By Laura Drake
Press On Regardless. I know you’ve seen this phrase before. It’s one of those old sayings, and like dialog tags, they become invisible after awhile. But it’s more to me – it’s my mantra.
We start this writing journey, naïve, excited, and hopeful. Actually, we’re that way because we don’t know enough to be scared. And that works wonderfully. Like a young woman, pregnant for the first time. Older women shake their heads and think, “If she only knew what she was getting herself into.” But at the same time they smile, and wish just for a moment, they could feel that thrill, of everything ahead.
So you begin. You open a Word doc, and start typing. Along the way you learn about the characters, you learn about the plot, you learn about POV. You’re still excited, but you now have RULES. They’re walls that define your direction. That’s okay, you think, I need structure, because I'm so going to sell this book.
Time goes on. You learn more. You’re in the middle of the book (or the second, or third) and the walls have closed in. Your story is lost and you’re wandering a maze, trying to find it, wondering why this seemed like fun in the beginning.
If it helps, every writer goes through this – almost every book. I wish I could tell you that it gets better.
If you know me or if you’ve read WITS long enough, you’ve seen that I’m driven. I get up every morning at 3 am (even now that I’ve retired) and I write every day. I’ve sold 4 books now. I’m in the middle of writing two more. Sounds impressive, huh?
I have to let you in on a little secret: I’m scared. Every single 3 am I sit down to write, every new chapter, I’m afraid. I’m afraid I don’t know what happens next. I’m afraid the maze is going to open up to a blank wall, and I’m too far in to find my way back. I’m not kidding – seriously afraid.
I’m no different than the person who has good ideas, but who, sitting in front of a blank screen, freezes up and never writes. Except for one thing:
I Press on Regardless. I sit down, every day, afraid that THIS is the day that nothing will come out.
But guess what? Something always does. Some days what comes out is crap. Some days something comes out that is so perfectly what I wanted to say that I’m in awe that I wrote it. Many days, it’s just (hopefully) decent writing.
What I’ve realized through pressing on regardless is that my fear is an illusion. You’ve heard the acronym for fear:
F – False
E – Evidence
A – Appearing
R – Real
It’s true. It’s the little man, behind the curtain, flipping a switch to make flames come out of the huge scary mask. It’s not real. I know, it feels real. Every single day.
I believe that women can understand how fear works better than men, because we experience PMS.
No, really. As a teenager, you’re ruled by the hormone-induced mood swings, right? They’re REAL.
But sometime, maybe your late twenties, you get blasted with the emotion you stand back and think, ‘What’s this about?’ You look at a calendar, and the light bulb goes off. Oh.
You discount the emotion your brain is conjuring, and you go on with your day. As you get older, you recognize it faster. The emotions never stop (well, there’s menopause, but that’s a whole different post.) The emotion always just as strong. The difference is, you learn to press on regardless.
Fear is the same. It never stops feeling real, but you can push through it. I promise, it’s just like the Wizard behind the curtain, or PMS (I have no idea how I put those two together, but it kind of works, doesn’t it?)
You don’t need to know everything about writing to be a good writer. You don’t even need to know what’s going to happen next. All you need to do is to sit down. Today. That’s it.
And when you get scared, Press on Regardless.