(originally published on my website, JoshuaBecktheWriter.com)
Some days, I hate writing. Some days, it feels like a chore rather than my greatest joy.
Take yesterday, for example. After sitting down to edit a chapter, I found that I needed to refer back to a previous chapter to make sure I was being consistent in something or other. Consistency, you know, is very important. But lo and behold, that previous chapter didn’t exist.
Now, I knew I had written it, and I had edited it, and edited it a few more times since then. I knew which two chapters it was supposed to be sitting in between- both of which were still very much present. But it just wasn’t there. It wasn’t in my full manuscript, or in my separate folder that has each chapter saved individually.
I don’t know who’s at fault here. I’m quick to blame Microsoft Word- this wouldn’t be the first time that Windows decided to delete a few chapters. But user error more likely played a hand in it as well, at least partially.
The good news is that I am a stickler for creating back ups. I have redundancies upon redundancies, which meant I was able to go back and locate the missing chapters (yes, it turns out there was more than one absent from my manuscript). But all the time I had planned to spend editing last night was instead filled with locating the missing chapters, reading through them to make sure they were the most up-to-date versions I had edited, and plugging them back into the document where they were supposed to go.
Even without that unique situation, there are may frustrating days being a writer. There are days when I just stare at a blank page, unable to think of a single word to begin the chapter I want to write. There are days when I’m editing where it feels like every sentence I type is complete trash, or where after I get to the end of a chapter, I end up deleting the whole thing. There are days- weeks, even- when I don’t open my book at all, and days when I do open it only to realize that pages and pages of what I’d written need to be majorly reworked or tossed out completely.
There was even a time when I threw out everything I had written over the previous two years and started again. I felt like quitting multiple times. I felt like getting this book finished was an impossible task, and that I’d never write something that I felt was worth reading.
I wouldn’t trade a single moment of that frustration for anything. For every frustrating day, I have moments where the plot lines fall into place perfectly. I have moments where I realize something hidden about the characters I’m creating, where I find hidden meanings or awesome moments. There’s nothing compared to the thrill I get when the story just works. When I am reading it and I can forget for a moment that I’m the one who wrote it and simply enjoy it. It is one of the most fascinating experiences I’ve ever had.
What’s more, though, is that being a writer is a part of who I am. I can’t give it up. I could try, but I know that if I decided to quit writing today, I’d be writing again tomorrow. I’d be writing tomorrow because there are stories in me that need to be told. There are characters in my head who have to have their voices heard. There’s an adventure to be had, one I’ve been cultivating for years, one that I can’t wait to share it with everyone.
If you have the inclination to write… do it. Don’t be discouraged by the bad days or by frustration. Don’t be discouraged when you feel like you need to throw out everything you’ve just written, or when you haven’t had the drive to write in months. Sometimes you need to take time to get a fresh perspective on your story, and sometimes you need to write a bad chapter to make way for you to write a better one.
And if you are writing with the goal of being published, don’t be discouraged when you see other authors pushing out one or more books a year while you are struggling to complete one. Everyone writes at their own speed, and each story is unique. Go at your own pace, and don’t stop until you’ve got something that you are happy with.
And most importantly, write the book you want to read. Don’t concern yourself with how well it will sell or what is popular and what isn’t. This isn’t everyone else’s book. It’s yours.
I’ve been writing my first book for almost two decades. They say the first book takes the longest, and I’ve really been testing the limits of that notion. But when I look back on all the failed drafts and discarded chapters I don’t see failures; I see the stepping stones to build the story I want to tell. I needed all of those bad days to make this book happen.
Writing isn’t leisure; it is definitely work. But for those of us who write… there’s nothing more enjoyable in the whole wide world. Bad days and all.