I’m a First Reader for a couple of people, a position that grants me
the power to sharpen my red pen on someone else for a change a chance to help someone get their work from finished to polished. It’s something I enjoy doing, mostly because the people I know are thick-skinned enough that I have to use quite the armour-piercing round to hurt them.
But I had an email exchange with a friend over a piece she was preparing for a non-fiction submission, and something about it struck me. Seems like an issue that pops up for a lot of writers.
Rather than paraphrase, I’ll let her own words say it:
So I’ve just spent the day…working on my submission. I have learned, irritably, that the more I care about something the HARDER IT IS. Seriously, babe, I had to fucking GRIND this out. It was hard like writing’s never been before and, considering the piece I chose for submission was already written and just needed to be whittled down to make the character count. . . I can’t even finish that sentence. I don’t know where I was going with it. I am out of words. Spent.
I’m not going to lie, it’s a little disheartening. I don’t like how hard this was, don’t like that the more I care about something, the more it stresses me out.
And, man, who hasn’t been there? Who among us who tries creative endeavour has not run into this fucking wall? I sure as hell have. So here’s what I wrote back:
Sorry that you found it so hard. I don’t know if this will help or not, but I’ve found that when you’re doing something a lot, and on a deadline, there are days when it’s hard. Even if it’s something you love. Probably especially when it’s something you love, because there’s a part of you that thinks because you love it, it should be easy. Or that you shouldn’t mind the times when it’s hard.
Which is bullshit, of course. Hard is hard, and those days when you’ve got to pry every single word from your reluctant brain fucking suck. I should know, I’ve had about a million of ’em. I love writing fiercely, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t times when, if my writing was a person, I’d have to leave the room to keep from caving their head in with a table lamp.
And, yeah, it’s harder when it’s something you really care about. You don’t want to know how much I revise the stuff I send to you, or the stuff I send in to anthologies. The trick, I’ve found, is to care deeply.
And then let it go.
Words to live by. I should try taking my own advice sometimes. Because those hard days…well, they come around. No matter what you do, they come around. Sometimes all you can do is go to bed and say, “tomorrow will be different.”