Have you ever tried to quit writing? Promised everyone near and far that you were no longer going to keep being the schmuck who pounds the keyboard, willingly and knowingly sending out queries and synopses and manuscripts to those who will, for the most part, reject them?
How long did you last?
I’ve never been able to quit for more than six hours. This doesn’t mean that I’m writing every six hours – I don’t even know what that would look like. It does mean though, that my attempts to quit are usually stifled by that tickle of an idea in the back of my mind of how I can improve what I’ve written, of a character I could craft, of the way I’d describe a setting. And then – BAM! – I’m writing again, even if it isn’t producing words.
Why do I keep doing this to myself? (Not a rhetorical question)
It’s not because I’m crazy. (I mean, I AM, a little bit, but everyone is, right? RIGHT?!?)
It’s not because I don’t have anything else to do. (I work full-time, have a husband & three kids. I’m never bored)
It’s not because I’m such a success at everything in my life that I can’t help but stretch to find one little thing that will allow me to be humble. (Life has provided ample opportunities for humility, thank you very much)
Turns out the reason I keep trying to do this is because it is what I LIKE to do. No, really.
“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
This means that we enjoy struggling, that we embrace complicated things, that our ability to negotiate difficult things FEELS GOOD.
Do you know what this means?
This means that if you ever do figure out how to write books like the wind, have characters that manifest themselves to you the first time you imagine them, have plots that have perfect pacing and everything else your critique partners, readers, agents and editors point out every single time you are writing, YOU’LL BE UNHAPPY.
What’s a writer to do?
Well, you have two choices. Write what will make you miserable or feel miserable (off and on) while writing.
Hopefully you didn’t just quit again. If so come back and read the rest in a few hours.
If you’re stubborn like me, here’s what you do.
You show up. EVERY. BLEEPIN’. DAY.
I don’t always like to show up. Sometimes I want to sit on my couch and binge watch New Girl or Madam Secretary and eat crap and pretend I’m happy. But I get restless, this urging to create great work, and the speed with which I can put away OREO Thins is not great work.
The last time I almost quit was a few weeks ago. I was rewriting a chapter and it was painful work that I trudged through and slogged through, slowly typing a measly article then a noun, and debating over entirely too many verbs. Netflix was looking really REALLY good.
But then I remembered my favorite TED talk. It is Elizabeth Gilbert sharing her thoughts and feelings on being the person who wrote Eat, Pray, Love and had it accidentally become an international bestseller. In Your Elusive Creative Genius, Liz shares the process of several people, the way they didn’t lose their mind in pursuit of creative greatness, and how we too can create work that is fulfilling and satisfying, despite the struggle.
I remembered that there were times in my process when I have laughed and cried and clapped and threw my arms in the air when I had completed a difficult scene, finally figured out the voice of the characters, finished whatever version of a manuscript I have been working on. I have reflected on the struggle, felt a little flicker of pride for what I’ve been able to get done. If you are reading this, chances are pretty high you’ve felt this too, even a little. Everything that you’ve trudged through, the times when you pull your hair, put it up, take it down, remove glasses, rub eyes finally comes together and you have a little victory dance.
And then, in that moment, you feel
How do you work through the struggle of writing? What do you do to celebrate even the smallest of victories?
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Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and coordinator of the project-based learning center (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a hint of magic, and thrives on Diet Coke, chocolate and cinnamon bears.
She is a co-founder and the managing editor for the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog as well as the Women's Fiction Writers Association quarterly magazine (Write On!), where she also serves as a board member. Tasha is represented by Annelise Robey of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.