I was asked the other day what I felt was a must have attitude for writers. My response was immediate – determination. The writing life isn’t very different from ‘real life’ and requires much the same attributes that make for success. Determination, in my book, is top of the list. Without it, we’re doomed to failure.
Anyone who has begun or completed a book will agree that there’s no wonderful ‘automagic’ something that clicks in and takes the schlep and angst out of writing. We don’t simply sit down and see the words miraculously appear on paper. Yes, every writer has those moments when the floodgates open and the words spill out in a glorious flurry. But, just as often, we have those moments of sweat and slog when it feels rather like pulling teeth. We know what we want to say and even what we should say. It’s the how that makes like a cake of soap in the bath – very hard to get and keep hold of.
Anyone with a desire to write must accept up front that it’s the most wildly wonderful experience, but it’s also the most difficult and frustrating. For every writer, the experience is the same but different. And no, that’s not a contradiction. The rollercoaster is the same. It’s simply the uphills and downhills that vary with each ride. As an example, I’m a seat-of the-pants writer, which is a very different ride to someone who meticulously plans everything out.
Each preference has its headaches. For me, I simply cannot follow a scripted plan. The result is always flat and one-dimensional, like my characters sullenly obey the ‘rules’ but withhold the vitality that makes them real. Or they try constantly to escape the story line I’ve crafted so carefully for them. I guess they’re a lot like me. We simply don’t like to feel constrained or compelled. But, while I much prefer to allow the characters to unfold their own destinies and story, this brings its own challenges. For one thing, I never quite know what lurks around the corner. Quite often, they surprise me and I have to go back and retrace in order to catch up.
What all this means, quite simply, is that there is no ‘recipe’ or neat ‘formula’ that we can apply. Determination doesn’t merely imply having the tenacity to deal with these challenges. It’s perhaps more important to have it when the going is rough, when the words don’t seem to ‘flow,’ and when we struggle to resolve an unexpected contradiction. Just as important, it’s needed for that grey time when we have to go back and edit – a chore most writers would prefer to avoid. How much sweeter it would be to produce something that does not need that ‘take no prisoners’ red pen or the slog of checking our work and eradicating the bleeps, blunders, and lurgies none of us are immune to.
It takes determination to get started, determination to finish, and determination to hone the final product. In my book, it’s Author Must Have Attitude #1. Without it, we’re doomed. Writing is the most amazing journey – fun, challenging, rewarding, and infuriating. Rather like life, when you come to think about.
Have a wonderful ‘wordy’ day.
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