After seventeen years, fifteen published books, three unpublished manuscripts (languishing on my hard drive), you'd think I'd know that writing is hard. The thing that no one tells you is it never actually gets any easier.
Writing is HARD.
Today, I hope to finish my POS first draft for the seventh book in my Cold Justice Series. I'm pretty sure Nora Roberts coined the POS phrase (Piece of $h#t) along with her famous line about not being able to edit a blank page. It's a useful reminder of what a first draft should be like--but not what I usually produce. By the time I get to the end of my first draft the story is generally in pretty good shape because I constantly edit as I go along (which also slows me down).
I've had rough time this year, writing wise. I've been forced so far out of my comfort zone I'm sitting naked and cold on a railway platform at rush hour. That' OK. It's good to have yourself shaken up once in a while. I'm hoping that it will translate in being more productive when I get back into my comfort zone.
Right now I'm grateful that I'm my own boss and don't have a deadline looming over me that I have to meet or forfeit my contract. My readers generally know I'm a pretty slow writer, and I would rather give them something worthy of their attention and money, than rush out the next book. ("Rush" being a relative term :))
The current WIP has major plot holes, characters that need to be added, loose ends that are veering toward a frayed hem, and an uncertain ending. I'm not just writing this blog post to whine (although I'm good at it). I want to tell other writers, maybe those with less experience, but also those with more, that WRITING IS HARD and sometimes the words or story won't come. Life gets in the way and sometimes you need to divert your attention in a way that destroys your ability to concentrate on your story. Don't judge yourself against others who seem able to produce through any circumstance. We can't live other people's lives. They can't live yours.
Just don't let the fact writing is hard be a reason to quit.
I grew up in a working class family, and there was a certain amount of guilt attached (did I mention "Catholic" working class? :)) to the fact I earn a living by sitting at a desk and making up stories. But knowing the mental and physical effort I put into every story, I don't feel that guilt anymore. Authors work hard because WRITING IS HARD. Not everyone sees that--they see the potential for success and riches, not the hard grind and hours honing a paragraph only to delete the whole thing and start again.
Writing is also my greatest joy. My mental escape. The brain puzzle that keeps me ticking over. So, I'm going to finish this POS draft today, and then go back and fix the plot holes, add the characters, snip the loose ends, and figure out an ending that works.
Wish me luck :)
PS: One book I've found helpful recently is, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.
I haven't done all the exercises, but I have found it easier to block out some of the daily distractions without any associated guilt.