I haven't written a blog post in a long time. In fact, in a moment of debilitating second-guessing myself (which I am genuinely a professional at by now; why isn't there a PhD award for this?), I unpublished the entire blog for months.
"It's too inflammatory," the little self-preserving voice in the back of my head said.
"No one cares," the inner critic said.
Then, the ego-driven voice that usually gives me a very long leash to make bad decisions said, "Fuck it. If a little truth hurts, that's on them, not you."
Yeah, well...that's not always the case, but sometimes you just gotta take the self-esteem boost where you can get it, am I right?
Speaking of self-esteem boosts, I am in desperate need of one. Multiple authors will tell you our self-esteem is actually lowest in the middle of first drafting a novel. Terrible sales and/or bad reviews withstanding, we compete with ourselves first and foremost, even if we don't always realize that's the case.
(Yes, you do. Search deep inside yourself, Lukes of the world. You know it to be true.)
I'm well past the halfway point on my current WIP, the fifth book in the Moving the Chains series, titled Holding. This is Mike's book. By now, I don't even try to keep my books short. I'm doing my own thing, fully accepting I can't write a book less than a hundred thousand words. My average across 5 books is around the 110k mark, so that means I only have 40k to go.
*cue manically hysterical laughter*
I actually made an outline for this book when I was about a third of the way into writing. Just to keep myself focused, on track, and give myself some attainable goals for every day.
Guess what happened to that outline?
It made it about, oh...one chapter, then I shot it to hell.
Or...well...more precisely...the characters did.
I'm not a plotter. I try and try, but it will never be so. I've taken courses. I've listened to podcasts. I've read other authors' writing blogs about how they do it.
They are not me, nor am I them.
And there's a certain relief and joy to be found in that.
I sat at the computer two chapters past the outline that would never be and felt this sudden excitement about what the work day might bring. Where would the characters take me today? What would I see, feel, learn through their eyes? What new path would they take me down that diverged from my original, albeit loosely plotted, version of the story I wanted to tell?
I let go and immersed myself in it.
It was wonderful, and for the first time in maybe ever, I didn't care about anything but what I was writing in that moment.
Letting the characters lead where I would follow and quitting the rat race of trying to compete with anyone but myself brought back the joy to what had become a daily slog of a job.
I think I like it.
I think I'll keep it.
In the midst of reading all those articles about self-doubt, plotting, craft, etc., I stumbled on an image that has stayed with me.
If you click on the image, it will take you to the article from Written Word Media about overcoming Writer's Doubt. This particular graphic speaks to the section on breaking up seemingly insurmountable tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks to achieve the desired goal.
And I thought...that's not right.
Because you know what? That finished book might absolutely crash and burn in the market, and then what? You're right back to another item on that list wherein you're ready to give up because the met goal didn't live up to expectations. *cough* Revenge Love *cough*
But, what if you change your perception? Change your expectations?
What if...the biggest piece of that graphic could be the best part?
What if you learned to love that climb and descent so much, you wanted to do it again and again and again?
I'm learning how to love the ascent again. I don't think I've felt it since I wrote First & Goal and Second Down, back to back. A lot of avalanches and unmet expectations muddled up that graphic for me.
Holding might tank, too. But, you know what? It's been a hell of an adventure to write it. The writing is where the joy is.
And, I'm going to hold onto that joy. While Holding does whatever it's going to do that's beyond my control, I'm going to be writing Tini's novella, then Alex's book, and then...
I have a few aces up my sleeve that may spin in an entirely different direction by the time I get there.
Doesn't mean I've given up on the dream of planting my flag at the top of that mountain.
I'll still be planting new flags when I'm ninety years old. Any job you can't imagine ever retiring from is well worth the physical exertion of the climb.
So, go find your mountain. Embrace the joy of the work. And throw away the expectations of the goal. It was never about the ending, anyway.