Staying Power.

I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t feel like writing the blog post today. The week seems to have raced by and I’m surprised it’s suddenly Friday again, and when I was considering this last night, I thought, I’m tired. I don’t really feel like writing the blog tomorrow. Perhaps I should just give it up. My followers have plateaued. I don’t even bother really promoting it much anymore. And I have so many other projects I could be working on, which might conceivably earn me money. Not to mention that I need to clean the house, think about what we’re having for tea tomorrow, and hang out some washing.

But even while thinking that, I knew I would write it. Part of the reason is because the Handsome Sidekick would ask me if I’d written it, and I’m a really bad liar, so I’d have to hang my head in shame and admit I hadn’t. And part of the reason is because I don’t really have a good excuse to not do it.

Of course, I have excuses. There are always excuses! Some of them are really good ones. I’ve a lot on my mind, with both our cats unwell at the moment and quite certainly getting ready to shuffle off this mortal coil. Fourth Offspring hurt his mouth a few weeks ago and now one of his teeth is going grey, and I’m worried it will need extracting (it’s a baby tooth so hopefully no big deal, but he has such a lovely smile, and it will be a real shame if he needs it out). The lawn needs mowing. I have to paint the walls in the bathroom. There are many, many reasons for me not to sit down and write this post.

But it’s not just the blog. I’m slowly working through my novel, editing and rewriting, and it’s painstaking work. Many days, I want to give up. I find it so hard to sit down and work through it, knowing that I won’t be done when I reach the end. It will need another edit and more rewrites. That’s partly because the first draft was so rough, but also because I want to polish it to be the best I can make it. After I’ve finished this edit, I’ll send it to several friends who also happen to be editors, and who have kindly agreed to read it for free, and offer an opinion about it. And then, I’ll go through and edit it again. By that stage, hopefully, it will be finished. No doubt, I’ll probably hate it a bit by then, but I’ll put it away for a week or two, and then, finally, I can look into submitting it for publication. It takes Such. A. Long. Time.

I could just give up.

I’ve been writing lots of short stories lately. I could stick with them. I also have several poems I’m collecting together to make a chapbook. I could stick with that. But if I don’t finish this novel, then I won’t be able to start the next one, and I really want to write the next one. The story begs for itself to be written. I’m impatient to start it; it’s exciting and I think it could be really great. And therein lies the rub.

They’re always so seductive, new ideas. They court you, only showing you the most interesting, the most fascinating sides of themselves. They’re attractive and funny and you find yourself falling for them, even as you don’t really have time for that kind of relationship right now. Then you think, what the hey, I’ll go for it. And the new idea moves in.

Then instantly, you see all those flaws you missed when it was courting you, and, let’s be truthful here, when you were courting it. It’s hardly all the new idea’s fault. All those issues, which now seem so obvious, were there all along, and you chose to ignore them. And now you have to decide if this is something you can work with. Are you up for the challenge? Have you got the staying power? Are you willing to commit? And if so, then you’re really going in with your eyes open.

Of course, there are times when you do just have to let a project go, or at least put it aside until you’ve both matured enough to work out how you can coexist. Sometimes we’re just not ready for that kind of commitment, no matter how hard we try. But in my case, it’s usually that I need to just buckle down and get it done. And that is hard. It is really hard, not to just excuse it away and justify, with very justifiable reasons, why I should be able to give up.

Recently I read a post about commitment and writing, and it was just what I needed to hear. However one measures success, the most important point to note is that it’s not all about talent. It’s about luck, it’s about timing, but most of all, it’s about commitment. Showing up, consistently, is the thing that sets you apart. Deciding to do something, and then not giving up on it, even when it’s really hard: that’s the key.

There are always going to be other writers who can write better than I can. I’m not the fastest writer in the world, and that makes both freelancing and novel-writing difficult, but it’s the thing I do. It’s what I want to do to earn a living. I like it – I love it, even – despite the fact that it’s sometimes really hard. I doubt I’ll ever write a best-seller; I will probably never make millions of dollars from my work, but at least I will be able to say, at the end of the day, I kept at it, even though there were a myriad of other, new, exciting, more attractive options to try. That is how I will measure success, because I’m the only one who can know just how easy it would have been, for me to give up, and do something else.

Right. Back to editing, I suppose. Wish me luck.

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6 thoughts on “Staying Power.

    • Absolutely – even though sidestepping does sometimes feel like you’re giving up. It’s not, of course, and rarely does any path go straight from A to B, but I think we often feel like it should!

  1. A great blog post. I feel exactly the same sometimes. Right now I’m in a slightly different position. Yes, the blog followers have plateaued, yes the numbers of daily visitors has plummetted, but I’m writing blog posts at a manic pace, with posts scheduled up to mid-June. I work on the blog when I should be spending time on my book (second draft nearly complete and ready to send to those friend-editors), spending time on my newspaper and magazine pitches, re-writing my rejected book. Or maybe I should be transforming the blog posts into something more commercial. I don’t know. All I know is that if I don’t write I’m miserable and grouchy. And maybe the seduction of the blog is that it never becomes more than that first flirtation – there is no deep examination, no seeing the flaws and the not-so-perfect bits.

    • You know, I think there is a lot to that — that the blog posts (for me, the short stories) don’t require the long hours of editing and rewriting that the novel does. It’s a really protracted process and requires a big picture overview which I’ll admit I find difficult to do. But I’m like you. I really find it hard to not write.
      I also find myself working on blog posts or even journal posts when I should be writing fiction, and I’m sure it’s because that way I can fulfill the need to write without all the harder work involved in polishing it.

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