About halfway through writing your first draft, you’ll probably reach a point in which you’ll really start to question whether or not you are able to make it as a writer. Part of the reason for this is because you’re going to find that you somehow became completely lost in what you were writing. Like, you don’t know what you were doing. You don’t know where you were planning on going. And no matter what, you absolutely don’t think you have any way of possibly getting anywhere further in this story that you’ve already been bleeding yourself dry in order to get out there.
I remember when writing the first draft of Buddy Hero, I reached a moment in which I literally had no clue of anything that was going on in the story any longer. And I remember going backwards in re-reading what I had written and not remembering half of it, and also thinking that I needed to completely rewrite the whole thing from the start, even though I had spent months getting to this point already.
And I broke down.
I literally got to such a level of frustration that I couldn’t possibly continue any further and tears started falling because I had put so much of myself into this thing so far, and I felt no connection to it any longer, and I knew that I simply needed to throw it all away because it wasn’t what I had thought I was making.
I’d love to tell you that this was the only time I felt this way in my history as an author, but the truth is, I feel this way quite often. This feeling of absolute distress because something I’ve put so much energy into just isn’t quite what I had expected it to be and I either don’t have any idea of how to get it back on track, or am terrified about the amount of effort I’m going to have to perform in order to get it back on track.
This feeling of despair is, from what I’ve seen talking to my friends who are authors, as well as my own experience, common.
How couldn’t it be? This is an expression of yourself. Whether you’re simply working on your own memoirs or something involving space cyborg-unicorns (or is it cyborg space-unicorns?), it is an expression of who you are. That means that any time that self-expression doesn’t feel right, or isn’t received in the way you expect/hope it to be, it can be a significant blow against yourself.
Writing, like any artform, is a process of making oneself vulnerable, of showing parts of yourself that you would never show to anyone otherwise. In my books, I’ve tackled things such as my issues with religion, my issues with politics, my issues with family, and the story I’m working on right now is basically me dealing with the possibility of my wife dying. These are all very dear and personal topics that I typically avoid talking about, and here I’ve put them all to the page in one way or another, typically through a few filters of abstraction, for people to read and comment on in whatever way they see fit. Heck, some of those comments even come from people who haven’t read the story at all, but just want to give a negative review for the sake of giving a negative review (speaking of a relatively recent review I got where the reviewer obviously skimmed through a few pages, saw a name, and decided that was the protagonist even though they appear infrequently, and based their entire review around that).
Which means that even after finishing a book, I can get hit out of left field when someone reads my book and simply doesn’t like it. While a part of me definitely knows that my books aren’t for everyone, another part takes it as a personal attack.
I’ve never been great at dealing with emotions, and I’ve been even worse at dealing with people not liking me, so, these are two things I’ve traditionally attempted to avoid in my adult life…
These are not things that can be avoided well as an artist of any type. Sure, you can attempt to develop a thick skin, or ignore the Internet comments, but the truth of the matter is, you’re going to be your harshest critic, and you will get down on yourself the most about anything you feel isn’t quite right and whether it’s in the midst of your first draft, or during the editing process, or simply while thinking about what to write next, you will reach that point of despair where it becomes almost impossible to function. Where you will shut down a part of yourself that you feel is dear to you.
Writing is not for the faint of heart. We have to be warriors, ready to battle against all who would dare to tell us we’re not good enough, even if it’s ourselves we have to battle for that. And sometimes that battle is almost impossible to win.
So, should you write? Yes, I absolutely believe you should. But be prepared, because there’s a ton of heartache ahead of you if you do.