The Scary Truth

Do you remember what my writing desk used to look like? I told you things would change:

Picture that with a number of coffee cups, an empty pretzel bag, several wadded tissues, tons of teeny paper scraps, and a dozen gum wrappers, and that's how it looks these days. Next time I take a picture, I'll do it before the cleaning. I was too embarrassed today.

So March is almost over, and it occurred to me that if I didn't post here this weekend, I wouldn't get a "March 2008" link under my archives list. And that bothers the OCD in me.

Usually I have blog ideas up the wazoo (95% of them never make it here due to my excessive laziness), but today I find myself challenged. So perhaps I should talk about that. Challenges. Goals. And writing. Because right now, these three are one in the same for me.

I'm in the deep, dark midst of writing a novel. And it's not like my previous attempts. In the past, novel writing has felt like being kicked out of a helicopter into the middle of a big scary ocean. And I lie on my back and try to float and frog-kick my way through it to the shore, but I always wind up wearing myself out. And that's when the sharks devour me.

This time I'm still in a big scary ocean. But I have a life preserver. A very tiny, flimsy one, but a life preserver nonetheless. And I think I'm wearing flippers. Which are speeding me along, to the best of their ability.

I can't explain it much better than that, other than I have hope for the first time. The shore is still far away. But I know it is there. And the sharks are circling underneath, but they aren't hungry yet.

It never ceases to amaze me how difficult writing a novel is. Or how something I love so much can be so hard to sit down and do. That's the hardest part. Sitting down. And typing.

But I LOVE my current novel. I hate it too, of course. It's only natural. But the love is so much stronger. And every time I manage to get my butt in my chair, I never want to leave my novel behind. I mean, it causes me actual, physical pain to say goodnight to my characters. To go to my REAL job, the one that pays.

I hope that someday writing will be my real job. But if I ever want to be one of the few, one of the fortunate (And I do! So badly!), it will only come with hard work. Working past blank pages and bad dialogue and embarrassing cliches. And doing it everyday, even when I feel gross and stupid and tired and frustrated.

One of my favorite writers, Shannon Hale, says that "writing a novel is not for sissies." She says, "No one can write a book. It's too long and complicated. But I can make some sentences. I can find some characters. I can put them into scenes. And slowly, slowly, the book will come."

And from Neil Gaiman: "You write. That's the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days . . . The search for the [right] word gets no easier but nobody else is going to write your novel for you."

So this is my plan. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing.

It's all I can do.

And it is the only thing that will get the job done.