Look, we get it. This writing thing can be exhausting, right?
Forging through a first draft can often feel a bit like wading through treacle. Editing the living heck out of a piece of writing you’ve been staring at for twelvety-thousand years can make you want to gouge your face off with a spoon. Attempting to MAKE ART out of a few misfiring synapses and a weird idea that occurred to you at 3am is, like, really super hard.
You may have the odd moment of doubt.
You may wonder why you’re doing all this hard work on spec, for no reward, with no recognition, no appreciation, no acknowledgement of how difficult it us to pull words out of your head and put them on a page in some semblance of sense. You may be ready to quit. (Please don’t. Or at least get to the end of this article first.)
KNOW THIS: THESE WRITERLY FEELS ARE NORMAL.
Burnout is normal.
Boredom is normal.
Dissatisfaction is normal.
Frustration is normal.
A general sense of ‘meh’ is normal.
Hey, sometimes you lose your mojo. THIS. IS. NORMAL. Sometimes you just need to find your inspiration again.
Whether you’re writing a novel, short fiction, poetry, a script, whatever – it’s a marathon, not a sprint (yada yada yada). You start off all sprightly and energised and full of adrenaline and ready to kick arse and then… a couple of miles in you get a stitch or pull a hamstring or start to slow down and eventually you hit ‘the wall’ and reconsider all your life choices because honestly, who RUNS for pleasure?!*
*Disclaimer: It’s worth noting at this point that I can’t actually run more than twenty metres without my knees exploding and my lungs collapsing, so you really shouldn’t be taking marathon advice from me, but the analogy works perfectly for writing, okay?
The writing process is similar. You get an exciting spark of an idea, you prepare and plot and outline and research until you’re raring to go, you make a strong start, and then… well, at some point, it all starts to feel a bit too much like drudgery. Eventually, you inevitably hit a sticking point and the ideas run dry and you lose all enthusiasm and you wanna give up. You wonder if it’s worth it; if you can actually do this; if all this effort was for nothing…
BUT YOU CAN DO THIS. Just like marathon running (I assume), it’s all about preparation and mindset. You don’t jump straight into a 26.2 mile run without working up to it gradually, building your resilience, your endurance, your sheer, bloody-mindedness. The thing about the kind of people who run marathons is they’re determined motherfuckers. They push through the pain. They set a goal and they go after it. They know that every mile, every stumble, every achey muscle is worth it.
They’re also kind of insane. Which is an equally apt description of a writer.
So get your head in marathon mode. Know that every page, every paragraph, every sentence you write, contributes to your development as a writer. Be bloody-minded and resolute. Set your goals and chase those bastards down.
And remember also that writing is a PROCESS. It doesn’t need to be perfect right away. And, most importantly: it doesn’t matter how slow you go, so long as you cross that finish line.
So get some perspective. YES, sometimes that process is going to be boring, or difficult, or frustrating, or uncomfortable (chafing lycra, anyone?), but the point is, you’re in it for the long haul. If you’re serious about your writing, you’re here til the bitter end, so hang on to your running tights, break through the literary wall, and learn how to get excited about your writing all over again.
How do we do that? By blowing our own damn trumpets like the narcissistic creative types we are.
Ignore whatever stage your writing is at for a moment and imagine your story is already written. It’s finished and perfect and it’s everything you hoped it would be. It’s an instant bestseller. Your mum/partner/cat is so proud. Your amazeballs writing is up for ALL the awards and is getting five-star reviews all over the shop.
Now – in this dream scenario – what are people saying about your book?
- How does it stand out from the literary crowd?
- What’s so fantastic about your unique voice?
- Why do people LOVE (or love to hate) your character/s?
- What hidden layers and meanings does it have and what is it saying about the human condition?
- What’s that one scene (you know the one) that everyone is talking about and why is it so powerful/funny/clever?
- How do people feel when they’ve finished reading it?
Forget self-deprecation. Forget all the plot holes and gnarly bits. Do some positive visualisation and think about how frickin’ amazing your writing has the potential to be.
It’s all too easy to get bogged down in the drudgery and forget to look at the big picture. But what was it that made you so excited to write in the first place? What was that initial twinkle of inspiration that set you off on this bloody great marathon?
You might find the reason you’re feeling bored/uninspired/annoyed with your writing is because you’ve drifted away from that fundamental juicy core.
Or maybe you’re trying to shape your writing into something it’s not. Or maybe you’ve moved on and you really need to be writing about something else. Or maybe you just haven’t found your voice yet.
Remember the marathon mantra and focus on the finish line. Where do your writing want to end up? What does that polished final draft look like? And how are you gonna get there?
Now, put your money where your mouth is…
SHOW US YOUR BEST BITS
Have a read through what you’ve written lately and pick out your absolute favourite bit (or bits). It might be a few paragraphs, it might be a single line, it might be a whole scene. Find a part that best embodies your story’s conflict, or shows the true colours of your protagonist, or is simply a damn good bit of description. Find something you’re proud of.
Remind yourself that you CAN do this. You have the talent, you have the inspiration, you have the determination. You just gotta keep going with it.
Then, if you’re feeling brave, take a deep breath and post it up on our private writing forum for feedback and back patting and unconditional literary love.