I never have more ideas, really good exciting ideas, than when I’m stuck on a project. Right now, for instance, I should be writing my novel about a modern office worker caught up in the machinations of the gods of Olympus. Instead, in the past few days I’ve had a really great idea for a short story (finished), four children’s books (three of which I finished…the fourth languishes because I’m having trouble coming up with monsters that grade-schoolers would recognize for every letter of the alphabet), and two other novels (which I’m trying really hard to ignore).
I also have ideas for a bunch of craft projects, and an urge to redecorate my bedroom. (‘Redecorate’ implies that it was ever decorated in the first place, which might not be altogether accurate.)
Basically, I’m inspired to do just about anything other than figure out the plot snarl in chapter 15 and finish the dang novel.
And that’s because inspiration is (to paraphrase Thomas Edison) only one percent of creation. The idea is the easy thing. When it’s shiny and new, all made of potential and dream-stuff, it’s fun to hang around with your creative endeavor. But trying to turn that dream into reality is HARD. The words don’t come out right. The plot you thought would just flow onto the page instead dribbles out in contradictory fits and starts. The characters you hoped would practically write themselves turn out to be cardboard cutouts with no motivation. And you can’t remember how to spell ‘volunteer’, or whichever other word you can never remember how to spell. Bonus points if it’s one spell-check doesn’t recognize.
Here’s the part where you were probably hoping to find a simple, easy solution for this conundrum. But you no doubt realize that if I had one, I wouldn’t be writing this essay. I’d be writing my novel, which is what I’m supposed to be doing. Or better yet, I’d have already finished my novel since I have a simple, easy solution for overcoming writer’s block. Then I’d slap together a book on how to write your novel in six easy steps.
All I have is persistence, and I don’t always have that. You’re never going to get past the block by ignoring it or fleeing from it. I try really hard to write every day, and at least some of that time I try to work on my book. Some days I get a little done. Most days, I get practically nothing done. Every once in a while, my muse graces me with her blessing and I get one of those days where my inspiration overwhelms my keyboard buffer. Those are beautiful days, all the more so because they’re so rare.
Most days, it’s a hard slog with little reward, just like anything else worthwhile. Writing, if you want to be good at it, is hard work. It’s not always fun. It’s hardly ever easy. But at the end you get to turn your dreams into reality so other people can experience them.
That’s worth a little existential agony.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I should be getting back to my novel. It’s not going to write itself.
–David Goodner, DFWWW member since 2012