No one said it would be easy to show up and do the work of writing a book!
“Writing is hard,” you realize again as you look at your production for the day. “Perhaps I’m not cut out for this.”
To your dismay, you have been writing in snippets for many days now. In the mornings, when you show up at your laptop—later and later it seems, you must face, as does every writer, a demanding master: your daily writing. Why can’t writing be more fun? Why can’t it be—well, to tell the truth—less hard.
Oh, how you wish it were the end of your scheduled writing period for the day! Why did you think you could do this book-writing thing!
“Who am I kidding?”
Discouragement sets in.
Like many writers, your writing time is perhaps not long. Too soon, you need to move on to the numerous chores that are attendant on keeping a life and a home going. Nevertheless, you feel some urgency to write deathless prose because of the short period available. After all you have so little time to write that it ought to be good writing, shouldn’t it?
Always good writing would be nice, but if that is what you need, you are likely to quit. Every profession has days of pick-and-shovel work that is not that much fun—but it is absolutely necessary. Perhaps you are in a pick-and-shovel phase that will lay the foundation for bringing your book to another stage?
Not to be daunted, perhaps you open a document file and find there 200 words you had written, say, several days earlier. Then you think, “OK, today, I will bring this vignette to completion. I’ll turn it into a chapter,” but it seems that you can only write another few hundred words before you feel like moving on to something else—anything else but this dreadful text on the screen before you! The vein of inspiration has completely dried up. Even the few hundred words that you have managed to write that day when you summoned your energy to be brave and continue to write seem to be trash. In fact, who would dispute that any junior-high-school writer could do better, for heaven’s sake! So you think, “I better move on to another document. Let this ‘meretricious melodrama’ incubate for a while longer.”
You are sure this is not the way “real” writer’s write.
You open another document. “What do you know!” you tell yourself with pleasure, “this story fragment already has 500 words. I’ll pitch right in with some editing. I’ll get those five hundred words into shape.” By the time you get to the end of the text, you have been able to add a few hundred new words and, by the time that is done, it has become the end of your allotted writing time and, with great relief, you realize you can honorably move on with your day. You still call yourself faithful to your mission to write when someone at the grocery store, someone you have not seen in a while, asks you what you have been doing.
“Why I’ve been writing a book,” you will be able to respond.
If you write, you are a writer.
Why would you think that writers—”real” writers—do things differently? Why would it be different for you to show up and do the work of writing a book?
An exercise in mindful reframing.
Calculate the number of pages you have written for your manuscript—not just today but since you began to write. Even snippets add up to many pages if done regularly enough. While it is possible your writing snippets will not be praised as deathless prose, and you do not know how much of it will survive into a finished memoir, it is nonetheless always easier to rewrite and edit than to produce a fresh text.
Be kind to yourself. Plodding along is an aspect of writing everyone must accept. While there are days of exuberant writing when the words appear on the screen as fast as you can type, and when you reread the text, it all sounds great, there are many more days when writing is a matter of showing up and doing the work—plodding along like a work horse who, step by step, transverses the miles. Over time, even your plodding writing—with editing—will add up to a manuscript.
Often in rereading the texts, the writer—and the reader—cannot discern which parts were written in exuberance and which parts are the result of careful professional rewriting—and you will, over time, become be a professional writer if you work this way.
The bottom line
The bottom line is something you’ll reach if you keep at your work. In time, you’ll produce much text to serve as a basis for a book.
Remember: “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. Yard by yard, it’s hard.”
Show up and do the work of writing a book. You’ll be glad you did.
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