52 Weeks of Writing (!): Week 17—Writing even when it's hard

52 Weeks of Writing (!): Week 17—Writing even when it's hard
Photo by Click PhotographyStudio / Unsplash

Camp Nanowrimo 2023/1: Week 4
Words: 45–50.8k

I'm not normally a proponent of the idea of writing even when it's hard. In fact, I prefer the idea of not writing when it's extremely hard, but it depends what you mean by "hard".

On the one hand, there's hard because you're ill, or in extreme pain. I've been experiencing the latter on and off for the last three weeks. That's probably the point when you shouldn't write, so do what I say and not as I do. You don't need to write when you're unwell, unless it's something that helps you feel better.

On the other hand, there's writing when the writing is the thing that's hard.

I started off this Camp Nanowrimo buoyed by the thrill of completing the month with the help of 4TheWords. I love the site, and find the way it doles out dopamine and serotonin during the generally dark and difficult process of writing something long and tough, really helpful.

Now, I might have really enjoyed the start, but the collision of the middle of April with perimenopause and some pretty scary symptoms has very much put me off. I've been intermittently in agony for upward of three weeks now.

Obviously, I contacted my GP about this, like a sensible person. Since the pandemic, doing that has involved filling out an online form and waiting for a response on what amounts to a messaging service. I don't like using the phone at the best of times, so I like being able to do this.

The response came back almost immediately. I've been sent for blood tests. Unfortunately, there's a bit of a wait to go to phlebotomy, so I just have to put up with the symptoms until then.

Probably connected to this, I've been struggling to write more and more. After a couple of weeks of really powerful, intensive writing, my confidence fell apart and some days I didn't want to write at all. I did the barest of bare minimums to keep going.

Something else contributed to this fall off in productivity. The further I got into writing, the more my inner editor wanted to get involved in what I was doing.

I found it very difficult to keep going when I doubted every aspect of what I was writing. The joy I'd experienced in the early stages evaporated, giving way to an increasing unease about the standard of my word-craft. I'd keep telling myself that it's all right to do a shitty first draft.

But do I listen to myself? No, I don't. The more I write, the more I'm aware of the limitations of my writing, of all the little tics and traps I have. The way all my characters are constantly "nodding", especially during dialogue, freezing when something surprises them, that kind of thing.

The upside of this realisation is doing two things. The first is investigating how to improve these tics. The second is researching scene-writing. I feel as though I know plenty about the different approaches to beats and plot structures, but scenes are tougher, and scenes are the essential cells of books.

Now, I'm going to stop. I'm here to say that not only have I reached the goal I originally set for this Camp Nanowrimo (30k), but also my stretch goal of 50k. Sometimes, doing the smallest mote of a thing, even when you feel terrible about it, can be okay. Sometimes it just has to be enough.