Keeping Up Enthusiasm



That’s the hardest part about writing this novel.  There are days–lots of them–where I wake up and feel the idea is stupid or doesn’t work or whatever, and I really don’t want to write it anymore.

Other days I feel wonderful about it.

I don’t know which view is more aligned with reality.  I may never know.  It’s very hard to be objective about your own work, and I’m not one of these egocentric types who thinks everything I do is wonderful.  (I’ve met a lot of those in my lifetime.)   I tend towards the opposite.  Woody Allen quotes Groucho Marx in Annie Hall: I would never want to be in a club that would have someone like me for a member.  That’s how I feel about most of what I write.

So why do I keep doing it?  Because I really believe, each time I start, that this time I’m going to strike a vein, going to come through with something that surprises even myself.  Why do I break off then?  Because I eventually come to believe I haven’t struck anything other than fool’s gold, same as last time.  Many (most?) writers are heavy drinkers, and I can understand why, but even alcohol doesn’t have the effect on me that it does on most people.  I just get sleepy.  And if I want to get sleepy, I can just reread selected bits of my first draft.

And this is only my second draft.  How do novelists who did five drafts over as many years, or write giant epics like War and Peace, keep their enthusiasm going?  I can’t imagine working on an epic for ten years, but there are obviously writers who have done this.  I’m stoking myself by promising that when it’s time for draft three I will also simultaneously start the first draft of my next project, just to give myself some variety.  Can’t wait!

3 responses

  1. Leslie

    Defintiely the hardest part of anything I write. Good post.


    October 30, 2009 at 8:20 pm

  2. Jason

    I have this problem all the time and because of it I only complete about 25 per cent of what I write.


    October 31, 2009 at 8:33 pm

  3. Excellent post, John. I think those of us who write have some deep need to believe in ourselves. I’ve been writing for over a decade and I just keep coming back to that. It’s like my life lesson is to believe in myself. So then the struggle makes sense. Also, as far as I know, drinking doesn’t help.


    November 4, 2009 at 7:31 am

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