I always loved writing, but I could never stick to anything. I wrote in fits and starts. But I loved the work of it, thought for many years I wrote and it never felt like work – which meant I didn’t write when it did feel like work. It took many years to learn I was robbing myself of joy by living that way. I needed to write even when I didn’t feel like it.
I’d been wanting to write a novel more than anything, and I wrote about it for years in my journals. I know so many people say they want to write a book. But few of them will ever attempt it and those who do attempt it will likely fail. Writing is not something we can magically do and have it come out brilliant. It takes work. Many people think they can write an email, surely they can write a novel. But then they are faced with the truth that we all face. It’s hard. I don’t think that necessarily only the people who finish novels are good writers, but I do think that the people who finish are those who know how good it can feel to work.
It’s not uncommon to lose the desire for a fun thing when it feels like work. But when you do the work and you see what you can make even if it’s not brilliant – it’s the best hard work you’ll ever do. The power of creation is strong. When you come out the other side of that hard work, your life has changed.
That’s what happened to me when I wrote my first full-length novel for National Novel Writing Month. It certainly wasn’t a book I would want to publish without a complete rewrite, but I gained a new faith in myself that I could stick to it and finish a novel. I achieved a lifelong dream over the course of one month.
For the first time, I felt like I was truly a writer, and that I’d never enjoyed work so much. It felt like it was finally real. It was satisfying. And I was able to identify in myself the need to do this work, again and again, as if writing was a necessary part of my existence. The power of creation burned in my belly, and the need consumed me. The need to write was like the need to drink in the middle of a desert.
There’s always that saying that goes something along the lines of find what you love to do, and choose some form of work that you’d continue to do even if you weren’t paid to do it. I could write every day for the rest of my life and never ask for payment to keep doing it. If I make money on my books, that’s a bonus. But if I don’t, I would keep writing. If I stopped writing, I don’t feel like I’d be living, not the full life I was meant to live.