Have you ever thought of trying something new, something that required tremendous amounts of work like a new degree, remodeling the kitchen, or reading Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ? I have, it’s called writing a novel.
Now imagine yourself diving into one of these, let’s say the new degree. After signing up for fall classes in a flurry you immediately begin dreaming about being the valedictorian of your year. Proudly you strut up the steps toward your classroom and sit down at the front of the class. Soon the professor begins talking and, to your horror…you understand nothing at all. This would not be that big of an issue if you did not harbor the feeling that you absolutely, unequivocally, must get an A or your life will be over!!
Let’s take a step back. I am not sure how many people believe on their first day of classes at university that they will be valedictorian or even heap that sort of pressure on themselves. However, I submit to you, this is exactly what we do with our beloved infant novels.
We begin, like one would with the thrill of a new career, a bucket list cross-off, or our dream kitchen in mind (we will write not just the great American novel but one that will shake the foundations of the literary world!) only to have it come crashing down when we lose momentum as we stare at yet another blank page. Soon we scrap the idea, announce that we shall forever be a dog walker and sulk through life thinking we are a failure (if you are a dog walker, I mean no offense, but you want to be novelist remember?).
The reality is all along you were set up to fail — like having never climbed a little hill let alone a mountain, and one morning you wake up and march to the foot of Everest with the idea of reaching the peak. You’ll probably die, and if not, your dream will.
If you are like me, when you finally have a scrumptious morsel of time to write, you sit down at your desk, table, car, wherever you write, and think you should be able to do five hundred words in thirty-two minutes and then edit them in five minutes and then write another five hundred words in the next sixteen minutes. But, in the end, you stump yourself.
I believe this is one of the big reasons people begin and then stop reading. This could be the reason you either struggle with your novel or have given up on it altogether. We place oppressive amounts of expectations on ourselves. If we don’t stop working, we sprint through it instead of allowing the story to come together leaving holes in our plots. Instead of enjoying getting to know our characters we cookie-cut them making them stale and boring. So the next time you take up your story, give yourself permission to take your time.
Think. Close your eyes and let the story unfold because giving yourself space to think and be creative may be all you need to overcome that all consuming blank page. Then begin.