Today I ran out of pages in my notebook and started a new one. I was so proud that I trotted off to the Thai restaurant for a bowl of masaman curry with tofu. (Hot damn. That broth is the nectar of the gods.) I sat at my usual table with the fresh notebook and a cup of jasmine tea and felt satisfied with my progress for the first time, this time around.
It’s silly, I suppose, to offer myself a reward for something as unremarkable as a filled-up spiral notebook, but the more time I spend writing, the more I realize that 90% of the process is about tricking myself into writing anything at all. Every project is like learning to write all over again; what motivated me last time is hopelessly ineffective with the new work, and it seems that none of the methods I arrived at so painfully are of any use at all. My drafts are messy fragments of scenes and scraps of dialogue, all scratchy and with the words misspelled, and sometimes I look at what I’ve got and think, How will this ever be a book? I peer around at the writers who work so much more quickly than I do, and wonder how they manage and what’s wrong with me that I can’t. I read finished books that thrill and delight me, then go back to my scrap pile and consider a new career in waffle-making or underwater photography.
(Drew’s sister says that after reading this blog, she has decided never ever to try to write. My friends, we’ve saved her.)
However, one lesson has finally gotten through: Writing is always going to be like this for me. It’s always gonna be a fucking mess. But if I keep going, adding to the mess and cleaning it up, despairing of progress and then filling a notebook, eating my heart out for all the things I can’t do, then doing the best I can, eventually something will come of it.
This is just how it goes.
What do you know about writing?