Writing is Like...


Photo credit: antonioperezrio.com on Flickr

Imagine you’re walking through a desert. The Sahara. You have a bottle of water and a couple of packets of food in your backpack and a long, long road ahead. The sun is so hot you think you may actually be cooking alive and the air is baking in your lungs. You sip your warm water, but you can’t take much more because you know if you run out, you’re done.

Everywhere you turn looks the same—you’re not even entirely sure you’re walking straight anymore—haven’t you seen that dune before? You stagger in the sand and your tongue tastes like dust you can’t even remember what you were thinking coming out here. Where did you think you were going, anyway? When you scream for help, the most horrific sound answers you.

Silence.

Sometimes, this is what writing is like.  This is the middle of your journey, when every word fights you on its way to the page, when manuscripts and rejection letters start to gather in your drawers, when it feels like the words don’t even matter anymore because at this rate you’ll never see publication.

This is when writing is really hard. When keeping your dream alive is a battle. When people say you should get a real job and you start to wonder if maybe they’re right.

This is when you work on a manuscript for years and you start to wonder if all that trouble is really worth it. If maybe you’re setting yourself up for more failure and disappointment.

Now imagine you reach an oasis. There are trees here and beautiful, fresh water and snippets of green and life and it’s just so surreal and incredible but it’s real. You fill up your water bottle and wash your face and sit by the water’s edge—hell, you even go swimming.

Sometimes, this is what writing is like, too. This is the time when the writing flows, when you’re in love with your manuscript and your characters are coming to life before your very eyes and you know, you know this is what you love. This is when you finish a manuscript and celebrate with your family and friends. This is when your characters surprise you with a twist or act differently than you’d planned. This is when you read over something you wrote and can’t help but grin because you can hardly believe you put those words down yourself.

The oasis makes the desert worth it.

And you’ll know when you reach an oasis. You’ll know because it’ll feel right, because your dream will be more alive than ever, because you’re writing and it just feels so incredible and you could stay in this place forever.

Except you can’t. The oasis is a place of emotional rest. It’s the time for you to refill your water bottle and gather your strength and prepare to venture out into the unknown again. Because hard as you may try, you won’t stay in the oasis forever. The desert is out there, ahead you, standing between you and your dream.

The journey of the writer isn’t easy, friends. It’s long and sometimes lonely and often exhausting. And some days you’ll look up and see the desert around you and wonder if it’s hopeless. Some days the sheer magnitude of what you’re trying to accomplish will overwhelm you. Some days you’ll want to throw in the towel and say I’ve suffered enough.

That’s when you drink from your water bottle. That’s when you remember what made you want to write in the first place, what you love about your manuscript, what has kept you going all this time. That’s when you reach out to your community of writers and ask for some encouragement. That’s when you find someone to hug and you read your favorite book and you listen to some music and take a break and know that every writer goes through this.

Every. Single. One.

And that’s when you remember that you’re not alone. That there are others like you, stumbling through their own deserts, pushing ahead through the storms and doubts and fears so that one day they’ll see their dreams come true. Just like you.

That’s when you go out there and get back to work and keep writing until your fingers go numb. Because you’re a writer and that’s just what you do.

What tips do you have for getting through the writing desert?

18 comments:

Peaches Ledwidge said...

Just keep walking/writing because that's the goal.

Ava Jae said...

That's exactly right. :)

Joseph Eastwood said...

Whoa. What a beautifully written blog post! I love this analogy of the writing process because it has all the complexities of writing :D

My tip: there is always extra water in the desert, even when you think you're empty....there's always inspiration to get you through!

JFeijten said...

To be fair, I would probably stay in the oasis hoping someone passes by and saves me from the terrible heat :-) But apart from that, you described it beautifully! Writing can indeed be quite hard, but it's worth it!

As for writing tips: I'd say (although I don't follow that tip myself) you should write every day, even if it's only 100 words. Every step brings you closer to your goal, even babysteps ^^

PS: I must say I do not entirely trust that Disqusthing. I mean, allow it to post tweets in my place? No way!

Jessica Hill said...

Great post, Ava! I'm not really sure if there are any tips for getting through the desert other than to keep pushing yourself. If you're having a tough time, setting small goals to get you back into the swing of things is always helpful. No matter what, just don't stop. :)

Ava Jae said...

Come to think of it, if I was stranded in the desert, I'd probably stick pretty near the oasis too...however, that's not how writing works, lol. I agree with your tip--writing everyday is a huge help and it's something I certainly strive to do. As you said, even if it's only 100 words a day, it's still something. :)

I'm not entirely sure what you mean about Diqus. I believe it allows you the option of sharing what you commented via Twitter, but it's certainly not mandatory. Is that what you mean?

Ava Jae said...

Small goals are better than no goals at all, in my opinion. Of course I'm a very goal-oriented person, so I might be a little biased. ^_^

JFeijten said...

When I wanted to post my comment Disqus offered me several options, one of them being the use of Twitter to sign my comment. However, when I clicked that, Disqus said that by agreeing it would be able to read my tweets, see my followers and post tweets in my name. Well, I won't agree on that last part. Anyway, I used the OpenID now and that's fine :-)

Ava Jae said...

Ah, yes. I believe that's mostly so that if you choose to share your comment with your Twitter followers, you can. Nevertheless, Open ID is a good option. :)

Jon Tolentino said...

(o.o) 2 words
Awesome Post

Ava Jae said...

Thank you! ^_^

Laurapauling said...

The down times aren't easy. I muddle through but I also allow time to read great books and watch TV and movies. B/c I know these times pass!

Ava Jae said...

I know no better way to pass down time than through reading great books and writing someone unrelated. (Although I'm a movie-addict too, so watching great movies is also a pretty fantastic choice.) ^_^

Jennifer Bennett said...

Great analogy! Luckily we have the online writing community cheer us on when the sun is beating hot. They keep me going when no oasis is in sight!

Ava Jae said...

The writing community is so helpful when it comes to getting through those rough spots. Everyone is just so amazing and supportive--I love it. :)

Julie Musil said...

Ahhh, I LOVED this! Thanks so much.

Ava Jae said...

Thank YOU! It was a fun post to write. Glad you enjoyed it! ^_^

Nathaniel Allen said...

This gives me hope and is just how it feels.

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