Writing the beginning of a book is like jumping into a new romance. Everything is fresh and interesting and delicious. The road before you stretches into so many possibilities. Your days are filled with that heady rush of magic, that springtime-of-the-soul sensibility.
All you want to do is sit and stare into the eyes of your book for hours on end.
And then you hit that weird point somewhere around Chapter 5.
Suddenly, you feel committed. You start to consider what could go wrong. You start to notice issues that really will need some work in the long run. The way you feel about your book is shifting and you feel like you’re on unstable ground.
The good news is that this is perfectly normal.
Whenever we commit to anything, whether it’s writing a book, launching a business, or pursuing a relationship, the decision to commit necessarily narrows our options. This is not a bad thing. It’s more of a “one-door-closes-and-another-one-opens” type of thing. We actually do this all of the time. It’s just that sometimes we get stuck on it if it involves something in which we are deeply invested.
For instance, when you choose to attend a certain school, you are closing the door on many other schools. Or, when you choose to eat lunch at one restaurant, you are closing the door on the other restaurants vying for your business in the same area. We make decisions every single day that cut possibilities from our life.
But when this same decision-making process involves our book, writers tend to get triggered by it on a number of different levels.
It’s very similar to how many people get triggered when committing to a romantic relationship.
In both cases, commitment narrows our focus so that we can examine our efforts honestly and take personal responsibility. Is the plot of our book not working? Why isn’t it working? Are we having trouble with clear communication? What might we be doing to block others from understanding what we’re trying to say?
Untangling the webs and knots of our emotional lives and our creative projects are one and the same thing. It’s just not that much fun. And in both cases we usually discover things about ourselves of which we’re not terribly proud. Like, some of us have serious problems with procrastination. Or we’re paralyzed by a fear of failure. Or we’re so terrified of rejection that we hide behind a superiority complex.
We’re all just human and none of us are perfect. But even if you think you already know that, when you hit the middle of your book and start the uphill slog to get through it, your writing process will be brutally honest in showing you exactly where your shortcomings are.
At that point you’ve got two options. You can take it as an opportunity to quit and go find something else to do. Or you can take it as an opportunity to grow as an artist and a human being.
If you want to grow through it, the first step is to realize that just because the way you feel about writing your book has changed doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be doing it. It just means that you’ve hit the slog of writing the middle part of your book and things have gotten real now. If you feel that uncomfortable tension that comes with moving out of your comfort zone, then you are exactly where you need to be.
The second step is get with the mentality of a worker bee and keep slogging. Even if it’s uncomfortable, or you find yourself sitting at your writing desk gritting your teeth and sweating blood to write those important scenes that you know have to be written. You’ve just got to push through. It doesn’t matter if you’re only pushing through an inch a day, as long as you’re still pushing.
The only cure for slog syndrome is to slog through it. None of us like it. I’ve talked to more writers than I can count who have asked me, “But why couldn’t I just have chosen to write an easy story?”
And the answer to that is because I don’t believe there is a writer in this whole wide world who is looking for easy.
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