I have a work-in-progress and I think it hates me.
Every day I sit down with this project, set my timer, turn on the music, spend way too much time thinking about font, size, and color, and then work at least an hour.
When I sit down with it, I feel it come alive.
It is a non-fiction book, so it’s not like it’s alive in the sense of genre or character. It’s alive with the ease (or lack of ease) that comes with the drafting and sculpting of each chapter. At times, it feels like it’s fighting against me. Some days, it is sterile and compliant; I’m the boss. I put one word in front of the other.
Why Do I Feel Like My Work-In-Progress is Out To Get Me?
Sometimes my WIP is a wild animal.
It responds to me with claws and fangs. It requires a chair and a whip and possibly raw meat in my pocket, never coming when I call it. I hold my ground with it, flicking the whip with confidence. I have to remind it that my name is on the contract. (Wait, no that’s not a strong argument. WIP’s name is on it too!) It says that it is an out of control animal and it can’t be tamed.
What do I say? I say, “Hey! Get back in line! I brought you into this world, I can take you out of it!” Then I get out the band-aids.
Sometimes my WIP is a diva.
It’s whiny and demanding. It insists I rewrite the sentences that have been rewritten dozens of times. Often it has high standards that I’m not sure I can meet. It withholds affection from me and turns up its nose at the ideas I bring or the structure I’ve suggested. This IS a book about writing, it sighs to me. How original can you expect to be? And then the dark glasses go on its face and I am dismissed.
What do I say? I say, “I am a professional. I’m a strong writer. If I think the work is good, then it’s good. I refuse to pamper you one minute longer than I have to!”
Sometimes my WIP is a spoiled teenager.
My work-in-progress is bored and would much rather I turn up the music. I often sit at my desk wanting to be other places and my WIP (who lives in my computer and never goes out) rolls its eyes at me and whines. “Let’s go swimming!” “I’m so tired of this!” “How much longer do we have to work on this project?” I can beat teenagers at their eye rolling game.
What do I say? I say, “until it’s done. An hour a day in 10 or 20-minute increments. And you realize I have a delete button at my fingertips, don’t you?”
Sometimes my WIP is an exhausted toddler. This is the same thing as a spoiled teenager, only less articulate.
Tears are usually involved. My WIP holds its fists in anger and screams. “I DON’T WANNA!” Hmm, I don’t tolerate this behavior. I didn’t when my five kids were little and I don’t now. This will require the teacher voice. No one likes the teacher voice.
What do I say?
I say, “Sit down! Hush! There is no reason to act like that. We are going to get through sixty minutes of drafting and if you give me one more whimper, one more whine, one more tear, I swear to you, I will change the font to comic sans! Do you understand me?“
Sometimes my WIP is a harpy.
This is the worst one of the group. Its only attack is to mock me. Years ago, I would have responded by running away, by quitting, by believing all the lies that it was telling me about how this is a waste of time. It’s not going to sell anyway. How is this book different from what others are saying? They only asked you because they knew you’d work cheaply. After you finish this, you’re done, you don’t have any more projects in you. But I’ve changed.
When I see my WIP cross its arms and hold its nose in the air, I stand a little taller. I’ve learned that most bullies back down because they’re cowards at heart.
What do I say?
I slip into my best Dirty Harry voice: Get. Over. Here. And then I may or may not slap it upside the head, (depending on how graphic you want this story to be and how believable it is that I actually take a whack at my computer. Hmm. Not very.)
I’m Learning How To Silence The Inner Critic. I’m taming my work-in-progress.
Despite my complaints, I’m blessed and grateful that I have this gig. I’m learning a great deal, growing in discipline and already meeting people who might benefit from this book. But this is hard work. Every day is a battle of will and discipline and not just mine.
Some day this book will be done and be sitting on the shelf beside me. It will be powerless to mock me, torment me or roll its eyes. Instead, it will bring in royalty checks and open doors.
And then the scars, tears, discipline, hard work and ridiculous metaphors will all be worth it.
You Better Believe It!
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Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.