I hate it when people talk about how hard writing is. It’s not hard. It’s about as difficult to do as it is to achieve at a high level in any profession. I think it’s just working that’s hard. Caring about something very deeply is hard.
It’s hard to work. Hard to be an adult. Hard to know that effort isn’t enough: you need to actually produce. And, moreover, that you have so little control on so many levels. You have no control over whether your output will be good. But even if it is good, you have no control over how well it’ll be received. That’s not a writer problem, it’s a problem in any field where there’s competition. There are only two kinds of fields: ones that’re only moderately difficult, because no one wants to be in them; and ones that are incredibly hard, because they’re so desirable. And most people are going to end up trying their hand at one or the other of the latter.
But things do happen, and the wellspring of inspiration does start to flow once again. It’s hard for me now to remember, but I’ve had lots of trying times as a writer. After I sold my first story to Nature (which I count as my first real sale), I went another two years before making a second major story sale. And after selling my second and third stories, I went eighteen months before selling my fourth. After selling my second story to Clarkesworld, I went more than two years without an equivalent sale. The entirety of my MFA program, I sold very few stories. I was in this program that was focused on writing short fiction, but I wasn’t getting anywhere with it.
I’ve powered through novels that weren’t working. I’ve gone to work on them day after day, trying to figure out why each moment was agony–telling myself that when I got to THE END, I’d realize that it had all been worth something–only to realize, when I started revision, that the whole project was ill-conceived and unsalvageable. That’s not just one novel, either. It’s my 1st, 3rd, and 5th novels. Even after I wrote novels that I considered excellent, I still went back and pounded away, writing ones that were terrible. If anything, my current predicament is because I refuse to mistrust my instincts–I won’t finish something that I know is not working.
But it all ends. I know it does. The dam breaks and something comes out and in the end you realize that this difficulty was because you were struggling for something.
I do feel that struggle. For all that I love Enter Title Here, I don’t think it’s the best book I can write. I think there’s something more to me–something more to my worldview and to my interests. I have different stories in me. I can do something that’s different and unique. And I have to believe that all of this agony is because I’m striving for something new. Hope so, anyway, because right now I feel stuck. I’m exactly where I was at this time last year–pacing the floor, writing chapters and scenes, assembling books, and then throwing them out.
I have written 20 short stories since then, so at least that’s something (although 12 of them were awful).