The Writing Advice I Needed Right Now

There are so many words and revisions between where I am and where I want to be. I get stuck, so many times and places along the way and I am, as always, looking for inspiration anywhere I can find it. And, I don’t mean a muse. I’m not looking for a new story idea. I have a ton of ideas, some of them finished. I am looking for the words that will keep me going through this next paragraph, this next chapter, this rewrite, this restart.

I came across these two quotes on Literary Hub, in an article by Emily Temple called “Just Fill The Pit! And Other Advice From Famous Authors”. And, they gave me the help I need Right Now. Hopefully, they will help someone else, too.

“Just keep going, is the best advice I’ve gotten. Because the whole job is just about doubt and constantly feeling like you shouldn’t be writing the thing that you’re writing, or that you shouldn’t be writing anything at all. So just have someone you respect and love say: you can do this, and keep going.”

Paul Murray, Skippy Dies; The Mark and the Void

I’ve heard “Just Keep Going” hundreds of times, if not thousands, rephrased in dozens of ways, including, and especially: “Just keep punching the damn keys.” That advice isn’t what keeps drawing me back to this quote. It’s the description of the psychological struggle of writing. My Struggle, Your Struggle, Our Constant Struggle, the thing that makes writing so horrible, so unbearable at times, that sucks the potential enjoyment out of it, quickly, and in some cases, permanently. It is why we approach a new story, a new idea, with joy, excitement…and a little bit of fear. We are coming up against the Dread Thing again, and we would rather not.

Murray is describing what I’m experiencing today: self-doubt, and the ever-present suspicion that this novel isn’t worth my efforts, and isn’t inspiring my best efforts, and won’t be interesting to anyone, and won’t ever be completed, and…so on. You know the drill, and if you don’t, you will soon. But, just seeing it put into words by a published writer matters to me. He went through it. He made it through, multiple times. So, I can, too.

“Imagine that there’s a giant pit that’s opened up before you. And on the other side of the pit is the rest of your life. And all you have to do is just dump words into the pit until they fill it up and you can walk across. Which is not artful! But it was at least helpful in getting the thing done.”

Lindy West, Shrill

How apt. The rest of my life. The reality of the writing life, the reality for writers. On the other side of this journey, this struggle, these hundreds of thousands of words, this next sentence and the one to follow, is the rest of my life. Or, to put it another way: on this side of the pit is the life I am living, on the other side is the life I want. And, I will write my way to it. Or, I won’t.

I will. 

You will, too.

And, if you don’t have anyone nearby, just tell yourself: “You can do this. Just keep going.”

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