5 1/2 years.
That’s roughly how long I’ve been working on this novel.
That’s how long I’ve been trying to figure out writing and me and life.
2,138 days of recovering from PTSD, spilling my heart onto the paper, growing as a writer, editor and person, and believing that my story still has a reason to live.
I think one of the hardest things for us to do as writers is to hold on. To believe in our novel, our dream, ourselves when frustration and disappointment scream to throw it all away because WRITING. IS. HARD.
Writing can knock the wind out of you. Writing can simultaneously give you your highest high and send you crashing into your most dismal abyss. Writing can sing a siren’s call, syphoning your soul as you die with a smile.
[You: Wait, WHAT?! I don’t want to die!!!
Me: Good! Then learn to ride the song rather than get dragged down by its undercurrent.]
So how do we hold on when the days keep ticking by like the hands of a clock, always moving forward in a rhythm we sometimes can’t match? Where do we get the chutzpah to keep going when others are finished, agented, published and we’re still “back here” trying to figure it out?
How in the world do we hold?!
1. Claim YOU.
Who are you? Don’t tell me what you do; tell me who you are. What are the characteristics you choose to define you? What are the characteristics of the roles you find yourself filling right now? Writer is what you do. CREATIVE is who you are. Make your list. Get rid of the ones that aren’t serving you any more. Breakdown the ones that need breaking down into smaller pieces… like writer, like teacher, like boss. Claim you. Define you. If you don’t, someone else will.
2. Establish WHY.
Why do you write? Why do you love it? Why this story? Why does it make your heart sing? Why does it deserve to be published? Why do readers need to have it in their lives? Why is the Universe trying to birth it through you? Make no mistake, my friend, the Universe has stories to tell and there is a reason you were chosen. Don’t believe me? Write a letter to your main character and ask him or her why YOU are the one to write his or her story.
3. Burn the junk.
Yep. I said burn it. Every time you sit down to write take 5 minutes to scribble out all the negative self-talk and programming you hear. All that “you’re not a real writer” stuff, burn it. Anything that says “So-and-so is published and you’re not,” burn it! Write down anything that tries to dissuade you from yourself, your why, your story, your purpose and then take it out back and BURN IT! (I don’t recommend setting it on fire inside… don’t ask me how I know.)
Once you do these 3 things, you’ll either increase your capacity to hold on to a story for however long it needs or you’ll gain the clarity to let go of a story that was only meant to help you increase your skill. Because, yes, sometimes holding on to writing means letting go of an idea. But you won’t know when it’s time to let go if you aren’t clear on who you are, why you write, and how to get rid of the junk blocking your vision.
You got this! You can hold. I believe in you.