Have a down-and-dirty talk with most writers—even very successful ones—and it’s likely they’ll confess to hating writing. “I hate writing; I love having written,” said Dorothy Parker. “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people,” said Thomas Mann. A writing professor of mine used to so detest having to sit still in a chair to write that she told herself she wasn’t allowed to shower until she put in her time.

Sitting to write is like sitting for meditation. It takes practice. There are times I’m in the zone, and writing is the most pleasurable experience in the world. Other times, it’s like water drops on my forehead, one after the other, day after day after day. Moaning, I go from my bed to a desk to a café back to my bed, unable to find a space that allows for something inspired. Or I take the lazy-man’s route and get an easy fix of the Internet. At that point, all is screwed.

I have spent many years living in the company of thoughts that insist writing is hard, I can’t do this, it’ll never be any good. And yet, despite these protests, I keep returning to the page, some strange thread of determination pulling me along like a kid with a red wagon. And lately I’ve been creating the habit of ignoring the messy, unhelpful thoughts. I’ve been reminding myself that writing a novel is like training for a marathon. And that it takes showing up, no matter what. And I’ve been reminding myself that in order to get what we want, we first have to be the person we want to be.

Like I am a novelist, and this is what novelists do: Write novels. That’s how we get there.

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