When the writing gets tough, the tough get writing.
It’s hot. It’s sticky. If you’re feeling anything like me, you’re feeling a little lazy. Okay, maybe a lot lazy, but writers write. So how to keep it up as we enter the season of vacations, naps, and picnics? I’ve been thinking a lot about how to write through the tough periods. You know those times when your blank screen mocks you and your fingers aren’t able to find the right keys. (If you’ve never experienced this, count yourself blessed.) I know deep in my heart that it doesn’t matter whether the words come easily or not, I must write regardless. I also know that’s it’s more fun when you sit down to your computer and everything just flows. It’s nice when you start typing and the next thing you know, your characters have taken you down a road you never expected and the next time you look up, you’ve written three chapters. That’s a wonderful feeling. Savor it. None of us needs help when we have writing days like that. It’s harder when each paragraph–each word–comes slowly. When you find that your fingers keep hitting the delete key. Or worse: your fingers don’t want to move anywhere. Since I’m in the middle of one of those stretches, I’m going to share whats getting me through: (1) Be honest with yourself about your level of commitment. Last week, Ellen Byron (the amazing talent behind the Cajun Country Mystery series) wrote a wonderfully insightful blog on Career Authors about the difference between being committed and being interested. I won’t try to revise what she wrote. Please check it out yourself. The take away is: If you’re committed, you’ll do what’s necessary even when it’s uncomfortable and difficult. (2) If you’re committed, you will figure out a way through. When I turned thirty, I committed to running a marathon. That meant running increasingly long runs every weekend. I did those practice runs pushing my young daughter in a purple baby jogger. As the runs got longer, her patience grew shorter. Let me tell you, when your baby starts crying, it’s hard to not just turn around and go home. But. . . but I was committed to running a marathon. I found snacks and toys to keep her occupied as I ran 18 then 20 then 22 miles along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. Finally, I was ready. Then September 11th happened. My original plan for when and where I was going to run changed. Instead of giving up, I searched for the next marathon I could run without causing undue hardship on my family. Turns out it was Baltimore. The route back then was known for being hillier than Boston. I hadn’t trained for hills, but I registered anyway. My lack of uphill training manifested itself some excruciating knee pain by mile 5. A volunteer medic told me that even though the pain was bad, I wasn’t causing any irreparable damage. I kept running. I finished. The end. If you decide you’re more interested than committed, by all means take the summer off. There’s nothing wrong–and everything right–with taking a break when you need it. If, however, you are committed, you can check back here this week for tips on getting through the challenging bits. On Friday, my fellow Miss Demeanors will share their best writing advice for getting to the finish line. In the mean time, consider where you are on the interest-commitment spectrum. If you take the summer off: enjoy! If not: I hope you’ll share your thoughts on writing when the writing gets tough.