Many souls set off on the path to write a book or screenplay. Few finish. This is the brutal truth. Starting is easy, finishing (and by this, I mean getting your project to a state where you send it out to agents/producers/publishers) is HARD.
There are so many obstacles on the path to completion, that it often feels impossible to get to a place of truly being “done.” Resistance, the pull of family and work life, self doubt, fear– all can stop you dead.
There are several points in the writing process where you can get derailed.
Writing the First Draft: As with any writing project, it all starts out fun, full of light, and inspiration. Hurray, this is awesome! But inevitably we hit stumbling blocks, doubt creeps in, we start wondering if we’re on the right track. Suddenly, other ideas that have been percolating seem far more promising. We start brainstorming for a NEW project. Before we know it, the other half-started book or script has been abandoned.
Revisions: This is the phase where the writing rubber really hits the road. You have a draft (it’s probably crappy– as it should be) and now you have to make the thing work. In order to finish, you will be forced to do multiple drafts, getting feedback before each, until you have sifted through the manuscript what feels like a GAZILLION times. You will be bleary eyed. You won’t even remember what the hell your book is about. You’ll realize you’ve worked on this thing for THREE YEARS. The whole endeavor will feel hopeless. And yes, again, another “shiny” new idea will appear (this is the devil by the way, making his appearance a bit later in the game this time, in case you haven’t noticed.) You tell yourself, “I tried. But this new idea will work out much better.”
Sending Your Baby Out to The World: You are a writing superhero. You slammed out your crappy first draft, revised the hell out of it, and you know it’s good. Okay, it might be bad, but you know there’s good stuff in there. You’ve been building up to this moment. You make your list of agents who rep this kind of material and bravely send it out to ONE agent. Months later, you get a rejection letter. Wow, your writing must be terrible. Here it is, confirmed by a professional. You are so crushed you want to stop writing altogether, but because you’re a superhero, you start another project.
Do you notice a pattern here?
Here are some things to remember when you feel like giving up…
–No matter how many times you start new projects, you will always come to this place.
–The difference between succeeding as a writer and failing is persistence through the plateaus and rough spots.
–Learning how to face your doubts and fears and craft issues will lead you to mastery.
–Giving up once, makes it easier to give up twice.
–When all seems black and horrible, be kind to yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back simply for showing up and sitting in the chair. Wine and chocolate are your friends.
–Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and ask for assistance. Hire a coach, take a class.
–Write crap. Sometimes by freeing yourself from the pressure to be perfect, gems appear.
–When you get stuck, experiment. Try something new with the problem character or plot element that might help you break through.
–If you’re lost, ask yourself, “What does my character want? What action is he/she taking to get it?
–Know that the universe has your back. All you have to do is sit down and do the work.
–If you truly believe that the idea you are working on is bankrupt, then by all means, let it go. But make sure this isn’t just the voice of that devil resistance, letting you off the hook. There was something about this project that pulled you. Find a way to reconnect with it.
Take Action! If you are caught in a spiral of wanting to give up, think about how many times this has happened before. Did you give up? What happened? What could happen if you stuck with it?
Wanting to quit is a natural part of the process of writing. Just like your main character, you will hit the “all falls apart” moment where fear and doubt and frustration appear. Could you face these feelings? Could you fully feel them? Could you move through them and lift up your sword and fight on to the end of the draft?
In writing, as in life, it’s the warrior who gets the reward. This process may be ugly and brutal and bloody, but it’s through taking this journey that the true lessons are learned.
I know you can do it. Keep going.
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