As I'm writing this, my manuscript March has 50,663 words. This means that there is tangible proof that I HAVE worked on my novel, and I haven’t just added 652 words. I’ve actually CUT stuff, followed by some re-writing and... There’s proof. I haven’t done a whole heck of a lot, but there’s proof.
Moving forward. I am mentally exhausted. (Proof, in that I couldn’t edit the fragment and unnaturally short sentence into a longer, better phrase and avoid unnecessary punctuation.) I’ve gained a rather short attention span for anything not honestly, instantly interesting... Or anything that requires me to work. Take a jump into my brain for a moment. I look at my book shelf, and a sense of dread washes over me, because reading is scary and requires me to be intelligent, and analyze characters, and... and... Then I wind up slapping myself in the face. You know why? Because while a really fabulous book challenges it’s reader to think above and beyond what is presented at face value, a good book also guides you into the identity of your characters; it holds your hand. (Unless that book is Liar by Justine Larbalestier, but that’s just a kick butt book, and that’s the point.) You should see me watch Lost. Every single one of my comments were along the lines of, "Oh look! Ben Linus has a nosebleed. Again."
I didn’t have to have this stupid anxiety of fearing the mental challenge of reading, because while reading is often mental workout, in the world of mental fitness, I am addicted to this exercise. Upon further investigation of my brain, I realized that I wasn’t really scared/weary of reading, I was terrified of writing. I was terrified about the fact, that the fates of Jackson, Olivia, Erin, Maureen, Ellen, Theo and Justin all sit on my shoulders and hard drive, and that I can screw them up if I make one wrong move. I realized that I was mentally blocking a writers’ block, refusing to believe that the honeymoon was over and that now I have to take risks with my manuscript, in order to move forward. Now I have to do the grunt work to finish the first draft, all the while, it seems like the rest of the writers that I’m following on a regular basis all seem to have their books in and out of edits (this is everyone, but, I mean, SERIOUSLY, Hannah Moskowitz?), and their ARCs are arriving, (Sarah Rees Brennan *cough*) and they’re getting Amazon pages and covers, and ISBN numbers (Stephanie Perkins- YAYYYYYY!!!!) and here I am, with barely 50,000 words of a NaNoWriMo manuscript which holds a relatively decent plot, wondering what the heck to do now, and wishing that I could just hand my manuscript over to my clone to deal with. You know what I’m talking about, the one who would work out for me and get Algebra done, and clean my room, then merge back into my head with all the sore-muscles and math benefits added to my person, no work required. Jumping from that place to a close-to-finished manuscript seemed like it would take a literal act of God.
I was at this point Wednesday night. Some complaining to Hannah Moskowitz helped, and Stephanie Perkins gave me the gift of this video, a 20 minute lecture by Elizabeth Gilbert (Author of Eat, Pray, Love) about the creative process, which I highly recommend EVERYONE watching.
(You can actually download the lecture in both video and audio form, but make sure you have a good connection; the video download is about 65 MB.)
I know that all of the authors mentioned above have been in my place, and that ultimately they struggled with their writing too. But just because they can identify with my slump, doesn’t mean that the utter and complete suckage just ends. If you’ve ever been in my place, you know that when you reach this point, two options remain. The first is to give up. The second, is to keep writing. Giving up might be the option for some people, but I have poured far too much time and energy into this manuscript to stop working on it now. Thus leaves the option of pushing through the tough parts and keeping up with my writing.
This is the single most irritating piece of advice any writer will give you. BUT, this is the only thing that really works. Move to a different chapter. Re-work a favorite scene, ANYTHING. Just don’t stop. You know why? Because like that whole exercise analogy, once you get back into the process, slowly you dislike it less and less. Then once your writing time is over, once your workout is finished, you have that wonderful exhausted feeling, which you should dwell in for as long as possible. Your muscles are slightly sore, but your mind is at ease, and you have that glimmer of hope again. I kept writing.
I’m over my issues right now, so to anyone who needs it, whining and complaining to me about your writing WILL work. But in the midst of me helping you not be so miserable, I WILL tell you to keep writing. When the time comes, I will most definitely need you to tell ME to keep writing, probably sooner rather than later. But that’s life, right? We help each other, we bare our souls in the hopes that in those dark and gloomy moments, someone will @reply us on twitter, or email, or even just call and say, “I feel your pain, magic book dust will be sent your way, keep writing.”