Everybody knows that feeling. It usually happens when you haven’t been writing well for a while, you’re frustrated and you’re just sick of the whole thing. You start to wonder if maybe writing isn’t what you’re supposed to be doing. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for it, you’re not getting anywhere and you just can’t seem to do it any kind of good. You start thinking that maybe you should start looking for an actual purpose to your life.
A couple of months ago, I felt the same way. I had time to write, but I couldn’t use it. I had ideas, but they translated to nothing when I tried to put them to paper. I sent out a bunch of stories and got half a dozen rejections–some of them so quick I had to wonder if they’d read past the first line.
Then I got this bout of carpal tunnel. For almost months, I couldn’t write. Any writing power I had was dedicated to finishing backed up work with a deadline that kept creeping nearer and nearer. My fingers were dead appendages. Useless. Thing was, my brain wasn’t. My imagination was still clicking, churning out threads of ideas here and there. When one finally popped out fully formed, I could do nothing. Even when I didn’t have ideas, I found my fingers yearning for a pen to try to force something out. It made something very crystal clear:
I could not live without writing.
I realized that it had ceased to matter whether or not what I was writing was good. I had ceased to care about whether or not I could write something publishable. All I wanted to do was write.
The saying goes that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Sometimes, I forget that myself. Writing isn’t all about writing THE END. It’s about figuring out how you’re going to get to the end, and watching your characters grow while they take that journey with you. It’s about figuring out how to get yourself out of the corner you’ve written yourself into, or figuring out just where you’re trying to go or what you’re trying to say. The fact is that every writer has the same feeling every time they write THE END. All of us think that what we’ve written is horrible and unsightly. It becomes a mark of who we are if we can get past that or not. After all, neither our journey or that of our characters actually ends the second we write THE END. That first draft is just our baseline. The day you think that your first draft is polished enough that’s it’s done is the day you really need to consider a career change. Not a day before.