I love writing, but taking on writing a novel was a lesson in humility and endurance. It was not the carefree experience I had when I would pick up my journal on a whim when moved by something and just begin to write. Writing a novel is more like a marriage than a one-night stand. You are committed, and along the way you find out all sorts of things about yourself you didn’t expect to find. There is a deep underlying joy in seeing a story come to life, but like a marriage it requires lots of work and sweat and a few tears here and there.
As I was writing my first book, Finding Tom, I had a lot of days when I wanted to just give up. For years I’d dabbled in short stories, poetry, and other quick writes, but none of that practice adequately prepared me to tackle a full-length novel. I found that I easily got bored and struggled to tie together the different threads I had begun to weave. I would go back and look at an idea that seemed so momentous only a day or two before only to realize that it didn’t fit with the overall trajectory of the story. That being said, there were plenty of moments when the overall trajectory of the story was itself in doubt. By the time I finally finished my first draft I had to take a hiatus from the story to let my mind rejuvenate before editing.
Editing was such a difficult process for me because it began to reveal my flaws as a writer. Time and time again I found myself chopping and cutting sentences and paragraphs that I’d taken so much time to painstakingly craft. There were plenty of times out of stubbornness or even shear laziness where I almost didn’t polish and perfect my work even though I knew that it was sub-par. It seemed with every new paragraph there was something else to fix. There were moments where I wondered if I would ever be done and if all of this effort was worthwhile. A healthy tension emerged as I learned when to let things go and when to meddle. A ways through editing I realized that there would be no such thing as a perfect draft. I could read the story a thousand times and always find things here and there to change, so I had to learn the art of quitting. I had to learn to when to let things be. I had to learn to look at the big picture of the story rather than being sucked into the minutia of a little sub-section. This was difficult, but in the end it proved to be a very helpful philosophy to make editing more than just a frustrating chore.