I am told by those close to me that I always go through the same process when I’m writing a new book. It always starts with doubt and fear. Whatever made me think I could write anything, let alone a novel? I know I’m not alone in this. Other writer friends feel the same way. A book? How is it possible to write an entire book? Impossible! In defense, I have to think of writing in terms of one page at a time. When starting, it more about one word, one sentence at a time. It takes time to get back into the flow of writing. It’s like someone who’s gone to the gym every day and worked out for one hour, then takes a break for six months. A brain goes flabby as quickly as a body, and it takes hard work to get it “back in shape”.
Some mistakenly think writing is all about inspiration. It’s mostly about hard work. Getting up early, studying, praying, shower, dress etc as though going to a “real job”, actually sitting down and writing, and always, day in and day out, pondering ideas, catching phrases and insights in some of the oddest places and at the oddest times (like the middle of the night).. Once I get started, most of my mind seems taken up by the question I’m working through and the characters that are coming to life around it. Everything begins to feed it. I begin to feel as though I’m living in another place and time even though I live in here and now with “real” people.
Imagine stepping into an animal’s cage without knowing what kind of animal is in there. And you don’t have a chair or whip to defend yourself. The thing in the dark growls. You can make out eyes and teeth. When you try to get away, you find the door locked. The only way out is to face the animal. I can do one of three things: die, submit to it, or wrestle with it not knowing whether I’m going to win or lose. Or, in other words, give up, give in to market trends, or trust God to answer my questions and make a story out of it in the process.
The last project took three years (and two renditions of a 1200 page manuscript) of wrestling through family issues. It was less about the writing and more about examining my life, my attitudes, areas I need to change. Painful stuff.
I think that’s why I’ve been a little hesitant about opening another door and peaking in at the beast waiting for me inside the dark room.