Can I tell you a story before we answer that first question? Thank you.
There once was a boy who liked to write. He spent each day finding joy in creating stories and discovering interesting characters. Sometimes, he had too many stories ideas; he didn’t know what to do. Oh, my. One day, he decided to get to work on one of his story ideas and began to write with a new friend named Rough Draft (“RD”). They wrote and wrote. And wrote.
The two had fun together; Rough Draft never judged the boy but always found encouraging words when the boy was discouraged. The boy had even told himself sternly from the beginning, “Do not self-edit; just write what comes,” and RD was right there with him, helping him like his own personal trainer. The boy set goals for himself. For example, he set a goal to write 250 words per day which felt very realistic to him, and Rough Draft gleefully held him accountable. He joyfully and obediently listened to his new friend and after seven months he had written over 60,000 words for this story idea! A self-published book was taking shape. The boy crunched the numbers on his calculator as fast as his little fingers could fly and figured out he did better than his daily writing goal: he had written 266.67 words per day, to be exact. Good for him. He was so proud of himself. The boy and RD grew together in the process—mostly from what they learned from each other.
But soon after, the celebrations ceased and the exaltation ended, the boy was left alone with a very ill Rough Draft. The boy saw his friend now as weak and sickly. He wondered if he had made a poor choice in his friendship. Had he really known Rough Draft all that well, he asked himself. I don’t even know him! he cried. The boy was desperate and reluctantly hired on another writing helper named Rewrite to help Rough Draft recover. The boy and Rewrite immediately got off on the wrong foot, as they say. Rewrite was a stern disciplinarian, nothing like Rough Draft. Oh, how the boy hated Rewrite! There was nothing fun about Rewrite and he did cruel things to the boy’s friend Rough Draft. Rewrite said things like, “Your friend, Rough Draft, expresses himself in a passive voice. We will make him ACTIVE!” Some days, he could hardly watch as Rewrite cut Rough Draft down and ripped out parts of his very soul, trimming the fat and killing off darlings. And the thing that shocked the boy the most: Rewrite made the two friends fight with each other. The boy began to blame RD, and RD blamed the boy for their lack of progress.
The boy did the only thing he knew to cope: he walked away. He left Rough Draft to languish alone because even Rewrite didn’t show up if the boy didn’t. (Apparently, Rewrite was a jealous soul.) Sadly, the boy and Rough Draft lost touch and soon didn’t recognize or understand each other. They had forgotten the very reason why they began their journey together. A tragic end to a promising beginning.
I saw the boy recently. He looked sad, depressed. He mumbled something about how other writers seem to develop strong relationships with other rough drafts and even rewrites. They were much more talented than he. Blaming himself for the failure, the boy wouldn’t call himself a writer anymore. (I think he said he worked in a call center now.) And his only show of passion was when he mentioned that other writers got published and he didn’t! “Last I checked, Amazon had over 2,100,000 books in their store! If that doesn’t make you depressed, what will?”
The boy lost his way, but I’ve reintroduced him to another writing companion. Second Draft is very much like Rough Draft used be. Second Draft doesn’t judge but rather quietly encourages small, incremental changes. He tells the boy other encouraging words like, “Don’t worry about your original goals to self-publish. We’ll get there. Let’s just take it one day at a time. Enjoy what you’re doing…and it will all fall into place.”
A wonderful new friendship is developing…and the book has begun to take shape again.
A moral to this story? I’m not sure. But I think it has to do with what this blog has been talking about all along. What are our motivations for writing? Why do we write in the first place? Are your goals unrealistic? (And I don’t mean, are your dreams unrealistic? No, because they never are unrealistic. They’re dreams!)
Have you lost your way in your writing? If so, come home. We’ll all be there waiting for you. To say kind words to you. And introduce you to some new friends.
(P.S. I wrote this blog post with the help of my two friends Rough Draft and Second Draft. I still haven’t forgiven Rewrite.)