by Cherish Reid, author of The Write Escape
Not unlike the Nike motto “Just Do It,” my writing mantra has always been “JUST FINISH IT.”
I have no problem with the doing or the starting; it’s the follow-through that eludes me. I can’t tell you how many exciting writing projects I’ve started with the hopes of holding a complete novel in my hands. There was the one about a woman lost in the jungles of Costa Rica, the tale of a journalist getting back to work after a traumatic incident in Tunisia, and the book of bus poems… They all seemed like brilliant ideas when I started them, but somewhere at the midpoint of each project, I lost the Inspiration.
No one told me that this happens to all writers. That the brilliance of something new is the most alluring part of the writing process. No one told me about the actual labor of writing a book. I was young and arrogant, I believed that a stroke of genius would lead to a finished product. During the many times I lost interest and dumped a manuscript, I would blame it on this esoteric thing called Inspiration. I’d tell friends, “I’ve lost Inspiration,” and they’d look on in pity. “Oh, that’s terrible! Where has Inspiration gone?” I’d shrug blamelessly before seeking out the next soon-to-be ex-project.
Inspiration is a fair-weather friend who won’t stick around when a writer needs them the most. Sure, they might pop in for a visit somewhere around the third act, but they will flit away when things get tough. The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn as a writer is: Accountability, Humility, and Sheer Will are actually my friends.
I figured this out when I pushed myself to write my novel in one month. When I participated in National November Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) a couple years back, I was nervous I would quit yet another novel. But I was participating with a friend and we were accountable to one another. If I gave up on this project, I’d have to answer to her. We didn’t make a blood pact or anything like that, but I felt bound to her, and my work, in a way I’d never felt before. Like many writers, I’d worked alone and consulted no one. After all, these were my ideas; only I truly understood them. Only I could mold them. That is true to an extent, but community and accountability can help those like myself. Those who quit quickly. When I was in a tight spot, I could talk to my friend and move forward.
Humility and Sheer Will found me at the midway point of The Write Escape. Yes, I was still accountable to my friend, but that wasn’t enough when I was alone, sitting before my blinking cursor. Humility showed up when I slumped over my writing desk, mourning all of the witty ideas I’d had in the first act. Back then, things were going great, I was on track with my plot plan, and I was so saucy with my banter. I was tempted to go back those early pages and reread how wonderful I was, but Humility said: “That was then, this is now.” Sheer Will threatened to beat me up if I didn’t move forward and just type something, anything.
That “something, anything” was a mishmash of plot holes, bland characterizations and using the word “just” 78 more times than necessary. Humility reminded me that my first draft was never going to be as brilliant as I thought it would be. Just get the words on the page. Just Finish It. The first draft was always going to be tears and sweat on a page, an exhausting act of finishing. When I thought the last five pages were terrible, Humility was there to confirm my suspicions while Sheer Will shouted, “We know that, keep going!” This insane conversation played out for 78,000 words. Accountability, Humility and Sheer Will drove the car while Inspiration quietly hung out in the periphery.
Finishing the first book is really the key. Once you’ve cleared that first hurdle, the next one comes a little easier. Put your butt in the chair and keep crying if you want, but cry and write. You can do it if you remember that your labor will be the only thing pushing you forward. Talk to someone, labor on and know that it will not be perfect. Perfection, if it exists at all, happens in the edits. Even then, Inspiration might still be suspiciously absent.
About The Write Escape:
Take one heartbroken Chicago girl
Literary editor Antonia Harper had it all—the career, the man, the future. That was then. Now Antonia is jobless, alone and at a crossroads. What better time to travel the world? A solo honeymoon on the Emerald Isle will be like hitting the reset button. No distractions, no drama.
Add some luck o’ the Irish
Aiden Byrnes may be a literature professor, but words fail him when he meets the woman staying in the cottage next door. Tully Cross is meant to be a sleepy little village, and he’s meant to be on a working holiday—not a vacation, and most definitely not with his beautiful neighbor.
And you get some mighty good craic
They say laughter is the best medicine—and as it turns out, superhot sex isn’t so bad either. Antonia and Aiden’s spark quickly grows into what could be something special, if they’re willing to take the leap. Ending up an ocean apart is unthinkable, and when real life comes calling, there’s no ignoring that leap anymore…