Learn to Love the Pain

In 1 on April 16, 2010 at 9:23 pm

When it inevitably comes time, at the beginning of spring, to get back in shape, I want to snap my fingers and have an exercise genie magically remake my body without me having to do a whole lot of work. But of course, I gripe and grouse and pull on my swimsuit, even when all those extra bits poke out over the edges, and the glare of my winter-whitened skin causes people to have accidents in the gym. The first week or two, I don’t notice much change. I feel better, but the jiggly parts still jiggle and I weigh roughly the same. And then, somewhere between weeks three and four, there comes a moment where I realize that change is taking place. Something is different! And the more I keep it up, the more true that is.

Believe it or not, I am about to make a point about writing.

As much as we would like to believe that one or two drafts (by which many of us mean ‘a little bit of tinkering’) is going to be enough to get that manuscript completed, the fact is, it often takes many drafts. It takes me a minimum of two drafts to get to know my characters and their plot, and then another two to make sure it’s clear, demonstrated, and compelling. Then there’s the sentence streamlining…and so on.

The best thing you can do if you hunger to publish, is to embrace the process of transformation. Learn to like how each draft feels different, better, more refined than the last. Learn to look forward to the next one, when you know it will get that much better. You’ll be wearing your short shorts soon!

I know there are writers out there so skilled they can write a book in one fell swoop. And maybe you’re one of them–yours is the Giselle of manuscripts, with a “bod” so tight and effortless it doesn’t need much. But if you’re like the average person, don’t buy into the belief that if you just take that one little pill, your book will be done in a fortnight.

Work it, people. Suffer a little for your art. Learn to love the pain. After awhile, it stops hurting. And then comes the endorphin rush. Trust me, it happens in writing, too.

  1. Amen. Another great post that should be read by many, many writers.

  2. Yup. Multiple drafts indeed. I liken writing to making a clay pot – a lump of earth slowly transformed by hand or wheel into a form, then trimmed, excised, modified, decorated, burnished to a work of art.

    And writing’s kinda like plastic surgery, too. I guess. Great post. Thank you.

    • Linda, I love your image! Yes, clay is the perfect analogy. Writing is like plastic surgery insofar as the surgery part… 🙂

  3. I was so ready to submit my sci-fi short story “Runaway Train” to Analog. Then I realized the POV character was kind of dull, and it might be better to make the religious, elderly woman the main POV character. Now I need to rewrite 14 pages. Not as bad as that novel I’m working on, but still a hefty task. Fun!

    • William, I’m so glad to hear you’re tackling that hefty task. How’s your novel revision going, by the way?

  4. Jordan, I just tweeted this. Thanks for this good reality check for my head. And I too, am on a new exercise challenge, created by a physical therapist. Oh, oh, some of my hip rotators haven’t been used since I retired as a dance educator. And as for the pain of trying to write better, I go for the burn but sometimes, I sneak off and write some breezy short piece to avoid my main workout on the WIP.

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