The Road to Hell…and Back




It’s been about a month since I spent any substantial time working on Novel #2. Lots of excuses—dental surgery, friend died, working on some interviews, the book sucks, worried about Novel #1—but none of them are any good. My schedule for this book was three days a week, 800 words a day. Seems innocent enough. Here’s a little outline of the road to hell.

  1. It starts with me feeling lousy in the morning. For a few days I procrastinate and finally do my scheduled writing in the evening.
  2. Next, I miss a day entirely and make it up the next day, on the day I’m supposed to have the day off entirely from writing.
  3. Next, I miss a day and don’t make it up, feeling very guilty about it.
  4. Next, I miss another day and don’t make it up, but now I don’t feel so guilty about it.
  5. Next, remorselessly, I miss another and another and another day. Soon, it’s almost a month since I’ve written any of my 800 words a day.

And back:

  1. Friend calls, says she can’t write, the muse isn’t visiting.  I tell her to hell with the Muse visiting, you have to visit the Muse.
  2. Today is approaching, and I know I want to write this particular post about getting back on the wagon. I’ll feel like a terrible phony if I write about getting back to writing without getting back to writing.
  3. I open the file for the novel, and start reading, and realize I have no idea where I am in the plot.
  4. I write anyway, not caring whether it has any coherence or not. It’s more important to get the 800 words in.
  5. I do it, and it’s still pretty awful.
  6. I know it’s awful, but allow that there just might be some little thing that will make it into the next draft. That’s reward enough right now.
  7. I write this post, so that I can remember the arc of what happened.

For the future:

  1. Stick to my schedule whether I feel like it or not. It’s like what those money gurus tell you about saving money from your paycheck—pay yourself first; writing that book is my first obligation.
  2. It doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad. What matters is 800 words.
  3. If I don’t do it, it won’t be done by anyone else. My years on this planet as a functioning human being are quite finite.
  4. If it doesn’t seem worthwhile, maybe it’s not. But it’s not like I’m doing anything better with the time.
  5.  Okay, maybe I’m fooling myself, it’s all worthless. True, but there’s nothing wrong with fooling myself, if it helps me keep going.
  6.  Whether I write or not, time is going to pass anyway. I can let it pass with a book, or without it. I’ll be happier if I have a book—even if it sucks.
  7. I remind myself about the magic of revision. I can’t revise unless there’s something to revise.
  8. When I see myself slipping down the ladder, get back to the very first rung again, back to the original schedule.

Hope this is helpful to someone out there—but selfishly, I hope this is useful to me!