This Might Be Harder Than I Thought

I hope I don't sound obnoxious when I say this, but I've actually been pretty successful when it comes to going after my dreams.  So much so, that when I started writing, it never even occurred to me that failure was an option. [Silly, silly girl.]  I was blissfully naive about the process of publication.  Sure, I'd heard the odds were slim, but I've never been the kind of person who shied away from a challenge.

As a kid, I was fearless when it came to going after my dreams.  When I was five, I wanted to be a cook, so I talked my way into a "job" working in the kitchen of the golf course restaurant in my neighborhood.  In third grade, I wrote and produced a series of skits and puppet shows that were performed for my entire elementary school.  At age eleven, I signed myself up for a big talent competition and performed a song and dance number in front of a crowd of five thousand people.  In college, I wrote a one act play that was produced and performed at the university.  Shortly after, I tried my hand at amateur theater, and got the first part I auditioned for, at a local dinner theater.  My test scores got me a full scholarship to law school and I graduated number one in my class.  I got my dream job at a firm that does civil trials, becoming a partner in five years.  

Don't hate me yet.

Talent Show

In 2008, I decided it was time to write that novel I'd been talking about writing for years.  I wrote it.  I revised it, I got a fantastic agent for it.  I sold the book to a publisher shortly thereafter, and not only that, I sold my next book the same day to a different publisher off of a 15 page sample.

You can hate me now.  Come to think of it, I kind of hate me now.

Can you see why I might've thought this writing thing was going to be easy?  I had the formula down, sit down, write, succeed. 

Yeah, that's not really how it works.  But then, that's not how anything really works.

Here's the thing: that job at the golf course only lasted one day after the owner of the restaurant found out he had a preschool employee, gave me a dollar and sent me home.  That kid who signed herself up for that big talent competition at age eleven?  She didn't even place.  The play that was produced at college was kind of terrible.  That scholarship was to a school five hundred miles away from my children.  And that partnership means seventy hour work weeks.  But I wouldn't trade any of those experiences away. 

That first book took ten years of stops and starts before I finally wrote it, and I had to throw out and rewrite half of it.  And that second book was a killer.  I had to write it, revise it, and shelve it, before starting over again from scratch.  Although the experience helped me grow as a writer, it was a real confidence shaker at the time.  I had to study plot structure and suck up my pride and find my way out of myself and back to the characters.  And it was hard, really, really hard.

The last book I wrote flowed like rain until I hit the halfway mark, and then I became completely blocked, unable to move forward more than a few words at a time.  I pushed through because I was determined to finish, but for months every word felt like torture and I started to question why I was even doing this.  Eventually, I got to the other side, and I found my way back to a story I love, but I don't know if that book will ever get farther than my critique group.

I'm working on a first draft now and everything feels derivative and hacky.   My logical side knows that first drafts are supposed to feel this way, but like Katherine mentioned yesterday, it's hard to turn off that negative voice in your head when there are other negative voices out there that can be even louder.  Every book I start feels impossible.

Nothing is easy, but writing is especially hard.  Stringing tens of thousands of words together until they start to form a story is tough enough, but making t
hem seem fresh, engaging and smooth is harder.  Even more difficult is creating characters that breathe life into the words, who seem to live and breathe outside of the page.  But when you do, the magic is like nothing else, and it makes every difficult step seem worth it.

Writing is not about winning.  Just take the stage and dance.


I have total faith in you, Talia. You're an awesome dancer. *cues Thriller*

Thanks for this post, Talia. I resonate with everything you said--makes me feel far less alone! :)

Thanks Kristen and Carol. It's good to know you're not alone, and it's always worthwhile to dance!
I've edited the post to include the Thriller dance!

What a fabulous post! There are not many things harder than writing and doing it well. Go us!!

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