I think we writers can all agree: sometimes, writing feels like magic.
But the rest of the time, it feels an awful lot like hard work.
I have been ruminating on this blog post for awhile and thinking about the importance of carrying our ideas out– committing to finishing them, no matter how many challenges they throw in our way. Sometimes, coming up with an idea is the part that feels like magic. A beautiful, unsullied idea that hasn’t had the chance to be messed up or go awry. An idea holds so much potential. A fresh start, a clean slate.
For me, the challenge is carrying out that idea even when it starts to become something different than it was in my head. When it starts to tell me what direction to go, and I feel like I have lost all control. When it stops being perfect and starts being real. And this is where the hard work part comes in. Because as magical as writing can be when the going is easy, it’s that much more rewarding to plow through the hard times. To sit your butt in a desk chair and keep writing, even if your muse never shows up. To write through your inner critic, who is silently whispering that what you’re writing doesn’t live up to that unsullied idea you first conjured up.
I feel like there’s a lot of temptation at this point from new ideas– brand new shiny ones that pop into your head when you’re struggling to carry out what you’re currently working through. New ideas with the promise to become a new manuscript that hasn’t been messed up yet. They always come to me when I’m feeling the least inspired with a current project, and they do their best to tear me away from it. The fresh start sounds tempting. A new Word document that hasn’t been ruined yet. The chance for more magic.
But I think there’s so much more to be said for finishing what you start– to give your ideas a beginning, middle, and end, even if it’s not the middle or end you initially intended for, and even if it doesn’t end up looking anything like it did in your head. When it’s done, it might be something totally unlike what you imagined– but it might be even better. What I’m coming to realize is, if you don’t give it time and commit to it, that’s all it will ever be– an idea in your head. Any idea can feel magical, but carrying it out is where the true test happens. It’s something only writers can do.
And sure, some ideas might not make it to a finished product. There’s no shame in realizing you’re not passionate about a project anymore and putting it aside. But what I want to avoid is having a computer filled with half-finished manuscripts and abandoned projects that I quit just because they got too hard. I don’t want to give up on ideas when they turn into something else different from what I had envisioned.
The project I’m working on right now is one of the difficult ones. The first draft flowed out very quickly, but then I realized it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. It needed big changes. It basically needed a total overhaul. I was intimidated and frustrated and didn’t even know where to begin. I had a series of false starts with it and wrote a bunch of scenes that probably won’t see the light of day. But now I’m slowly cobbling it back together, and I’m okay with that. Because I realized there’s no magic formula. There’s only one formula that’s guaranteed to work. Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.
It might sound silly, but one particular motivational strategy has been working well for me this month. The sticker reward system. It’s almost embarrassing to admit how much pleasure I get from sticking a new one on when I reach my goal for each day. But it works for me, so I’m sticking (no pun intended!) to it.
And all those shiny new ideas that pop into my head at what I consider inopportune times? They’re typed up in a separate Word document, and they’ll get their turn.