Is it time to call it quits on “us?” We’ve been on again off again for almost two years. Even from the beginning we were more than just a fun little fling, more than a mere distraction. Even before I met you I knew you. It seems that you’ve been a part of my life forever.
I thought we had real potential. I imagined what it would be like to reshape my life so that we could make a life together. I knew it was a risk. I knew not everyone would be supportive. I knew I would hear warnings and stories of others whose hearts you broke.
I’ve seen the warning signs. You’re intent on keeping your distance. I can’t always reach you when I want you. You have secrets you don’t share. We make plans and you don’t show up. I fool myself into believing I’ve accepted you as you are, that I’ve adapted to your inconsistency. Then you disappear for weeks at a time and I’m hurt all over again.
Monsters of insecurity lurk under my bed. They come out on sleepless nights and whisper what I fear is the ugly truth – that I’m just not good enough for you.
And yet, when we are together, really together, I come alive. That’s what brings me back to you, over and over again. With you I discover the world and myself.
Please, dear Novel, just tell me, do I keep writing or is it time to hit “delete?”
There isn’t a lot I do just for the fun of it.
Remember swinging? You pumped and pumped your legs but didn’t get anywhere. What do you do that’s like that?
I just finished National Novel Writing Month. A not for profit of the same name encourages people to sign up to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. “What happens if you don’t finish?” friends often asked when I lamented how many words behind I had slipped. “What do you get if you finish?” they asked when I celebrated a great day of writing. The answer to both was “nothing.” No great honors for winning, no fines for not finishing. It was just for the fun of it.
I’m sure it’s been good for my writing to put butt in chair and write most days. I’m sure my “sticktoittiveness” muscles got stronger. But the real reason, at least in the end, that I stuck to it is that it was fun.
Most of what I do has a “so that” attached. I exercise so that I can get in shape. I cook so that I can eat. Doing something just for the pure joy in it is the definition of play, and a critical part of Sabbath. It’s what children know how to do.
I want to finish my novel and go back and edit it. I’d like to see where the story takes me. I do have the occasional fantasy about what it would be like to have it published and be on the New York Times best seller list and get interviewed by Oprah…but if that’s why I continued to work on the story then I would have quit long ago. The “who do you think you are?” demons would have silenced me right from the beginning. Doing something just for the fun of it gives you permission to do it because it doesn’t have lead to anything meaningful.
I just read Stephen King’s memoir On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I highly recommend it. He doesn’t give any quick fixes or secret tricks to writing, just good solid advice (that I think applies to life too):
- If you want to be a better writer then write more. Goes without saying, right? Well apparently it does not go without saying. There are plenty of things I have wanted to be better at that I haven’t actually practiced. Malcom Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to be good at something. I did the math. If I write for two hours a day every day of the year I will get to 10,000 hours in 13.69 years. I’ll be 61.
- It also helps to read as much as you can. It’s probably better if it’s good writing, but it doesn’t have to be. You can learn from people who are terrible too.
- With practice a good writer can become a great writer. A good writer will probably never become an iconic, once in a generation writer. Those are born not made. Not everyone who wants to write is a good writer. We are not created equal.
- Less is more. The real trick to editing is taking out everything that isn’t necessary. “Kill your darlings.” Take out the phrases, paragraphs, plot lines that don’t move the story forward.
- Avoid adverbs.
- It’s okay to not have a plot outline. You can start with a general idea and just see what happens. You don’t need to know where you’re going when you start.
- Use failure as a way to learn but not as an excuse to stop.
- Use your own words. If you use big words use them. Don’t invent a vocabulary to impress others.
- Be honest. Don’t let the decency police get in the way of what you want to say.