What the Working Writer Knows: It's *All* Uphill

The Greeks used to tell of a smart aleck named Sisyphus, a trickster king who committed various naughty deeds and even managed to outwit Death himself. Unfortunately for our boy Sisyphus, he lived long enough to seriously hack off the gods, who devised the famously-fiendish punishment of requiring him to roll a giant boulder up a mountain, which invariably tumbled back down each time he had nearly reached the top.

A lot of people entertain various fantasies about what it is to be a published novelist. They're convinced that at some point, you'll have "made it" and can lean back to bask elegantly in the warm glow of success. But the truth is that each manuscript necessarily falls a little short of that perfect, shining ideal with which you started (since we're all imperfect people). And worse yet, when you're finished and contemplate work on a new one, you find yourself down at the bottom of the hill wondering how you'll ever make it to the top again. In my experience and that of the scores of authors I know, the backbreaking labor never gets easier, and certain books -- whether they're the novelist's fourth or fiftieth -- are particularly torturous.

But unlike Sisyphus, each writer makes a choice whether to push that boulder uphill with each day's work and every manuscript. And that choice makes all the difference in the world.

So what keeps you struggling uphill? Do you have any special motivational techniques, especially ones that help when there's as yet no deadline looming?


TJ Bennett said…
Hi, Colleen. Great posts from you and Joni both on the struggles and trials of being a writer. The only thing that motivates me is the slow trickle of insanity that invades my brain if I ignore the venting of my writing spleen on the page for too long. As I told one lady recently who seemed to be looking for what motivates most writers to write, "I write because I can't NOT write." It isn't as often or as steady as I'd like to, but it's there. And it whacks me over the head if I ignore it for too long. *Ouch*.