I recently hit the 25,000 word mark for my first manuscript. That’s not “much” when you consider that at least half those words will end up on the cutting room floor. Or when you consider how many more words I still have to squeeze out. You know what? Writing is SO HARD.
But getting to this point brings a little “Well would you look at that?!” feeling. And it brings some contented surprise that all this chugging away and wrestling and dragging myself to the table, day in and day out, has actually gotten me somewhere. And somewhere is always better than nowhere.
When I first took the plunge to write a book (or write down my story, as I like to say because saying “I’m writing a book” makes me feel all kinds of presumptuous and self-conscious – I’m still working on that), I spent the first several months fighting back an army of frustrations. The thing is, the whole writing process is way less glamorous than I WANT it to be.
I want hours of uninterrupted time, holed up in a tiny cabin in the middle of the woods, surrounded by beauty and the smell of old books, and a cool breeze playing with quaint window curtains that have something ridiculous on them like bunnies or coffee cups (curtains you can only get away with in a cabin in the middle of the woods).
But that’s not how it works. My writing happens in the middle of homeschooling four kids and finishing up a grad degree and being with friends going through hard times and navigating being a wife and daughter and a sister and dirty dishes and brakes that need replacing and a garage that need organizing and a minivan that I’m pretty sure has a rotting banana in it somewhere. And laundry and that broken address number on the mailbox and sports schedules and missed appointments and three kids in braces (I live at the orthodontist!) And family gatherings and hosting visitors and just, well, trying to love my people well.
My writing happens in the middle of LIFE.
And somewhere along the way, through the help of a lot of good writer friends – in books and in real life – I finally learned to accept that this is what writing looks like for the majority of writers – even, and maybe especially, the really good ones. Writing is way more about consistency than conditions. It’s more about determination than inspiration. It’s a lot more about what’s going on in me than it is about what’s happening around me.
It’s about showing up and doing the hard work, even when I’m exhausted and have nothing left. Even when I feel uninspired and even when I only have 15 minutes instead of hours. Even when I have no idea where the writing is taking me. Even if I have no control over what comes out and whether it’s “book-worthy” or complete junk (Complete junk is the norm and every once in a while, magic happens. Writing is kind of like a giant trust fall in that way.)
15 minutes a day. This has been my simple mantra the past several months. Can I commit to 15 minutes a day? Can I trust that these small steps over time will actually get me somewhere? Can I stick with it when I don’t get the instant pay off of large strides and big accomplishments? They say life is made up of little moments. That is feeling truer by the minute.
I recently ordered some reading curriculum for my 5 year old. When I opened the page, the very first words I was supposed to say to her as we started the giant task of learning how to read were: “We’re going to work every day for about 15 minutes. The work is hard, but I think you can do it.”
And you guys, I just about fell out of my chair. I highlighted it, took a picture of it and continue to treasure those words as if God Himself had written the note just for me. Just for her. Just for all of us.
I don’t know if I’ll hit the next 25,000 words. But I’m going to try to keep showing up. Big strides come from taking small steps. If you’re in the same place as me today, reaching for something that feels so far out of reach, let me remind you of what I’m reminding myself:
“The work is hard, but I think you can do it.”