It is all very well to be able to write books, but can you wiggle your ears?
Here’s a startling revelation: writing a novel is hard. It’s why people talk about having writer’s block. What they mean is, I’m trying to do something incredibly hard, and it’s not working. The ubertalented Terry Pratchett once said “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.”
Well, I sort of agree with him, and I sort of don’t. Tezza’s quote seems a little too etre-en-soi to me. I think it’s fair to say that nobody can write all the time. Not well, at least. It might also be fair to say that most people can write sometimes. This is a harder statement to stand behind, but I’ll give it a go.
Point is, I think practiced writers (I’ve written half a million words in the last four years, so I’m going to count myself in this group) sometimes struggle to write well. For most people, the more you write, the more you learn, and the higher your standards become. Which means you reject more, rewrite more, shake your head more, sigh more, and eventually convince yourself that you can’t write anything.
And I think that’s a sign of arrogance. Of course nobody can write well all of the time. If you’re completely consistent, you’re not challenging yourself. You’re not taking risks. And who wants to read a book that too no risks? I know it’s poor form to answer your own rhetorical questions, but… meh. Nobody wants to read a book that doesn’t take risks, that’s who.
So if, like me, you’re struggling to put something on the page at the moment … take a risk. Put something on the page and keep it there. You can always rewrite in a few weeks time. Oh, and give yourself a slap. Remember that writing a novel in supposed to be hard. It’s god’s way of filtering out the crap. Well, a lot of it. So work hard. Accept that it isn’t supposed to come easy. Not even to James Patterson. Or Lee Child. Or Gillian Flynn. Or E L James (Okay I’m pushing it now…) Or even you.