book,  storytelling,  writing

Apparently, Writing a Novel is Hard

The Ancient of Days
William Blake, 1794

“Think in the morning.  Act in the noon.  Eat in the evening.  Sleep in the night.” 

William Blake

“How do you do it?” a friend in my writing group asked. “How do you turn in this many pages? As a working mother? How did you get this much writing done in a month? How is it possible?”

The answer, my friends, is four thirty a.m.

I hate typing that out loud.

I am a morning person. It’s true. But no one is a that early of a morning person. I certainly am not. But I’ve set a deadline for revising my novel and I realized a few months back that I didn’t have a prayer of meeting the deadline if something in my life didn’t change. And so I sighed and gnashed my teeth and adjusted my alarm clock to go off at an ungodly hour because it is the only hour in my day where no one needs me.

I’m tired.

Stephen King famously said that you should finish your first draft in three months if you were at all serious about it. The idea of it is absurd to me — perhaps it is lack of practice, but I am just not a very fast writer. And so I do what all slow runners do: I put on my shoes and get out there anyway, counting on persistence to pull me through the spots that natural talent won’t.

But every time I want to go back to sleep and ignore the alarm, I remember my friend’s words. How do you get this much writing done? Apparently, if you put the work in, it happens. If you show up, day after day after day, eventually you get there. But you have to show up. Day after day, you have to rise from your dreams and put in the work. Even if it means that you are half-dead and dragging yourself through your real world obligations by Thursday afternoon.

William Blake (1757–1827), Dante and Statius sleep while Virgil watches from Purgatorio

After all, the draft gets closer and closer to completion each week. It’s solid proof that I have done A Thing.

And so, each morning, I put in my hour. I try not to complain. Too much.

I am getting there. I have six chapters left to revise in my far-too-long first novel. I have two and a half months before my Significant Deadline. I can almost taste the joy of completion. If I can just keep going, I’m going to make it.

I want this more than I have wanted anything in a very, very long time.

But when it’s finally done, I am going to sleep for days.

3 Comments

  • Joy Oliver

    Love and admire your persistence. You inspire me to try to keep writing. And I don’t have nearly as many barriers as you do 🙂
    Nana Joy

  • ccyager

    Persevere. Ignore Stephen King. He doesn’t have to work a fulltime job in addition to writing, and he hasn’t for a long, long time. Every person is different, has a different approach, different speed, different need. Find your writing self and be true to her. It sounds like you are working on it, and that’s good. As for 4:30 a.m. — I get up at that time Monday through Friday in order to go to my fulltime job. I don’t get much writing done during the week, so I protect my weekends for it. Good luck with finishing. And happy dreams when you finally sleep for days….:-)

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