Today’s post is a little more nostalgic than I usually am on the blog. But this is absolutely the most revolutionary piece of advice I could ever offer anyone with a dream and I have to share it. Plus it gives me a chance to share a bit more of my story with you.
Writing is hard work. Anyone who has ever written a novel or attempted to publish anything can tell you that it’s not all creative sparks and frolicking through fields of perfect ideas. It’s rewarding because it’s challenging, but the challenges can really overtake you if you aren’t careful.
This happened to me. I’ve been writing since I was eight years old, and creating stories and worlds way before that. Writing has always been my lifeline, the thing that keeps me going, the way I know how I’m thinking, and my creative outlet. I write because I love it and because I can’t not write.
However, a few years ago, I went through a pretty traumatic life experience (don’t worry, there will probably be a book about it someday…the gist is a broken heart and a broken spirit) that rendered me practically unable to write consistently. I’d get these brief, glistening threads of inspiration, write and write and write until they were fully realized on paper and then have no energy to attempt writing anything else for months at a time.
This cycle continued for almost three years. I felt like a failure, like a horrible writer, like I had abandoned every idea I had ever had, and that I would never see my dream of being a published author come true. I felt listless, lost, and empty.
And then in a fit of stubbornness and screw-it-all attitude, after venting to my husband about my frustrations with my writing and with my creativity, I decided that I would write a novel during NaNoWriMo. And I would finish this novel, thankyouverymuch!
I guess being a stubborn redhead is a good thing, sometimes.
I finished, four days ahead of schedule, with just over 50,000 words to show for my hard work. But I learned something important that November. The reason I had succeeded wasn’t because a thread of inspiration came to call and I panicked and wrote 1200 words in one sitting while I tried to hold onto the thread for as long as I could. The reason I succeeded was simple.
Every day, for thirty days, I sat down to write. I had a daily word count goal and sometimes I reached it, sometimes I didn’t and sometimes I far surpassed it. But every single day, regardless of what was going on, I sat down and wrote.
I wrote early in the morning, I wrote late in the evening, I wrote while watching movies with my husband, I wrote with my computer squished onto my lap as we drove an hour away to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I even wrote a bit on Thanksgiving after our guests had left at the end of the night, with miles of dishes piled high in our sink and my back screaming at me for being on my feet all day.
This book was not the best thing I’ve ever written in my life. But it had that glimmer of life that had been lost in my attempts at writing for several years. And what I learned during that month of writing has been the most important part of getting back into my passion.
Ever since I wrote that book I’ve seen this little tidbit of advice pop up everywhere. Blog posts I read, books I read, websites, tv shows, conversations with my mom, conversations with friends.
Do something every single day. It doesn’t matter what. It could be writing 1200 words or writing 100. It could be editing your novel, or fleshing out a character. But every single day, whenever you can and wherever you are, write something. Anything. Write about the woman on the street who had those adorable shoes, write about an apple’s thoughts as it falls from a tree, write about how you brush your teeth. Anything!
It may not seem like much in the beginning. It may seem like you’re not making progress or you’re just dallying in a hobby. But keep your dream in mind, whether it’s to publish your books, become an editor, join the circus, or become President. Hold your dream close to your heart and do something, big or small, every day, that will get you there. When you publish your book, or become an editor, or start a circus, or become President, you’ll look back and see the trail of small and big accomplishments.
And you’ll realize that even on the days when you struggled to write for three minutes while waiting to pick up your kids from school, or scrambled to pen a quick book title as you got off the bus to go to work, you were still working, still moving forward, still aiming for the dream in your heart. And every single bit of effort will be all the more worth it.
“Work with all your heart, because – I promise – if you show up for your work day after day after day after day, you just might get lucky enough some random morning to burst right into bloom.”
– Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert