On the difficulty of writing

I don't know if you know this, but writing is freaking hard. I mean, yeah, there are those days when the words flow easily and the plot aligns itself perfectly in your mind. But even after those days, there are these days.

The days when you can barely write a coherent sentence about making toast, much less eloquently express a teenager's angst; the days when the plot you so meticulously put together falls apart and you contemplate just killing off all your beloved characters; the days when nothing works and you're ready to throw the whole thing away and start anew.

Because writing is hard. It takes guts, it takes dedication and it takes a certain amount of stubbornness.

And for some reason I've decided to completely wrap my life around writing. I mean, if it's not the novels, it's the poetry, and if not that, well, it's the journalism. I don't — I can't — go a day without writing...even on the days when all I do is journal. I write, I write, and I write.

It gets frustrating on days when I feel like I'm just writing into a void. I'm writing articles that no one reads, books that aren't published and blogs that barely get views.

I pour my heart and soul into perfecting a piece of literature, only for it to get rejected or, worse, barely looked at. I don't understand why I keep doing what I'm doing.

Wouldn't it be better to find a sensible career? Shouldn't I rearrange my life to fit around a job at the bank or perhaps in mathematics? I mean, that is where the money is. And surely, surely, it can't be as frustrating as trying to pull words out of a dried-out, tired brain.

I know what you're thinking. It can be as frustrating. For some reason, in everything we do, the actions with the highest potential for greatness and joy have the highest level of frustration.

Let me say that again: with potential for great success comes great hardship.

It's kind of the "no pain, no gain" philosophy. If you don't pour yourself into your work, expending blood, sweat and tears, you're not going to get much out of it.

That's why I keep doing what I'm doing.

On the days when I couldn't even tell you what toast is, much less describe making it, I want nothing more than to curl into a little ball and forget I ever dreamed of being a great writer, winning awards and changing lives.

But on the days when I have a novel breakthrough, a flash of inspiration for a poem or a great story to tell the community...man. Oh man.

It's like doing drugs, only better, because it's not illegal and you don't kill your brain cells. Or your bank account.

It's like when you're riding a bike and you hit your stride, reach a nice downhill stretch and you just sort of float along in midair, the wind tangling your hair and waking up each individual cell in your cheeks.

It's sitting up straighter, pulling your legs under you, cracking your knuckles and typing as fast as you can to get the words onto paper before they leave you forever. It's pure adrenaline. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced.

Writing is hard. But it's also so, so rewarding.

The cure for writer's block: more words

So I mentioned in a recent post how I'm trying out this new thing where I get up early in the morning to write 1,500 words before I go to work. And it had been going great. I was writing pages and pages every morning, the story was flying out of my fingertips at great speed, I was starting to feel good about this. My Mom's a Killer was coming along nicely. I was confident. It was going to be an instant bestseller, I just knew it. How could people not love it? I mean, sarcastic, funny Keira; feisty, sassy Jo; hot hot hot Derek; an attempted murder, a cover-up and an early release from prison. It was great.

Until it wasn't.

This week has been a little rough. It's been hard to wake up, hard to consume my daily dose of the front page of The New York Times and most importantly, hard to write. And the longer I spent away from my precious novel, the harder it got.

Last night I finally forced myself to sit down and start writing again. It was like dream-running: impossible. (Side note: does anyone else have that problem? I cannot get my legs to move quick in a dream. It makes running from the bad guys a real issue). Anyway. To use a cadre of cliches, it was like pulling teeth, like slogging through mud, like running uphill. I couldn't do it.

I mean, I did. I forced out 1,800 words, but the whole time I was telling myself, This sucks, this sucks, this whole book sucks. This is not a good book. 180 pages, 52,000 words, and you've got nothing. A waste of time. They say we're our own worst critics, and it's so true. I can tear myself down in one second when it took 100 compliments to get me moderately pleased with my work.

But I pushed through. I kept writing. I forced the words out, because I've learned at least one thing after more than 15 years of being a writer (yes, I started around the time I was seven. I might have been terrible, but I was still a writer. I'll claim that): I've learned that writer's block is just that — a block.

It's a temporary obstacle on the path to literary greatness. It's a large boulder, a towering gate, a fallen tree. It is possible to get through it. Sometimes, the only way to do that is to just — keep — hitting — it.

You've gotta bust that obstacle down. You have to write your way through that. The beauty of writing can be contained in one word: drafts. Heck yeah, revisions and multiple drafts are the only thing that keeps me going sometime.

When I'm struggling through a tough scene or wondering how on earth I'm going to save my book, I tell myself one thing: push through it. Write through it. Get to the other end of the scene, where the road is clear, and forge ahead. When it comes time to review, to reevaluate your work, you can decide whether or not to keep the troublesome scene.

Perhaps you'll end up scrapping it. Some scenes exist for the sole purpose of helping us get from one point to another. That's totally okay. Everybody, literally everybody has some of those scenes.

Perhaps you'll majorly revise it and keep it. That's great! In your darkest, weakest moment of writing, you still created something salvageable. You rock, dude.

Perhaps you'll keep it was is. That's even better than the above! It means you're a freaking superstar of the writing world. If this is what you create in the darkest moments, what must you have done when you were feeling good? You can do anything.

And there is is, in 700 words or less: the cure for writer's block is to write more. I mean, think about it. It's the best revenge! Here's this monster trying to keep you from writing, and you defeat it by doing just that. Writer's block ain't got nothing on you. You, my friend, are a writing superhero. All hail the next bestselling author, [insert your name here]!

"My Mom's a Killer," a.k.a the title of my new book

My actual mother is not a killer. She has never killed anyone, and in fact, I'm certain even if she ever tried it wouldn't work: she has back problems, you see. Keira Mendez's mom, on the other hand, is a totally different story. And what happens when she gets let out of jail and moves back home with her daughter, well...that's a whole book. And you'll have to read it if you want to know what happens ;)

The inspiration came from this article that I read, compounded with the fact I took a Creative Writing for Young Readers class this semester and needed material for a workshop. It begins,

"My mom tried to kill me when I was a baby."

We talked about great openings, and while you'll never catch me saying that something I've done is "great," at the very least it's arresting and will, hopefully, get people to read even further to see where the story is going to go.

Frankly, I'm excited to see how the story ends. I've worked on several different outcomes, and as much as I've plotted, I've reached the conclusion that I'm just going to have to write until the story unfolds itself. There are two potential endings and one of them is very me and the other is very...Carrie...

Creepy, I know.

So I'm still trying to decide whether I'm going to dip my toes into the lake of crazy or stay in my own, safe, happy little world :P (If you've never read a book I've written, which of course all except for like three of you haven't, that's a joke. For...reasons).

Whichever way it goes, though, I'm sure the writing will be a blast and I can't wait to keep going on it. The plan is to finish writing it over the summer (when I'm not writing articles and doing other things for the paper) and then for the fun part: revise!

In the meantime, I'm still trying to get an agent for "Red Rain Boots," the first novel I completed. It hasn't been going too successfully, but you know what? I'm just gonna keep trying. Because someday I want you to read my books. It'll be fun, you know? Like seeing a glimpse into my soul. So exciting ;)

In other random news, I graduate one week from today. It's time to put the books and the blog aside and buckle down for three days of finals. Hurrah!