinished works and feeling negative about it all is the worst thing you can do.
Procrastination is fear-based. When we procrastinate, it means we are either (1) uninterested in the task or (2) we are worried we aren’t up to the task.
If you’re procrastinating because you’re uninterested in the task, that’s because it’s bringing you no joy.
In terms of our writing, there’s fear lurking there. Fear that we aren’t good enough. Fear that our writing sucks. Fear that people will either laugh or yawn at your story idea. Fear that you’re on the wrong path.
If that’s what is happening—then surrender.
Put it away and start a new story. If you’re uninterested in writing in general, then you need to focus your attention on a new hobby or a different area of your life for awhile and let your creative self do some healing and processing. Setting your writing aside short-term is not the same as quitting—you’re taking a break so you can find a strong starting point and that is a healthy choice.
If you’re procrastinating because you aren’t up to the task then you need a love-punch. (I will dole out three for you.)
Love Punch 1: Stop complaining that you don’t have the time. If you have the time to read this post, you have the time to write a page in your WIP. If you have the time to play video games or watch Survivor, you have the time to write a chapter in your WIP.
Love Punch 2: Stop complaining that you don’t know what to write next. Work out a structure with strong narrative drive—kill off a character, destroy the evidence, set the house on fire, kidnap the witness—do something for your book that brings YOU back to life.
Love Punch 3: Stop complaining that your book sucks. Get a writing partner, hire a coach/editor—figure out what you need to do to get things on track again.
Stop resisting the tough stuff. Writing is hard. Making time to write is hard. Developing characters, constructing a solid foundation that won’t sag in the middle, tightening & revising—yes, all of that is hard.
But if it were easy—would you be this passionate about it? If it were easy, would you care this much about it?
Embrace how hard it is. That’s what makes your creative life so sweet, so worth every drop of fight.