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The hard parts

writing beats housework
Last week was kind of a crazy week, between our four-day Eastercon that stretched into five days, and then an unexpected (though fabulous!) family visit that lasted the rest of the week. Factor in a major ME/CFS crash, too...and yeah. The last week and a half was great but tough, and by this weekend, I was beyond exhausted.

So it was SO the wrong moment for me to sit down (on Saturday) and read through the full manuscript-so-far of my WIP. Oh, wow, was it the wrong moment. Because it forced me to realize, with total shock and horror: This is only a rough draft!

Well...duh. Obviously. And yet...

Here's how I write novels: straight through, linearly, as quickly as I can (which isn't particularly quick, but whatever) to try to outrun the self-doubt that races against me, wanting to cut me off at the legs and make me give up any book I try. I drive my way through the first draft on instinct and sheer willpower.

In order to do that, I have to be like Orpheus and NEVER LOOK BACK. Because in order to keep driving forward, especially on a book that scares me a lot for various reasons, I have to somehow believe (insanely and incorrectly) that what I've written so far in my first draft is just great. Great great great! It'll barely need any revision in the next round! (Insert hysterical laughter here from my critique partners...)

I don't know exactly how this strategy co-exists with my first-draft mantra "It can all be fixed in the next draft!", but it does.

Unfortunately, this Saturday, I was so tired and crashed, I wasn't up to any active writing. At the same time, I couldn't bear to waste one of my rare childcare sessions. (MrD is in the middle of a two-week-long spring break.) So I told myself that it just made sense to read through the book so far and get a real sense of it.

Well. Let me just say here and now: when you're exhausted and sick, it is NOT the right time to realize how much work you have ahead of yourself.

It is the right time to be on Twitter, though.

I tweeted one of my most self-pitying tweets ever - a tweet so self-pitying and ridiculous it actually makes me cringe to re-type it here: Having 1 of those days when I curse myself for coming up with a book that's so HARD to write! Why cldn't I have thought of something easier?

But I'm re-typing that tweet here because not only did I get a whole flood of encouragement and commiseration that really, really helped, but I got one tweet back from one of my oldest friends that made everything go click! inside me:

because being finished will be so much sweeter and you will have done something you can be proud of

YES. It's that simple, and that important.

This book has scared me ever since I first thought of it. It's so personal in so many ways, which makes writing it a weirdly vulnerable process; it's full of bits and pieces of my family history and identity (buried in fiction, of course); it's built on a different plot structure than I've ever tried before, which feels intimidating; for heaven's sake, it's a road trip across 1930s America, and I'm stuck here in Wales!

(Although actually, the fact that it's a road trip across the country to Hollywood is another oddly personal part of the story, because I have vivid memories of road trips from the Midwest to LA from my own childhood.)

And the wonderful Kaz Mahoney just posted this quote on her blog, which I really needed to read:

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
― Steven Pressfield


I care desperately about this book, which makes it terrifying to write - and essential. And as absolutely amazing as it is to have gotten the bursary, of course I feel an added pressure there too - I want very badly to justify their faith in me (and I'm scared of letting them down).

I ran away from this book twice before - first when the idea had first occurred to me, two years ago, and then after writing the first couple of chapters, over a year ago. Both times I flung myself toward different ideas for books that felt easier, safer - and a lot less vulnerable.

I'm not going to run again.

And now I feel very uncertain about posting this blog entry, because it honestly does make me feel vulnerable to put this out there in public. But after sharing all my good news lately, it just feels wrong not to share the vulnerable parts too.

Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
alankria
Apr. 17th, 2012 09:35 pm (UTC)
That Pressfield quote is about right, yeah.

It's hard work, but it sounds like it's gonna be totally worth it.
stephanieburgis
Apr. 18th, 2012 09:17 am (UTC)
Thanks so much, Alex.
ex_kaz_maho
Apr. 17th, 2012 10:24 pm (UTC)
I will just offer you a big *hug* for posting this blog entry. I'm so glad you're finally writing this project! It means so much to you, and that means it really will be amazing when you're done.

:)
stephanieburgis
Apr. 18th, 2012 09:28 am (UTC)
Oh, Kaz, thank you. *HUGS*
bookblather
Apr. 17th, 2012 10:47 pm (UTC)
This is the perfect entry for me right now, because I have this huge terrifying story that I'm not sure I can do justice to, and yet, I'm sure that I can't not write it. So, reading this, hearing this, I'm more sure than ever that it's the right story for me to be writing. Thank you.
stephanieburgis
Apr. 18th, 2012 09:29 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for telling me that - and GOOD LUCK to you, too!
deliasherman
Apr. 17th, 2012 10:59 pm (UTC)
Suzy McKee Charnas once said (when I was telling her about Freedom Maze, back in, oh, 1988), that if I was scaring myself, then I was probably doing the right thing. Not exactly what I wanted to hear at the time, but it sure was what I needed to hear.

Bon courage, mon brave. I know it's going to be wonderful. If you ever want me to read a draft, you have only to ask.
stephanieburgis
Apr. 18th, 2012 09:37 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you for telling me that! And thank you so much for the support and the confidence. I would absolutely love to take you up on the offer of reading a draft whenever I finally finish one!
rj_anderson
Apr. 18th, 2012 01:14 am (UTC)
Oh, man, I am so glad you posted this, because I feel exactly the same way about the first draft I'm working on right now. So hard to get this far, so much farther to go, and the feelings of failure and fear and inadequacy have dogged me constantly all along. Worse, I'm on a deadline so I have that gotta-get-it-done-yesterday-no-time-to-revise panic on top of the this-is-the-worst-thing-I've-ever-written-my-editors-will-hate-me panic.

But I do care about this book, and the characters, and I want so badly for it to be good. Even in the first draft, as unrealistic as that is. And I don't ever want to settle for "good enough", I want to do the very best I can.

That being said, I am in a pretty good mood right now after writing 2K today and part of it a scene that I really enjoyed writing (oh, the rapture of being able to say that! It happens so rarely, in a first draft), so I have printed out the first half of my manuscript to skim over and refresh my memory on the plot and pacing. I hope it will not turn out to be a mistake!
stephanieburgis
Apr. 18th, 2012 09:45 am (UTC)
Hooray for a 2K session that felt good! And good luck with the re-read. I hope it just makes you fall even more in love with the novel!

But THANK YOU for telling me that you're going through the same issues! It really, really helps to hear that from other writers.
tltrent
Apr. 18th, 2012 02:12 am (UTC)
We have definitely commiserated many a time on this score and the thing is, despite all this, you always turn out something that is amazing. Every time you climb up to the high-wire where you think you can't or shouldn't be, you do all these death-defying leaps that lead you into the stratosphere.

And with that painfully extended metaphor, I think I'll run off now. But I think you get to the point. :-) *hugs*
stephanieburgis
Apr. 18th, 2012 10:28 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much for that. *HUGS*
jennreese
Apr. 18th, 2012 03:52 am (UTC)
I'm not sure which book you read, because the one I'm reading ROCKS.

But maybe this entry will give me the courage to send you a few terrible chapters soon. Fear is so powerful.
stephanieburgis
Apr. 18th, 2012 10:28 am (UTC)
Oh, Jenn, THANK YOU! *HUGS* And pleasepleaseplease send me those chapters! I cannot wait to read them.
triciasullivan
Apr. 18th, 2012 12:11 pm (UTC)
Yeah, what Jenn said. You write a damn clean first draft.

*HUGS*
stephanieburgis
Apr. 18th, 2012 04:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, Trish. *HUGS*
la_marquise_de_
Apr. 18th, 2012 11:10 am (UTC)
It will be fine.
I don't live in any of the (imaginary) places I write about. And my 1st drafts are dreadful. So I recognise the feeling all too well. But you will be fine, the book will be splendid. (If I can do it, anyone can, seriously.)
freda_writes
Apr. 18th, 2012 01:58 pm (UTC)
Good luck Steph. It's rare I'm NOT terrified and overwhelmed when trying to start a new project. The reward is when I start to 'get' the characters and they begin living out their own story without me trying to tell them what to do.

Can't believe I only saw you once at Eastercon! Better than not at all! xxx
stephanieburgis
Apr. 18th, 2012 05:00 pm (UTC)
Oh, Freda, thank you so much for telling me that! And I hope we get to spend more time together in person SOON. xxx
stephanieburgis
Apr. 18th, 2012 04:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, Kari! It really helps to hear that.
jennygordon
Apr. 19th, 2012 07:24 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing the vulnerable part too, Steph - I'm sure so many of us writers relate. Hang on in there, you can do it. You really, truly can!
stephanieburgis
Apr. 19th, 2012 08:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, Jenny!
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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