It’s that time again. Time to shake out our fears, release them into the might sea of electrons and offer up some words of encouragement. Be sure to thank Ninja Captain Alex and hop on the linky: it’s another IWSG.
I’ve been struggling with an idea lately: is it worth it?
It’s a hard bridge to tackle. Every scrap of my life has been the safe road. Every choice was for the future, safe, solid, conservative. Every choice.
The act of starting a novel is complete madness. Writers start with an idea. They do all the work on the idea before anyone else sees it. They feed the idea their words. Hours and hours, gone. Housework? Nope, I’ve gotta write. A full day’s paying work followed by long nights pecking at a keyboard, and for what, a flawed first draft. The writer goes back and reads the manuscript (more hours) decides what to keep and what to toss. Then it’s back to writing. More long days, more frozen dinners for the family. Send it to beta readers: they hate it. Revise, rework, reword. Write. Betas say: better, but not enough. Rewrite. Redo. More dark lonely hours, but like a drug, the manuscript calls us back.
Then, finally a writer emerges from the writing cave blinking and holding something in their hands that represents months—sometimes years—of work. They craft a one page letter to carry the hopes of their dreams out into the morass of the query trenches. More months pass, but the writer has already fallen in love with the next idea. And the next one is The One.
I know plenty of people who’ve been on this merry-go-round for a decade with varying degrees of success. Madness. In what other profession would we tolerate so much failure? But every week I hear from those same friends about their novel, how they love this or that about it, and how they’re excited to get back to work.
Excited. Years of failure and they are still excited.
I’ve been writing like I mean it for years now. Granted, they sort of skipped by with me busy doing other stuff—notably that paying job, etc.—but I sort of look up every now and then and wonder, Holy Copernicus, how did another year slip away? Will I ever get published? What if I never get to print? Another year that just flounced by with me splitting myself into worker, mommy, writer: Is this worth it?
From a logical stand point: no. There is no way that spending hours and days and weeks and months and years could possibly work out to “worth it” for a novel that gets trunked. A touch of math will tell you it can’t be worth it in terms of lost work potential. If everything went perfectly, a novel probably takes something like 400-600 hours of work depending on length, revision, rewriting and so forth. That’s a lot of time. So logic says no. It isn’t worth it.
But logic has never dictated my actions. I’ve tried, but every logical choice I’ve made has bit me in the asterisk. Writing defies logic. For 400-600 hours, I get to live in a world filled with magic and justice, wonder and beauty. Heroic deeds well up from people who never knew they had it in them. I get to watch worlds and people unfold before my eyes, and there are so many I want to share, so many stories. The stories are boiling out of me, and if I didn’t write, I’d self destruct. That’s not hyperbole. It’s madness, yes, but it’s my madness.
So if you’re sitting at your desk today, looking at your manuscript and wondering if it’s worth it, to split your life and be an employee, and a parent, and a spouse, and a writer, just remember: writing a novel is madness, but we’re all mad here.