Sunday, 9 April 2017

When Everything You Write Is Crap

It happens to us all. Sooner or later, you've been working away on your novel, or whatever, and you dry up. You find yourself sitting at your desk, staring at the last sentence you wrote, half an hour ago. An hour ago. An hour and a half....

Realising you've tabbed into Facebook and have been looking at pictures of cats/ deerhounds/ bats for the last hour, you close your browser and force yourself back to work, We're actual writers, right? We don't whine about 'writers' block', or cry that our 'muse' has deserted us. Right?

So, you force yourself to continue. You write a sentence. You stare at the sentence for twenty minutes. You experiment with changing the word order. You delete the sentence.

After another hour or so of this, you realise your wordcount has only gone up by three words, and two of those were 'Chapter Fourteen'.

Note, by the way, my clever use of the second person in the foregoing paragraphs. This is what's known as a 'literary device'. I'm trying to pretend all of this has never happened to me, but alas! It comes to us all.

You decide to read back over the last few pages to take a new hold on your story, and that's when you notice that everything you have written is rubbish. Perhaps at this point you cry a bit, or compress your lips in a manly way, or express the turmoil of your emotion in some other way. You consider whether you need a break, a few days off to refresh body and soul. Then you remember that it's still Monday morning and you've just got back from a week at the beach.

Then, because you're an actual writer, not a wannabe, and because you've been paying close attention to my blog, you realise that the buck stops here, that either you write the book or it isn't going to be written, and all the reasons you had for starting it still exist, and you roll up your sleeves and go back to work.

It doesn't come easily, not like those other days when you sat at your keyboard pounding away, your mouth dry with exhilaration, the words streaming out of the aether to weave themselves into a bright tapestry on the page. But, because you're a writer, you go on, until you can give yourself permission to stop, whether that's a wordcount achieved, or five o'clock, or whatever.

Here's the thing. You may be worrying at this point whether all this suffering, this agony of forcing yourself to write on when the words coming out of your keyboard are dry as dust and about as interesting as a page of the telephone directory, is even worth it. Why suffer so to write awful crap, right?  But you don't need to worry about that. Later on, when you read over your finished work, you will not be able to tell which parts were written in this painful way and which were the ones that flowed so easily. Bottom line - it doesn't make the least difference to the quality of your finished work how much you suffered to produce it.

You don't need to take my word for this. Yes, I'm speaking from experience. But I'm far from the only writer to say this. Brandon Sanderson says the exact same thing, and you can believe him, right?

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