This sounds terrible, but I can understand why Faulkner drank and Hemingway shot himself. Writing is hard. Really hard. This past week has been exceptionally difficult for me from a story perspective and for the first time, I got so frustrated with my story I ended up in tears. I suppose I should be proud that it’s taken me over a year of working like a dog on my story to finally break down and cry. I mean, I and my fellow classmates have been through the wringer since signing up for the Romance Writing program a year ago August. By that I don’t mean to say that school has been a bitch…it’s been an amazing learning experience. But I do think that we’re getting so deep down into our books, our characters, our plots, and our subplots that the problems we see are getting much, much harder to solve. Harder = more frustrating. Too much frustration and…well…you know where you end up.
When we started this program a year ago, some of us had a basic understand of plot, conflict, scenes, turning points — the elements that go into making great fiction. Then there were people like me, who wouldn’t know conflict if it hit her on the head (in fact, I think it did a few times). The things I’ve been learning and attempting to square away in my story over the last year are now things that I’d consider basic…goal, motivation, conflict, for example. I’ve got that nailed down (at least I know what it is and how to fix it), but now I’m delving into stuff like subplot and character voice…things that, for me, require a hell of a lot more cranial power and imagination than I think I have.
It doesn’t help that my story has started and restarted multiple times. The plot I had a year ago is nothing — and I mean nothing, save the character’s names — like what I have now. Of course what I have now is much stronger than what I started with, but lately I find myself getting depressed over my perceived lack of progress. I still only have (less than) one act written, I’m a little unsure how Act 2 and Act 3 are going to roll, and of course I just have to write.
So, combine life complications that suck away writing time with depression resulting from “lack of progress” with (subconscious) self-imposed limits on brain power and imagination and it’s a perfect storm for a good cry.
That’s when your writing friends step in. Regular friends are great for other problems, but it takes a writer to know just what you’re going through. They point out the progress you’ve made over the past year. “You’re working on plot!” they say. “That’s hard! You’ve got your GMC figured out…that’s huge!” They remind you how much they like your story’s premise and how juiced they are to read your finished book. They also get involved in your story — they help you brainstorm, they offer critiques, and they listen to whatever you have to say. Kat mentioned in her post earlier this week how important a good writing community is and she’s so right. Were it not for the fantastic support of the other Eight Ladies and our teacher, I’d have probably thrown in the towel the other day. But I didn’t.
Look, if you want to be a writer, you best put on your big girl pants and get ready to do some serious work. Because as I’ve learned, writing isn’t easy. It’s exhausting, numbing, exhilarating, difficult, intoxicating, draining, and frustrating all at the same time. And even though I’ve had a major “this sucks” moment, I still think writing is one of the most fun and rewarding things I’ve ever done.
I’m giving writing a go because I felt the time was right for me to create the great stories I’ve been reading all these years. As far as I’m concerned, this is my new job. Had I known a year ago what I know now about the kind of job writing would be, I might not have done it. But there’s no way I can turn back now. I’m pretty darn sure it’s what I’m meant to do.
So, when the next misery moment happens (it’s only a matter of time), I’ll gather together with my writing friends (virtually if need be), uncork some wine, eat some chocolate, sniffle a bit, and let the tears flow. When that’s all done, I’ll get up, turn on the computer, and get back to work. After all, I have stories to tell.