Earlier today, I was talking with one of my consulting clients about the book she was writing. She was talking about her lack of motivation to continue working on it, and saying that she had gotten to the point where she just had to decide either to move forward or "pack it in and forget about it." She was frustrated and bored, and trying to move from a head full of "shoulds" (I should write this book, I should write it this way, I should use this voice) back to a place of "want tos."
I told her that she was absolutely right to have this reality check with herself about why she was writing her book, and whether or not she wanted to continue. After all, the writing process is hard enough even if you do want to do the work. So I asked her what her reasoning was behind writing the book in the first place, and what was her motivation. She told me, and as we talked more and more, we realized she already has a lot of her book written--but in posts from her blog. For her, the key is going to be pulling all of these bits and pieces together and figuring out exactly how she can move forward.
Then I asked her if part of the problem was that she was so bogged down in the left-brain, editing side of things that she wasn't allowing herself to be creative. We identified that as a potential problem for her too, that doing all of that organizing and structuring and editing was resulting in boredom. But the real reason for her current resistance turned out to be a disconnect between her original motivations for writing and the needs of the audience she had given her book to for feedback. She originally conceived of the book to be for a general reader, but she'd been critiqued by a group of fellow experts who had their own, often contrary takes on the subject. The more we talked, the more obvious this disconnect became, until I finally asked her "Why are you doing this? And for whom are you doing it??"
For all of us, whether we write short or long, fiction or nonfiction, literary, genre, or commercial, the most important question we can ask ourselves is WHY? Why are we doing this??? The rest of our behaviors, goals, and intentions will follow from our answers to that question. Whether we self or traditionally publish may depend upon our answers as well. Is your primary goal to entertain? To challenge people? To do both? Are you writing mostly for yourself, or are you hoping for an eventual writing career? Do reviews by established critics matter to you, or are you more interested in the opinions of your faithful readers? What is it about writing that motivates you? What aligns with your deepest values? And is your audience the right audience for those values?
As I'm working on yet another round of revisions for my novel, it's been great to ask myself these questions. It would be easy enough to start querying right now, with the book almost ready to go, and not to take it through one last look. I've gotten so weary that it would be so easy to move on. But the reason that I don't is that I believe in this book, and ultimately, even if I can't find an agent or a publisher, I believe in it enough to make it the very best novel it can be. Even as I've tired physically and mentally, I've never tired imaginatively, and my passion for the book has not waned.
Also, I see revisions as a learning process, and I'm still learning so much, even with this latest draft. In the end, I have to believe everything I'm doing is worth it, even as my aims have changed. I started out wanting to write a psychological thriller that would hopefully spark a discussion about murder, mothers, and mental illness. What I'm ending up with is so much more. And it's every bit worth all the time I'm giving it.
But that's me. As usual with anything in this writing world, your mileage may vary, and in the end, you'll be fine. Just keep on asking yourself WHY.
End of year book and audio roundup - Just in time for the last-minute frenzy (of reading, listening or giving): My favorite fun novel of the year was Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. I listened to it on...
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