I know, now, why so many people who aspire to writing never actually manage to achieve their aims. It’s not necessarily down to a lack of talent, or a dearth of ambition, or a shortfall in the amount of effort they put into it, but perhaps – at least, if I’m anything to go by – it’s because they try too hard.
I’ve been working very hard on ‘Tider’ over the past few days. Since I finished draft 1 last Friday, I’ve managed to get to the end of draft 2, which involved making major content changes; I’ve also gone through the text again fixing and tweaking as I go, which I wouldn’t consider a ‘draft’, as such, but it was still hard work. It has been a challenge, and I am tired.
Even as I write all this out, I’m telling myself that it’s silly to do so much so quickly. I know, however, that there’s no other way I can do it. It’s they way I work, and has always been the way I work, to tackle a job head-on and to throw myself into it right from the start. I also have a hard time taking a rest until the job is done. Even as a student at school, I used to push myself to reach a certain point in my studies before I could take a break; if I didn’t manage to reach a certain chapter, or write a particular number of pages worth of work, or whatever it was, I wouldn’t allow myself to have a snack or go to the loo.
Who needs a Drill Sergeant when you do this to yourself?
This is all very well when you’re preparing for exams, or when you have a major project at work that needs to be done, or when you have a manager or a boss breathing down your neck. Of course, I’m not saying it’s wrong to have a work ethic, or to be motivated to do a job quickly and to the best of your ability. I’m just not so sure it’s always easily applicable to the job of writing a book, which is something that requires perfect balance between a person’s body and mind, and which you can’t do if you’re tired or burnt out, and which you’ll find challenging if you’re screaming at yourself inside your head, urging yourself on to the next goal. ‘Get the Job Done!’ doesn’t always help you to achieve a delicate thing like creating, sustaining and finishing a story.
I know all this, but it’s hard to switch your mind from one ‘mode’ of working to another. I haven’t been successful, as yet.
There’s a lot about ‘Tider’ that I’m not happy with. I don’t like the ending – I seem to have a problem with endings, no matter how long or short the piece I’m writing is! – and there’s not enough peril; the stakes aren’t high enough for our brave protagonist. I’m still working through the challenges that come with writing a story which is narrated in the first person, where your protagonist has deliberately been kept in the dark about a lot of issues which turn out to be very important ones for her; as she learns, the reader learns. For a writer, though, trying to get this across without ‘info-dumping,’ or telling the reader too much in too blunt a manner, is difficult.
I think, however, for the sake of the book’s future, and in an attempt to make sure I don’t end up flinging the whole thing in the bin in frustration, I’d better take a step back and try to rest today. I know my brain will yell at me, and I’ll probably feel an inexplicable urge to stand to attention (though hopefully not to shave my head), but I’ll have to cope with that as and when it happens.
Have a good Thursday. Try to take it easy on yourself, if you can.