Chipping Away At the Mountainside

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Imagine that you have a lump of stone. It may be a very pretty stone. It may have fascinating gradations in texture or color. It may have an interesting suggestion of shape or form. But ultimately it’s still just a lump of stone. You have to sand and grind and chip away at it until it becomes something recognizable without destroying the whole thing in the process.

I’m finding that this is rather what editing a book is like. This is the first time in my life that I’ve gotten this deep into the process of Writing (with a capital W), so this is all new to me. Of course, I’ve got several books on how to edit, but as usual I just plowed ahead and tried figuring out how to do it on my own without reading any of them. I suppose that’s not entirely unexpected; each writer has their own way of doing things after all. So I wanted share how I’ve personally proceeded with the writing process on this book. Obviously my way isn’t the only way and I doubt it’s the best or most efficient way. But at least it’s an example of one possible path that you can take.

So, this is how the last 16 months spent with All’s Fair have gone:

close-up-chisel

(click image for source)

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Emotional Somersaults

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On the day before Valentine’s Day, take a moment to reflect on your relationship with your writing. If you’ve written for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that there are good days and bad days. There are days when you love your novel, your short story, your screenplay, your work, both in general and specific to the project at hand. Everything falls into place, almost effortlessly, and you ride a tide of euphoria and bliss. Those are the days when you can’t imagine being anything other than a writer.

Then there are days, often many long, hard, dark days, where you hate your work. You hate the process. You feel the plot is generic, the characters lifeless, the words boring, and the entire enterprise both fruitless and trite. Every writer dreads such days, and all too often those days overshadow all of the good. At those times, you feel like a failure, like you are wasting your time, your life, chipping away at some impossible dream. Those are the days when you feel it would be better to be anything except a writer.

I’m here to tell you that those feelings are normal. It’s normal to go through these emotional somersaults. It’s normal to have periods of fierce pride and joy countered by times of terror and self-doubt. Sometimes all it takes is a day or two away from the desk to walk, dance, read, and get reacquainted with the spark that set us on this artistic journey in the first place. But no matter how you feel, you must come back. You must return to the desk, to the paper and pen, to the screen and keyboard. No relationship is without its difficulties and low points, especially not one as fraught with intimacy as the one between a writer and their work. Remember that no night, no shadow, and no storm lasts forever.

Do not give into despair.

Return.
Continue.
Persevere.

Love the work.
Love thyself.