It never gets easier, and that's the point.
Welcome to So Relatable, a bi-weekly newsletter featuring conversations about the creative process, suggestions for nourishing yourself, and inspiring links. I’m glad you’re here!
There’s nothing I love more than a good plan. Whether it’s what I’m having for dinner on Thursday, which Heather Robertson workout I’ll do this evening, or when I’ll finish the current draft of my novel, I revel in writing it down, putting it in my calendar, and announcing my intentions to anyone who will listen.
In an ideal world, I admire my carefully curated calendar, triumphantly crossing things off my to-do list and basking in my impressive accomplishments. This world, however, often has other ideas.
For example: after going on and on about Big September Energy and how I would definitely finish my novel by the end of the month, I find myself in October with a third of my draft still left to revise. (The hardest third, I might add!) What happened? Well, a few things.
Let’s start with the frustrating fact that creative projects—writing a novel, painting a portrait, learning a dance, making a film—operate on their own timeline. At the beginning you might have an idea of what the finished product will look like, a goal you’re working toward. For my book, which I started at the end of 2019, I crafted an extensive outline, plotting out the twists and turns before I began writing. An 8,000-word Plan with a capital P—all I had to do was follow it. What could be easier?
Last month, I followed the plan. I woke every morning at 5:30, poured myself a cup of Big September Energy, and got to work. I revised. I wrote. I went to workshop and received invaluable feedback. My characters became more nuanced, and the plot revealed new layers. Over the last two years, the draft made progress as a book, but more importantly I made progress as a writer.
And then came the big twist. The better you get, the harder you have to work. As a result, my precious plan no longer cut it.
In this sense, writing is a lot like weight lifting. When I started strength training, I used five pound dumbbells and my biceps were exhausted after ten reps. But the more I worked out, the stronger I got. After a while five pound dumbbells were no longer challenging, so I upgraded to eight pounds, then ten, then fifteen. Whenever my workouts began to feel easy, I upped my weights, because easy wasn’t the point. Progress was, and as I got stronger, I had to work harder to make it.
My first two unpublished novels are a lot like that those five pound dumbbells—the best I could do at the time, and I’m proud of myself for completing them. But I’ve grown as a writer since then. I’m capable of more, and that means working harder. Thinking bigger. Digging deeper. Making sure every sentence I write is better than the last.
I’m not a naturally patient person. For me, the hardest part of writing is waiting for my talent to catch up to my ambition, for the skill to transform an idea in my head into a book in your hands. I want very much to finish this book and sell it, to see it in bookstores and libraries, to finally achieve my lifelong dream. But I also want it to be the best book I’m capable of writing, and I know it can be better.
What I don’t know is how long it’ll take to get to that point. Which is why, instead of deadlines and due dates, promises and plans, I’m simply going to keep writing and working.
In the end, it’ll be worth the wait.
Snack of the Week
The honor of Snack of the Week is a tie between all the delicious things included in this month’s book club spread. Homemade pretzels, an incredible charcuterie board, breakfast hand pies, perfectly roasted broccoli, and (my contribution) a vegan pumpkin bundt cake with a lemon glaze. During the height of the pre-vaccine pandemic, my book club met virtually or outdoors, and for months we didn’t share food as a precaution. I’m glad those days are behind us (for now, anyway) and that we can snack with abandon once more! (Also, we read Wave, which was extremely traumatic and probably explains why we all resorted to comfort food.)
It’s Never Too Late to Publish a Debut Book and Score a Netflix Deal, New York Times*. “I enjoy writing, but it’s not all enjoyable. You can see what you want it to be, but it takes a lot of time and experience—and luck—to get your writing to where you want it to be. You often fail. You come against your own limitations.” I really needed this extremely timely interview with a 50-year-old debut author. Maybe you do, too. ⏰
45 Creative Writing Prompts to Elicit Your Inherent Genius, Skill Share. Bookmarking these for the day I actually finish my novel and find myself in desperate need of a new idea. 💡
Weight Training Isn't Such A Heavy Lift. Here Are 7 Reasons Why You Should Try It, NPR. It’s not just a convenient metaphor! 💪
The Rise and Fall of ‘ZuckTalk’, New York Times*. “ZuckTalk is a style of unpolished speech exhibited in contexts where polish is customary. It’s a linguistic hooded sweatshirt in a metaphorical boardroom. It is more than a collection of tics, but its tics are crucial to understanding it.” I love a deep dive into linguistics! 💬
I also love a good birthday issue, and Kara’s 35 Birthday Thoughts is full of gems! My favorite: “Unseen people are cheering you on.” Such a lovely reminder at any age. 🎉
*NYT gift link—no subscription needed, and clicking won’t count toward your free articles!
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