Week two check-in, and actually at the two week mark. Week two is the notoriously difficult week. When enthusiasm wanes and you’re left with a bit of a slog. A disastrous half-conceived plot. Characters that once raced to get things done, now going through the motions aimlessly. Disenchantment with the whole thing.
It’s been harder and harder to not listen to the inner editor (aka brain weasels, aka jerkbrain). I kept thinking about how terrible my writing was and how boring it was. I still didn’t know how some key pieces were going to work. I had lost faith in the process. Everything just felt wrong. I found myself glancing at the word count every page and then every paragraph and then every sentence. Did I hit the goal yet? Could I stop for the day? Disheartening to say the least.
In No Plot, No Problem, Chris Baty points out that this is the week to remind yourself, “Don’t get it right, get it written.” But even when I told myself that, I just had a hard time getting words out on the page. It was like pulling teeth, but slower and without anesthesia.
But I still did it.
This has been the longest that I’ve ever stuck with a writing project. This is the most words I’ve ever contributed to a single thing. And sure, they are messy and imperfect and mostly garbage, but an actual freaking novel is taking shape. I was so fixated on the daily word count that I lost sight of what I was really trying to do.
I had gotten to the part where it felt like work, and that was something I had never confronted before. It reminded me of the most useful piece of advice I got from the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson: choose your struggle.
Because the fact of the matter is, everything is work and struggle. Life is work and struggle. And if you have the opportunity to be able to choose what to work and struggle at, you should seize it. But never forget that the nature of pursuing anything is to throw yourself into it and claw your way out of entropy.
When it started to feel like work, I’ll admit that the self-doubt and insecurity waxed again. I said lots of useless and terrible things to myself. Completely violated that tenet of “treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love.” But what I was doing was conflating the fact that I was struggling with the idea that I couldn’t do it.
Writing is deceptive. It’s not easy, though it’s easy to think that it is. It’s something so integrated into our daily lives that we forget that writing is actually a craft, a skill that needs to be developed. As with all things, it requires practice. And practice means sitting down and putting in the words. Even when it feels terrible and you don’t want to. Even when every word seems wrong.
The discouragement I was feeling bled into how vigilant I was being about other aspects of my life. I became a little lax in the processes that were helping me stay focused (that entropy thing), and this next week is going to be about getting those back in place again. Retrospectively, focusing a bit on the daily word count may have been helpful to keep me putting one foot in front of another, one word after another.
But we’re on the other side now, and we’re halfway through. I hear it gets better from here.
Day 14 word count: 31,205