When books don’t write themselves

I don’t remember it being this hard.

I’m confused by that and a wee bit alarmed—well, probably more alarmed than I think, because the fact is I spend as much time as possible every day inventing errands and household tasks that must be done pronto so as to whittle down the hours available for sitting at my desk wanting to end it all.

Ending It All being writer’s code for working at Target.

On a good day, I can waste six hours on chores, leaving only two hours of actual writing, which isn’t actual at all because I’ve only been getting about a page down before scrolling back to the top and realizing that it’s all so foul and slow and there’s no action at all or character or spark of creativity. So I tinker with how to rewrite it for the remaining hour and a half and then ooze off in exhausted gloom to contemplate something highly caloric.

Sophomore slump? I guess. I don’t know. This is my fifth book, so I feel like I really should be a well-oiled machine with this whole writing thing.

Lesson #1: Apparently, I am not a machine.

There are alternate hypotheses, of course. Have I not had a long enough break between books? Did I over-plan this one, thereby killing the creative urge to figure it all out through the writing process? Too many expectations of this one being THE one? Not giving myself permission to write at the first draft level again?

So many ways to shoot oneself in the foot.

I don’t really know.

Just hard, I guess.

Or maybe it’s seasonal? (I’m a problem-solver. I can’t let anything go. Ever). It’s true that I’ve noticed over the years that I rarely make headway on anything creative for a good six week stretch over the summer—usually from the Fourth of July to mid-August, give or take a couple weeks on either side. Usually that’s because family commitments create a sort of swiss cheese pattern on my schedule, though there might be some residual summer vacation vibe in my soul. It’s possible.

And, we’re in the holiday season now, so it would make sense that my concentration is shot to pieces again. You wouldn’t try to bake bread in an oven with a wildly fluctuating temperature. Guess it makes sense that you can’t write a book with your emotions doing the same thing.

Not that such insights lessen the misery of staring at a computer screen and howling THIS IS CRAP THIS IS CRAP while backspacing past two days worth of writing.

Might be time to rethink my December writing goals. I’d been aiming for 50 pages (12-14,000 words, give or take a lot of dialogue). I figured 50 pages would be a nice test slice of the book, enough to let me see how well it was going to flow and come together. Which is great, but I don’t see myself writing 4,000 words in weeks that include holidays like Christmas and New Year.

Call me undisciplined.

Or maybe just Not The Grinch, since I also have lots of baking and singing and shopping and wrapping and thinking and visiting I’m planning to squeeze into the next couple of weeks. To say nothing of a major scrapbooking project.


I think what this all really boils down to is that my life of ease and self-directed work doing what I love is HARD, people. You really have no idea/the agonies.

Pity? Understanding? Crickets?

Hmm. Shall go produce my 1,000 words then…


3 thoughts on “When books don’t write themselves

  1. Aw! You can get a whole chorus of pitying crickets from my department! We all have ruts, and it doesn’t have to MEAN anything. Go watch that video link Aaron posted on facebook recently about creative genius.

  2. Plus you have lunch with your pesky neighbor. I mean, December is just laden with distractions 🙂
    Cut yourself a break. Perhaps instead of the big writing goals, you should break them down into something smaller and more manageable that you can tackle with whatever small bursts of energy and focus you get mid shopping, wrapping, eating, singing, banging your head on your desk, etc.

  3. I am all for blaming it on the weather. I know I feel uninspired to really push hard on all my regular, plodding projects. There just isn’t enough light. The days are too short, too gray, too in need of Christmas lights to sparkle them up, and all the usual work just feels exhausting. I always used to wonder why the holidays had to come at such a difficult time of year for travel, what with snow storms and bitter cold and all, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the holidays were invented to cheer us up and give us something fun to think about during the dreariest part of the year when the ordinary drudge could push anyone over the Target edge.

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