Novel Writing: Persevering Past the Not Good

I finally shared a draft of my novel with some other humans last week!

I immediately regretted it. Then I decided I didn’t regret it. And then I concluded that this 62,000-word project I’ve been pouring all of myself into for the past 9 months was a bunch of junk. But it was still good I wrote it. For me. But no one else should be subjected to it. But no, I should subject them, because otherwise how would I ever get better?

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Being Not Good

My brain has been bouncing every which way the past week, wanting to solve this story of mine, solve it like it’s a huge convoluted crossword puzzle that will make sense if I can just fit all the pieces together right. I feel this intense drive to fix it, to make it work, to make it something good.

Then I start thinking I am simply not cut out to be a writer, and I’ve been wasting all my time.

My brother (who did not bother to read my manuscript, but did listen to me vent for a few minutes) said I should re-watch this video he sent me over a year ago, which basically says: If you want to be good at something, you have to be willing to work hard. And in the beginning, you’re not going to be good at it.

A very helpful reminder.

People say it’s 90% hard work. (Or maybe that was just Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give.) That much is clear to me. Talent plays a part, and often people start pursuits because they are naturally better at them than others, but that talent can only take you so far. You reach your natural limit. Then comes the hard work.

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy the challenge of attempting to accomplish something great. I actually find it thrilling. If it’s easy, what’s the point? But there comes a point when you have to ask yourself, WHY? Why am I putting in all this hard work, and is it worth it? Is this the great thing I want to pour all of my time and energy into attempting to accomplish?

I find myself at that crossroads right now.

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Love and Obsession

I love writing. I feel alive while exploring truths with my words, attempting to capture a portion of the beauty and complexity of life in the confines of sentences and semi-colons, chapters and characters.

I love it, but I can also get a little obsessed.

Recently I’ve been slightly consumed by this project and the puzzle of trying to solve it. Everything else has fallen by the wayside: eating, sleeping, human interaction, even going to the bathroom (as much as possible). It’s like I’m manic or something. My health has been suffering, and perhaps other parts of my life, too. (I haven’t been paying enough attention to tell.)

Is it worth it? Part of me is a little afraid of myself right now. Maybe I should just drop all this and aim to live a normal life. But another part of me feels like that drive is good.

Don’t all geniuses and successful artists have that? Without that, how do you push past the difficulties, disappointments, and the utter frustration of being currently incapable of accomplishing what you aspire to? That drive is what pushes people to achieve the impossible!

I know I just said I was at a crossroads, but honestly I already know what I’m going to choose. I’m going to keep writing. Whether that means putting aside this story for a time to delve into something new or pouring everything I have into an immediate and aggressive re-write. (I’m leaning toward the latter.)

I am going to solve this puzzle!

Because, it is worth it to me. It’s worth the frustration and never-endingness of it. It’s worth the uncertainty of the goal. It’s even worth the sacrifice of a bit of my health (not too much of it, don’t worry, friends and family). All of that is worth it to close that gap between what I aspire to be and what I am now.

Besides, aiming for normalcy would just be way too boring.

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Posted by

Teacher, preacher, musician, and writer. Follower of Jesus. Half-Korean, half-white American. A perpetual learner. A deep feeler. In awe of God's persistent love.

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