My favorite Creative Writing professor just agreed to do an independent study with me this summer while I’m on campus taking classes. We’ll grab coffee or sit on the docks by the river once a week and discuss a piece of my writing, probably a chapter, each week.
I find writing to be so much easier when I work toward a deadline, and when I know that someone will be reading my work. I think most writers, regardless of their ages or experience levels, can relate to that.
But a confession: within 24 hours of seeing my summer plans start to unfold the way I hoped they would, I began to get anxious. You see, my ultimate goal is to finish my monstrous work-in-progress, which I’ve literally been working on for YEARS.
Like, the original seed of the idea came to me near the end of high school. The story has grown and changed as I have, but there are only so many times you can re-imagine a troupe of characters and a setting before you’ve overworked them. So this is sort of my last chance to finish the thing. Meanwhile, I’m struggling to get back into writing after a brief hiatus, and I’m as yet unconvinced that my would-be novel is even any good.
While talking to a friend who I alternately think of as my muse or my ass-kicker, depending on the circumstances, I voiced my current fear:
“What if I spend from now until the end of summer working on my novel and it’s just shit?“
“You’ll move on and write something else,” he said. He’s right, of course. And he’s not even a writer.
Here are the top three reasons why I personally doubt myself as a writer, though there are many many more:
1) It’s hard.
No kidding. It’s hours and hours of work with no guaranteed payoff. If it were easy, everybody would write a book. Do it anyway.
2) What if my family disowns me and my social life evaporates?
Have you seen yourself when you’re not writing? Without a creative outlet, your coffee buzz is just hyperactivity. I’ve seen you yell at blank word documents. You drag down every social interaction because of the crushing guilt in the pit of your stomach. Seriously, your friends and family are lucky to know the writer version of you.
3) I don’t want to fail.
Failed writing is good practice; at least you’re writing! All rough drafts can and should be improved (drastically, if they’re mine), and you get unlimited do-overs. Perhaps most importantly, characters and settings from dud stories can always be repurposed for future writings.
To take my mind off the daunting goal of finishing my novel, I’ve set myself a word count goal every day. The only way I can control how my novel turns out four months from now is by writing today.
I’ll admit, I’ve already fallen short of my word count goal one day this week. But I still wrote that day, and that’s better than the weeks before this one.