I’ve heard it said that there are two types of writers: those who like writing, and those who like having written. I’m definitely one of those in the latter camp. I look forward to revisions, to having clumps of raw material to play with and tweak and reshape. The hard part, to me, is producing that raw material in the first place. The difficulty is not so much coming up with new ideas (which are usually plentiful and fun to play with), but that actual starting part, where all kinds of decisions must be made and then actual sentences produced and strung together into story. And it’s especially hard at the beginning of a new project, which is where I’m at right now. I’m actually in the midst of starting a lot of things now, it would be fair to say, but specifically I am talking about starting a new novel.
A new novel? Yep, here we go. I’ve committed to a particular project, and I’ve got a super rough outline and the first couple pages of actual words now. That’s a bigger deal than it seems, because not only do I prefer having written to the act of writing, but in general, starting is hard. Given that the previous novel (ok, the only one I’ve written, to date) took me approximately 7 years to complete (how biblical!), I’ve had to really screw my courage to the sticking point to get this one started. Because what if this new one takes me another 7 years, or at least some really damn long time, to finish? How am I gonna call myself a writer if I only produce a book every 7 years? That’s scary to contemplate. Now, to be fair, that first novel took so long for a number of reasons (not least of which was that I had a kid in the middle of writing it), and I fully expect the next one to go faster and be easier. That’s how it works, right? Practice, practice, practice, as I said last post. I learned a great deal by writing that first novel, and have a much better grasp now on what’s involved in the writing of novels (as opposed to the reading of novels, which I have definitely become an expert at if I do say so myself, or the marketing of novels, which I still don’t know nearly enough about.) I know I *can* write a novel now, and I know to expect “shitty first drafts” (as Anne Lamott would say) and not to get attached to the quality or quantity of initial output. I know how to create a writing practice for myself in order to get the work done (whether or not I actually stick to it, which is a whole other story). So I should be ready to go, right? I should be able to just start beavering away at this next project and in a year or so, it should be done.
Well, that’s the rosy vision. But why is it so hard to actually accomplish, especially the pushing out of that “shitty first draft?” Even though I’ve recently decided to commit more seriously to my writer identity, I’m still having motivation issues (which very well may be related to anxiety around said commitment), and not getting into any sort of BIC (Butt In Chair) production groove. I feel like I have an angel and a devil (or maybe a fairy and a dragon) on my shoulder, one saying “don’t be so hard on yourself: you can’t rush art, and you have to do what feels right to you in the moment,” and the other saying “you aren’t a writer if you don’t write, so stop fooling around and put your butt in the chair and make some words.” I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels like this when starting (let alone working away on or finishing) a new project. I know that it’s normal for motivation to come in waves, and for life to impinge. Maybe just putting out a public declaration of “I’ve started!” and “I’m gonna keep going!” will spur me to forge ahead even during those times when it’s hard to. After all, the goal is to wind up enjoying that feeling of “ahhhh, I’ve written, and it feels good.”