Carey snorts when I say it: “My story is crap.” Then he rolls his eyes.
It’s good to have somebody on your side. Someone who understands you. A partner who can roll their eyes convincingly when you’re being ridiculous.
“I love my story!” “Wow, this is really bad.” “This is awesome!” “I can’t do this, what was I thinking?” It is ridiculous. Remember yesterday? Yeah. Today my book is crap.
It’s a game my brain plays, I think, to keep me from finishing the book.
When I was a girl, long before the days of the animated Disney version, we watched a live action movie about Aladdin, made for adults. The hero was given an opportunity to obtain the genie’s lamp. He would gain wealth, glory, and the hand of the beautiful princess. All he had to do was get to it… without ever leaving the path and don’t touch anything. How hard could that be?
I remember wishing I were in his place. I’m an expert at following instructions, especially easy ones: Stay on the path, stupid.
Of course he couldn’t do it. He was fine when he passed all those riches by the wayside. I mean, he kind of wanted to touch things, you see, but he was a good boy. Then there was a beautiful woman beckoning to him. That one was tough. But he stayed the course. It was when he heard cries of terror and saw someone in desperate need of help that he did what was forbidden, with dramatic and terrible results.
That is exactly what writing is like.
All the experts say, “Sit down, butt to chair. Just write. Write. Write. Butt to chair.”
And you think, “I can do that. Just follow the instructions. Butt to chair.”
Then you sit down and it’s not very comfortable. But that’s okay, you can brave discomfort for the sake of your art. You are a writer!
You’re staring at a blank page, and for fifteen minutes you can think of nothing to say. That’s okay. Butt in chair. It will come. You are a writer!
Then you write a few things and they’re crap and you think, “That’s okay. Just write. Everybody writes crap sometimes.” And you keep going. You are a writer.
So then your brain has to get creative. It decides that it would much rather be blogging. Wouldn’t you rather be blogging? That’s a form of writing, right? Just blog for a bit. You can come back to the novel tomorrow. Blogging will help you clear your brain.
So maybe you click over to the blog, but then you remember: “Nope. One hour. Butt to chair. Working on your novel.”
Check. But that’s not the end of it, of course. Like Aladdin, you’re going down this path and it’s lined with temptation and distraction. But you’re good. You’re good.
Open an email? Nope. Read a forum post? No. Watch a video on how to get published! NOOO!
Somebody has said something WRONG on the Internet and you MUST SAVE THEM from their idiocy before it is too late. But you don’t. You are a writer.
And maybe you make it through several days like this. Every day, one hour, butt to chair. Maybe weeks or months.
One morning you wake up and you’re sick. That’s okay. You got this. It’s just one hour and you can pause the timer if you have to leave your chair to throw up.
But the next morning, your brain starts playing deceptive little tricks on you. It tells you maybe you’re not really a novelist anyway, and you’re wasting your time. If you were a novelist, wouldn’t you just want to write in your novel, the way you always want to write in your blog? You wouldn’t have to fight so hard. Besides. Maybe your blog could save someone, like Glennon‘s does.
And it’s this that gets you in the end. You miss your hour, because you think, for the briefest span of time, that you were never really cut out for this after all. And there is something more important you should be doing. So you leave the path. You. Suck.
Might as well quit now.
Except the ceiling doesn’t cave in and the walls don’t crumble. You’re not dodging molten rock or sudden chasms. The nice thing about writing is you get forever chances.
I spent approximately 14,000 mornings NOT writing a novel before I finally sat my butt down to do it. So why would I let one missed morning get to me?
You get back on the path and you keep going.
Will I prevail? I don’t know. The experts all say I will, if I just stick to the path and don’t touch anything except my novel for that one hour a day. And at the end of it: Riches, glory, and the hand of the princess. Actually, let’s leave the hand out. Sounds gory.
And maybe there won’t be riches & glory, either. Fortunately, that’s not what I’m after (not that I would turn my nose up at it). But there will be a book. By gum, when I’m done, there will be a book. And when you rub it just right, it will open and reveal the magic within.
I’d rather have that than riches and glory and a disembodied hand any day. Well, not ANY day. But most days, at least.
P.S. Truth in advertising announcement: My book won’t really open just by rubbing it. OR maybe it will. I think I’ll demand that feature in negotiations with my publisher. I’m sure that will make me very popular with them.
P.P.S. What are the games your brain plays to keep you from your art? What are you doing to defeat the temptations?