A Bit of Honesty about the Uncertain Path

Let me share a little secret with you. I don’t always know what I’m doing. I lack reliable systems for writing a novel or growing as an artist or taking my work to the next level. A proper path, pattern or school doesn’t exist for writers like me. I’m stuck with training myself.

What I do is get up each morning and keep working, and sometimes, it really doesn’t get me anywhere. I recently abandoned a novel I’d been working on for half a year because I simply could not get it to come together. I tried, believe me. I wrote three different versions of the first half of it, thinking I’d get closer to the heart of it and figure it out as I got further in. Since I know it’s normal for me to struggle with first drafts, I didn’t let the first-draftness deter me. I figured hurdles were part of the process, and yet I kept encountering a certain crux that underpinned the whole story. I needed a working construct which would not materialize, and finally, I had to accept that I couldn’t solve the puzzle. Much as I loved that novel, I couldn’t figure it out. It would not yield.

So I shelved it, and I’ve started another. It’s completely different. I’m trying a different process with it, and I have a fresh new set of doubts. I could say it’s a response to the book I couldn’t write—safer, in a way, and more dangerous in another. But it’s also just a new story that fascinates me, with characters I wish to understand. I want to explore and dissect this next world, and disconcertingly, I’m afraid of how it all might end.

To be honest, it’s a little embarrassing. I don’t know any other job where a person can admit he or she just spent half a year on a project that essentially failed. Yet maybe speaking of this might help some other writer or artist realize that this happens. It’s real. I don’t have anything to show for all that work, but the days of writing still had meaning for me. I count that worthwhile, and it’s far too soon to give up.

One book beat me, it’s true. But I have more stories to write.

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