Patience is a writer’s best friend. Not only the willingness to sit with sentences until the perfect word or syntax is achieved, but also the willingness to walk away from a story draft, so the mind can mull over the options before revising again. Like most people, which would include writers, I don’t like to wait. The constant push-pull relationship I have with writing is that my conscience likes to know when I sit down that I will have a finished product or will at least know where the draft is going. This, rationally, I know, is quite impossible. And yet my mind tries to trick me into believing that the only way to write is to dash out a draft in an hour. I like the feeling of completeness. I love the rush of understanding I get when I figure out what the story is about or what my character is likely to do over the next few paragraphs. Unfortunately there is a lot of wasted anxiety that goes into getting myself to sit down in front of the blank page or the half-finished first draft of a story. The fear of the unknown is an echo chamber that assaults with my own fears and inadequacies. In this I know I’m like most writers.
So where does all of this lead me? To a lot of wasted time trying to avoid the thing I truly do like to do, which is to write. I’ve gotten better in the last year of allowing myself to start lots of first drafts and allowing those stories to sit while I work on the story that offers the best chance for completion. I think this process is helping. I think my stories, my sense of plot and craft is improving. I’ve, I hope, wasted less time and have gotten more done.
But the biggest fear looms. I feel this urge not to have enjoyed crafting a novel, but the demand to not only write THE novel, but to also get it published. I’m going to turn 33 this year. (I know, still a young writer, by most standards) but I can feel these demands press down on my shoulders every time I start to write. I’ve given up trying to get them to go away. I’m starting to learn how to work alongside these feelings. I try to follow Richard Bausch’s advice to just ask yourself, Have you worked today? So I have. For today.