Your characters are balking. You don’t know how to begin the third chapter. That perfect bit of dialogue you thought up while going to sleep last night has evaporated into the stratosphere. As if that weren’t enough, your verbs are weak, your prepositions are dangling, and that precise adjective you need right now has just run away from home.
No wonder you’re banging your head on the desk!
But take heart, dear writer, for you do not suffer alone.
Since for most of us writing is a very solitary business, we often feel that we are the only ones who wrangle with such frustrations. But it is not so, nor has it ever been. Beginning writers expect to experience some trauma as they plunge headfirst into the complex world of fiction (or if not, they certainly should!), but even your favorite authors — rich and famous authors, highly praised authors — have struggled and continue to struggle with such issues.
“Every writer I know has trouble writing,” said Joseph Heller.
Flannery O’Connor went so far as to say that “writing is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay,” adding that it’s “very shocking to the system.”
So, who needs head-banging to shock the system when all you need to do is write?
“I love my rejection slips,” said Sylvia Plath. “They show me that I try.”
And trying is what it’s all about. After all, you can’t write if you don’t try.
“We are all apprentices in a craft we never master,” said Ernest Hemingway. But he kept on trying.
Yes, the proverbial blank page can indeed be terrifying, but writers by and large are a courageous bunch.
“You may not write well every day,” advises Jodi Picoult, “but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
It may help to adopt an attitude like that of Lawrence Block:
“One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”
“If I waited for perfection,” Margaret Atwood admits, “I would never write a word.”
So, suck it up, get over it, and give your head a rest—but not your brain. Instead, get back to writing.
In the wise words of Ray Bradbury, “You fail only if you stop writing.”
© 2018 Ann Henry, all rights reserved.
Photo: Feeling All Alone? © 2017 Ann Henry, all rights reserved.