Prater Devil

Enjoy it!

It can be a real slog at times. You’ve got to page fifty. But what then? The page is blank. Pure. Unsullied. You stare at it, willing the words to appear. You make a cup of coffee. You take a vacuum cleaner to the stairs. You do a bit of computer housekeeping and take a quick look at your favourite sites on the Internet to see what’s new. You go to see if that was the postman or the Amazon delivery. And then? The page is still as clean and untouched as it was an hour ago. You begin to hate the whole thing.

You know what? Leave it. It’s not worth it. Walk away. It won’t get better if you sit there.
I mean it. There’s no point.

Any writing is hard work. But it’s not better work because it’s hard; don’t let that myth take hold. It’s far more likely that you’ll produce something of value that gives people pleasure if you’re having a good time writing it – and I think that’s true whatever the subject. Maybe “good time “ isn’t quite right, but satisfaction.

Of course there are exceptions. I’ve done commissioned writing work which I didn’t enjoy very much. But then I’m a professional, as you are, and when you’re hired to do a job, you do the best job you can – and if you didn’t much like doing it, then you hope you’re professional enough and craftsman (and diplomat) enough for nobody to notice.

But if you’re writing for yourself – if you’re pursuing an idea, creating something new; when you have yourself decided on the task … then there’s no point in forcing yourself back to the grindstone. If your heart sinks, take a deep breath, and stop it. The work, that is, not your heart. It’ll never take off; it won’t fly if you feel as if you’re wading through treacle.

And, really, be honest. If it’s not working, put it away and forget about it. You might come back in a few year’s time and see how to make it work, but don’t struggle. Even after fifty thousand words, if that’s what it comes to. I have several pieces where I’ve been heading for twenty thousand words and seen that it’s not taking off. I stopped and started from the top again with a different approach. And then found it still wasn’t working, so I put it away and started a completely different project.

The effort won’t have been wasted – you learn all the time, and you’ll be a better writer for the experience. But don’t make yourself miserable.

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