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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.
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?