What Am I Doing?

Yesterday, in a moment of sheer, blind, unreasoning panic I questioned whether I was doing the right thing. On the eve of taking a long service leave, a 3 month break from my job, I doubted myself.

I am taking leave to write a novel, my first. Every negative idea ran through like the after effects of a bad curry: I can’t do this. You’re a fool to think you can write a novel. What if you get stuck? Will you ever finish it? No one’s going to read it.

This is something I am passionate about and want to succeed in. The journey of a thousand miles might begin with a single step, but it requires a hell of a lot of planning and a large supply of Band Aids for the blisters. In the same way, the finishing of a novel begins with the setting down of a single word. Then another. And another until The End is reached.

I am in this for the long haul. I have a dream to write novels. This time off is the first step to achieving that dream. I have plans in place to help make this dream a reality. I will learn a lot in the time it takes to write my first novel and I can translate this to the next, then the next and so on.

Following a conversation on twitter between Alan Baxter (@AlanBaxter) and Tom Dullemond (@Cacotopus) yielded this gem of thought: Those who maintain their focus and diligence in the face of rejection and disappointment will find it easier to sustain themselves than those who find success comes easily.

I know I have a cheer squad who will shake their virtual pom poms if I get stuck.

Hand me my cardigan and tracky dacks; I have a novel to write.


14 responses to “What Am I Doing?

  1. On my to do list in the holidays is to find you a cardie and to sew you a special pair of novel writing trackies (beware they might sparkle!)

    I haven’t quite reached the point of realising I’m am embarking on the same journey as you… so hearing you freak out, well I know it is likely to come to me soon too (though I’m not taking 3 months off work to do it).

    I totally agree with the wise men.

    The hard path is the path trod by the apprentice. I was talking to some people on the weekend about how impressed I am with the idea of an apprenticeship and wished I had thought of writing like that when I was starting out. It’s sometimes hard to gauge your process, especially if it takes time to crack that first publication.

    I also think all writers should begin writing short stories and hone their craft in the smaller context before they start on larger books and I think creative writing teachers do a disservice to their students who by telling them if you want to write novels, write novels. If you want to write short stories, write short stories. All the best writers began with shorts. A solid apprenticeship platform you have already well traversed.

    Ironically my very first submission won publication and came with a $45 payment. Then there was a bloody long drought until I was published again – almost two years. I think that initial success gave me a false sense of how easy it could be.

    Anyway – I fear I am blathering. Consider your flip out stage fright and let it fuel what comes next. As I think Alan said the other day, if you’re not nervous, if you’re not scared, you don’t care enough about what you’re doing!

    • The apprenticeship/mentorship model is one I think is worth exploring. There is art and craft in both short stories and novels, but knowing how the the fine details work helps keep the big picture in mind. Now I have an idea for another blog post. Might keep it for Write Anything.

  2. You can do it. The only advice I could give is have a general idea of where you’re going, and tackle one scene at a time. Think of it as a lot of short fiction. Each scene is short fiction. But they tie together. And if they don’t come out perfect, don’t be surprised. This is what editing for for. Revising is a necessary part of it. Seriously Adam, it’s not as scary once you go through it once. Just keep your focus and don’t let that baby fizzle out. xx

    • Thanks Carrie. I have a plan I will be working from to keep me on track. The closer I get the more excited I become to explore the idea I’ve had rattling in my head for a number of years.

  3. Today’s society almost indoctrinates us into thinking a serious pursuit of art, both as a living and a raison d’etre, is fruitless and stupid. But even so, lacking dedication is the artist’s own fault.

    In short, everyone may call you a punk or an idiot, but if you caved in to the pressure it’s entirely your fault. Never forget this!

    I can’t wish you luck, because art is not gambling or something left to chance. I wish you success instead.

  4. What are you doing????!!!!! Procrastinating? …. Sit down and write boy!

    But seriously, good on you. I look forward to reading it!

  5. Three months off and you’re complaining?! LOL, just sit down & write. You have your stuff together… one scene per day will get you there with time to spare. You’ll have days when nothing happens, and days when the words pour out faster than you can get ’em down.

    Your only potential roadblocks are your own self-doubt — and in-laws who think since you’re “not doing anything” that you’re available for random chores 24/7.

    (Re-cloaking since WP suddenly insists I log in all the time now.)

    • Time to bunker down in a library somewhere so the in-laws can’t find me. I’ll change locations each day like a spy.

      • Cafe writing – the cost of a few cups of nice tea is the cheapest rental space in the entire city! Plus it feeds into the illusion of the writer as some kind of oddity/almost social beast, preying on those around them for inspiration.

        Having said that Tuesday is the day I usually go out and write… perhaps I should treat myself to a spot of cafe editing (has seriously less allure!)

      • Writers are the ones who thrive in solitary obscurity yet feel the need to be around people. Strange beasts indeed.

  6. I did a similar thing over a year ago. I quit my actual job to finish the novel I’d been writing. Unfortunately, I was naive, and didn’t realise my novel wasn’t quite finished, and I ended up with a finished draft that I wasn’t happy with and no job. Give yourself a daily schedule, and stick to it. Carrie is right, treat each chapter as a short story that ties to the next.

  7. You can do it. So go on, do it.

  8. Pingback: Oh, Cecilia » otoh

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