This post previously appeared on Happy by Design.
I asked myself this question, this morning as we pulled away from my parent’s driveway. I was getting anxious because for the first week in seven, I was coming right up to the edge of the time I had available in order to hit my weekly word count for the book I’m working on and I needed about 2700 words in one day and I wasn’t sure I could do it.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t hit it.
My husband reassured me that I could do it on our five-hour car ride back to Milwaukee. It was his turn to drive, so I had nothing but time…and a toddler in the backseat who sometimes requires a lot of attention. But still, I could make a decent dent in it, for sure. All I needed was something to write on. I had multiple devices – so that wasn’t an issue.
And then I started writing and I had this pit in my stomach. The pit that tells me I’ve gone the wrong way. I’ve missed something. I stopped. I thought about the story that I was writing so far. It felt close. But I wasn’t passionate about it. Why was that?
Because it wasn’t the right story.
But I’d been working on it for seven weeks, I told myself. Surely, I could keep writing in the same direction and then edit it and turn it into something better. But this didn’t feel like a case of “your first draft is shit-tosis” it felt like I was actually writing the wrong story. If I kept writing the wrong story, surely, I’d just be miserable the rest of the way. [And quit calling me Shirley!]
So I started a new document and started outlining the story in my head. I stopped. I thought things over. I continued. I added details to this part here and details to that part there. A few small revelations hit me and it seemed like it was making sense. I think it makes sense. It could still be the worst idea I’ve ever had and there is still so much I don’t know. I thought I knew when it took place. Now, not so sure. I thought I knew who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. Now, it’s kind of unclear – mostly because I haven’t figured it out that far, yet.
And at the end of our five-hour car ride, I had put down about 900 words into an outline and captured some possible plot points. I don’t count outlines/research toward my word count, so today my official count was 148.
I failed, by a lot.
Adding insult to injury
And then there’s this voice in my head that I believe is only going to get louder and louder as I continue on. It’s the voice of “resistance” as is labeled in the book, “The War of Art.” The voice that says the following:
You mean to tell me you’ve been writing for seven weeks and you think you need to start over? Well you’re screwed. Might as well give up.
You’re never going to hit the goals you set. This is going to take years. Are you prepared for that?
This is stressful. You’ve got a lot going on at work, your fitness and health are taking a backseat, you hardly blog on HBD, and you know you want to finish Game of Thrones as soon as possible. Just let it rest for a while.
This feels too hard. Are you sure it should be this hard? I bet if you were ACTUALLY supposed to write a book, it wouldn’t feel this hard, it would come more naturally to you.
Don’t quit your day job. Literally.
That voice hits me at my core. It feeds on all my insecurities of being a hack. It’s only a matter of time before they find out that you’re not really a writer.
Don’t let the resistance win. Name it. Kill it. And pick yourself up by your GOD DAMN bootstraps and move on.
Week 8…or Week 1 as I like to think of it
So yes, I’m starting again. There may be pieces that I can salvage from the past seven weeks. There may not be much. I’m not changing my goals or my timelines or anything else. I just need to focus, put pen to paper and make the resistance bleed.
It’s a war out there. But in the end you have to ask yourself…
What is it worth to you?
For me, it’s worth enough to start over and keep trying until I get it right.