After a nearly three-week writing hiatus for the holidays, I was dreading getting back to writing (just as I was dreading getting back to my exercise routine and my healthy eating routine and my generally disciplined life). So when the day came that I had to park my butt in chair, I told myself I’d re-read the last few chapters of my work-in-progress to re-familiarize myself with the story. You’d think that the person who wrote the book wouldn’t need a refresher, but I forget plot details in my writing the same way that I forget plot details in TV shows. I always need the recap. And even though I felt like I was copping out on a writing day by re-reading chapters instead of actually moving forward, I’m so glad I did.
Having been so long away from it, I was able to read the chapters with a fresh eye, as though someone else had written them. Sometimes when I do that—when I go back to something I’ve written after a long hiatus—I cringe when I’m reading. (This sucks! I tell myself). But not this time. This time I was like, I wrote this? It’s really good! Which tells me a few things I really need to hear.
It tells me first of all that this novel I’m writing—which is in its third rewrite (the other two versions belonging squarely in the “This Sucks” category)—is finally coming together. I wrote and rewrote for years in order to find the plot, to sink into the characters, to create the emotional resonance that all good books must have. But finally, finally, FINALLY, I think I have it.
Notice I used the word think. I’m my own worst critic, but rereading my chapters also told me that I’m actually a pretty good writer. Not pretty good. I’m a very good writer. (See how I do that with the positive reinforcement?) But I have to work at it. I have to write and scrap and write again and revise and step away and re-read and scrap… (You get the picture.) Sometimes I feel like those million monkeys—if you sit a million monkeys before a million typewriters, eventually they’ll turn out something worth reading. But the truth is, even though my early drafts aren’t up to snuff, they’re not horrible, and once I chisel my story from the giant block of stone, I’m kind of in awe of myself.
And I’m not one to toot my own horn (really, I’m not), but sometimes you need an ego boost, even if it’s from yourself, and since I’m usually telling myself how much my writing sucks, it doesn’t hurt, and it actually gives me strength, to congratulate myself once in a while on a job well done.
Because truth be told, I’m going to need all the strength I can get to finish this book.