A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it to be God.
– Sidney Sheldon
Most writers will agree that writing is hard work. In fact, the surprise that comes with a commitment to write is just how hard the work is. Few people can plop themselves down and start writing a masterpiece. On the contrary, maintaining focus, commitment and motivation can be difficult when the writing muse is absent, our real lives distract us, or we haven’t received the affirmation from others we desired from our writing.
So what does it take to make a writer shut out the world, reject invitations to do more fun and interesting things, and compel him or herself to put words on a page or a screen day after day, no matter what?
One reason may be the joy of discovery. For a writer, there is an infinite variety of surprises that occur when writing. First, the characters themselves surprise us. We think we’ve created them and we’ll tell them to do our bidding. Then we discover that these characters have their own wills and make their own choices. I remember when writing my first novel how surprised I was when my characters did something I didn’t expect. A frequent conversation with my husband would go like this:
“You won’t believe what Kate did today!”
To which he scratches his head trying to figure out who Kate is, then finally says, “This is not a real person, right? This is a character in your book.”
And then I’m faced with the realization that he finds it strange that I’m surprised by something someone I created did. Yet it happens all the time. Ask any fiction writer. We can plot out scenes and synopses, but in the actual writing, a character will do something that alters the scene and maybe the whole outcome of the book, which is also a surprise.
Another gratifying discovery is finding out that we can learn how to improve our writing, and how word selections or sentence structure can be changed to make the work more readable, more interesting, or more exciting. This process, though part of the hard work, is a pleasing reward when the end result is much better than the original draft.
Research provides many interesting discoveries and a wealth of data for our stories. As a historical writer, I celebrate each discovery that shows me more about the world of my characters. I can see where they lived, what their lives were like, their clothing, their hairstyles, their customs. In the course of my research, pieces fit together in my mind that meld into the novel I’d envisioned in a wonderful, amazing way.
Of course one of the greatest joys comes from writing “The End.” Discovering that I can indeed complete a novel provides real satisfaction. When I began writing my first novel, I didn’t believe I could write enough words for an entire novel, my goal being 75,000. What a surprise it was to discover the finished work had 83,000 words!
For those of us who feel God-led to write, seeing the work through to completion not only affirms that it can be done, but also strengthens our belief that we are indeed following the right path. And what greater joy can there be than to realize we achieved that goal?
“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126:3