Keep on shovelling

Word count: 442               Reading time: 1-2 minutes

Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing to do is shovel shit from a sitting position.Stephen King.

This year, like the other years I’ve done NaNoWriMo, the feeling that King described has haunted me on a regular basis. There are times when my story seems mired in cliché and dead ends and I’m tempted to throw it in and work on something else. Then I remind myself of Neil Gaiman’s thoughts on writing: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It's that easy, and that hard. So I get back to work and a little glimmer of light shines through the darkness. For a while it’s easy again: the characters come alive on the screen, I can smell the mountain air, and see the next plot twist clearly. Margaret Atwood is right. A word after a word after a word is power. It’s the power of finishing the first draft, digging up the gems along the way, and the power of pushing through to completion.

The end of my novel is in sight. It’s just around the next corner. As I clear the last hurdle, I’ll keep Robin McKinley’s advice in mind: One of the biggest, and possibly the biggest, obstacle to becoming a writer... is learning to live with the fact that the wonderful story in your head is infinitely better, truer, more moving, more fascinating, more perceptive, than anything you're going to manage to get down on paper. (And if you ever think otherwise, then you've turned into an arrogant self-satisfied prat, and should look for another job or another avocation or another weekend activity.) So you have to learn to live with the fact that you're never going to write well enough. Of course that's what keeps you trying – trying as hard as you can – which is a good thing.” Even after I type ‘The End’ for the first time, I’ll keep working on this novel. I’ll keep trying to improve it, to make sure that the right words follow each other in the best possible order.

What keeps you shovelling when you’d rather do anything than attempt to write? Do you have inspirational quotes taped to the top of your computer screen? Do you bribe yourself with a treat to get through the next 1,000 words? Once you break through a barrier and your characters are really talking to each other, do you work through the night to capture them before they vanish with the rising sun?

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Image by: mspraveen