Cons:

I’ve spent nearly ten years writing blog-type entries on a regular basis, and as such I don’t know anything about character development, plot, or stringing together much of anything longer than 1000 words.

My character names are always terrible. As if they’ve been picked out of a baby name book. Which they are.

I spend half my day trying to meet writing deadlines. If I have one more word-related obligation hanging over my head I will surely ruin the last bit of pleasure I get from this activity.

Whenever I try to write something that takes more effort than reporting on Justin Bieber’s latest haircut, the children invariably sense my attempt to achieve some sort of focus, and that’s when they attack with the hand-carved prison shanks.

A book? Do you know how long that is? What kind of madman just sits down and writes page after page after page—my god, they don’t even have COMMENTS along the way.

I tried to write something a couple years ago and it was horrible. Just. Horrible. I hated it. And I hated myself a little, after I gave up on it. Even more than I hated myself during it, for sucking at it so much.

See, it’s disheartening and awful to attempt to write something, thinking this is the one thing you’re supposed to be at least a little bit good at, only to have it take like five hours to painfully crank out half a paragraph, which, by the way, is a total piece of dogshit. Why would I want to put myself through this? It’s not even FUN. It BLOWS ASS.

Pros:

What if I took this fiction idea I’ve been kicking around and just started working on it, instead of whining about how hard it would be? I bet that would feel better than procrastinating with a blog post about how I probably shouldn’t even try because god, there are a million reasons why I can’t do it.

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Penne
Penne
11 years ago

Read something today on the Domino Project, “Put your ass where your heart is.” I’ve been whining and worrying and saying, “ugh, but I write for work, I can’t write anything but copy anymore, blah blah blah,” But it’s not where my heart is. And neither is yours. You love words too much, we can tell. You roll them around and make them delicious and we can all taste exactly what you mean. Maybe your book isn’t about characters you don’t know. Maybe they already have names and they’re developed and you know them and just need to put your ass where your heart is and tell us all the story. Here’s the article, if you want to read it…http://www.thedominoproject.com/2011/04/how-do-you-really-do-the-work.html

JennB
JennB
11 years ago

Roll with it. Do it if it works. If it doesn’t try something else. Good luck!

Hilary
11 years ago

Have you thought about taking a writing class? Every year I go to a festival of (very successful) women authors and they talk about their craft, and almost all of them have gone through some sort of workshop/class/degree program to give them structure and feedback. I think a lot of people have an idea that writing is an innate talent, when a lot of it can be learned. Especially things like character and plot development. You’ve already got the gift with language, so you are way ahead of most people. Maybe a class on some of the more technical stuff would help. Of course sitting down to write is half the battle, too. Good luck!

Kizz
11 years ago

Get the hell out of my head, Linda! Been having the same fucking conversation all week. Then got my period and just weighted down all that angst with Jr. Mints.

samantha jo Campen
11 years ago

Sounds like the marathon. You hated training for it, when you were almost done running it you wanted to die, but when you were done you cried and couldn’t stop beaming.

And you family DID cheer for you along the way, as did we.

Just sayin’.

Valerie
Valerie
11 years ago

Here’s the deal Linda. If you write it, I will read it. I love your writing. I love fiction. You can’t go wrong.

Lola
11 years ago

What about taking a writing class? Maybe get some collaboration going…or some technique. You are such a wonderful writer. I would read it – no matter what. But, the class could maybe help you “structure” how you can go about it…

Janet in Miami
Janet in Miami
11 years ago

I’d love to read a compilation of your blog posts – which you’ve already written.

I love how you tell a story.

LauraC
11 years ago

This afternoon I just put together all the photos that are going in my portfolio on my photography business website. I’m just sitting here thinking, “I’m such a hack! My photos suck! Why am I doing this?”

I’m doing it because a year from now, I will wish I had done it a year ago.

In the immortal words of Ice Cube, “You can do it, put your ass into it.”

Very Bloggy Beth
11 years ago

Oh, I getcha, I soooo getcha. I majored in creative writing in college, 6 years ago, and that was the last time I wrote a good piece of fiction. I spent too many years writing dumb web articles on whatever topic they gave me, and now I feel like I don’t remember what to write. Just keep plugging away. As one of my college profs said, “you gotta write a lot of shit to get to the good stuff.”

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

First drafts are never ever perfect. Don’t dwell on a sucky paragraph just start the next one. You can do it!!! Stop being so hard on yourself.

Liz
Liz
11 years ago

Read this quote today and love it. “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
— Ira Glass

You are still young and talented! Keep at it. So what if you write a shitty book? Your next one will be better :-)

Maggie
11 years ago

Try it. But also, what about non-fiction? Write about your life, your kids. Expand on what you write here. You are an amazingly good writer and you are extremely easy to relate to. If you can try cross-fit, you can try a book!

Kris
Kris
11 years ago

You’re a great storyteller, although I, too, think a writing class would maybe help you focus & kick your creative drive into high gear.

Because that’s the shit, isn’t it? You have these great ideas in your head . . . but finding the time to string those ideas into actual dialogue is all but impossible.

Could you get a sitter for the kids for an afternoon each week? I know it’s not much, but you could scribble ideas in a notepad on the fly (or a word document, if you prefer); then try to compose something logical from your notes when the kids are being otherwise entertained. An indulgence? Absolutely. But you’re a great writer, and the right words will come if you let them.

Also? I’m not an editor or even remotely connected to the publishing industry; but if you ever need someone to read your stuff, I’d love to do it. I know you don’t know me from Eve, but it may be easier to take helpful criticism from a stranger.

Hey! Maybe you could start an online creative writing group, via private message board or e-mail or something. Have everyone sign a non-compete or confidentiality agreement, just for peace of mind. I’d sign up, in a heartbeat.

Eric's Mommy
Eric's Mommy
11 years ago

Linda, you are a great writer and your short stories that you have posted are awesome.

Lissa
Lissa
11 years ago

Your poems kick ass. I’d love to read a whole book of them.

Fiction will come when you’re inspired, do what you do well and the inspiration is already there!

Lawyerish
11 years ago

Ahahahaha! I have a version of this conversation with myself, oh, EVERY EFFING DAY.

I read all the time about published writers who LOVE the process of novel-writing, and I just think, really? It’s fun for me for like the first hour that I manage to sit down and start to dump words onto the page, but then after that I get totally bogged down in the “this SUCKS, I SUCK, who would EVER READ THIS CRAP?” thinking and it saps all the fun out of the whole thing.

I often wonder if I like the idea of writing and publishing a novel more than the actual DOING of the writing. I know I want to do it (it’s been a life-long dream to Be a Writer), and I get all bent out of shape when other people publish their books (especially mediocre/bad ones), but I can’t ever seem to make myself actually write my own damn book.

Lynn
Lynn
11 years ago

Check out nanowrimo.org if you haven’t done so already. I wrote my first novel last November – 1,667 words per day. If I can do it so can you. Just started work on the second draft. Good luck!

Erika
Erika
11 years ago

I know what you mean. Go, Linda!!

Michelle B.
11 years ago

This sounds very much like what goes through my head on a daily basis, plus it took me four years to actually start a blog, I figure I’ve got at least a decade to go with putting off the book.
So just do it already and show the rest of us how it’s done!

Jenny
Jenny
11 years ago

you should do nanowrimo… it is in november and you have to bang out your novel in 30 days. it sucks. the novel sucks. there is no editing just writing and writing to get your word count. The thing is, it provides a deadline (which is helpful) AND forces you to just get the shit out quickly with little thought. It is kind of freeing because all first drafts inherently suck and your goal is to get through that process fast.

jonniker
11 years ago

Singing my tune, of course.

But so let’s go to the Worst Case Scenario, Which I Highly Doubt, As I Think You Are Super-Talented: So what if you write a book and it’s bad? You WROTE A BOOK! I have to believe that you would learn something — probably a lot of somethings that would make you a better writer. A better BOOK writer, even. So you write another one. And then another one. And you just keep at it until we’re all buying your shit on our Kindles.

Adam gave me a massive lecture once about all the crap I do, that if I would put as much effort into my own writing as I do for my clients (a lot of whom DO underpay me), then I’d be a lot further along than I am, which is nowhere. That’s probably true, too.

Rachel
11 years ago

Reading this post reminded me of Maureen Johnson video blog post about sucking:

http://maureenjohnson.ning.com/video/dare-to-suck

It is AWESOME. It’s aimed at young people (she’s a popular YA writer), but it’s still good advice.

Lyn Never
11 years ago

I was just reminding myself today that you have to suck before you get better, and if you’re willing to put in the suck time to get past it to good…you’re beating out most of the rest of the competition.

I always listen to this talk from Merlin Mann (http://www.maxfuncon.com/2010/02/maxfuncon-podcast-episode-11-merlin.html) on the subject whenever I need a refresher on the necessity of suck.

Meagan
11 years ago

I have written a novel. At this point I have no idea if I’ll ever find a publisher, but I think it’s a bit like running a marathon: I now KNOW I can do whatever I set my mind to. Whatever comes if it, the day I finished was probably the most successful moment of my life.

My advice is to set an arbitrary daily goal for yourself: 1 page, 4 pages, doesn’t really matter. Do NOT worry if it’s any good, or if it even makes sense. Just write. You make it “good” when you edit, right now what is important is getting a running start. Once you have 50 pages, 100 pages, it starts to feel real and you can slow down and look at what you’re making.

Donna
Donna
11 years ago

Just write. Don’t write to for anyone to see it, just write to get it out of you. Don’t write to sell it, or to be the next great american novelist, but just write to put the words on paper and out of your head.

sooboo
11 years ago

Also, it doesn’t have to be fiction. It can be non fiction, essays, short true or half true stories, 1000 pages of automatic writing or whatever else you want it to be. Just write that damn book lady!

Sarah
Sarah
11 years ago

Oh man, I loved this so much because this? This is ME all the way!

I love love love writing. Or at least I think I do….I took creative writing in high school and college and have actually been told more than a handful of times that I should try and get some of my work published. Which is great as far as compliments go, but then it made my naive 19 year old self believe I could actually WRITE A NOVEL.

My biggest problem is that I get so gung-ho, I start picturing who will play my main characters in the movie version and how it’ll be the Greatest Book Of All Time- and then I start writing and I start hating the characters, then the story, and then myself for thinking up such a dumb idea.

I agree with the other comments- maybe a creative writing class? So you can at least figure out how to keep the plot ball rolling. But just starting writing, see what happens. It could be amazing!

Christie
11 years ago

Like so many other people here, I have a version of this internal dialogue running through my brain most days. I even took a writing class last fall, wrote the first three chapters of a novel, and got really great feedback from classmates and the prof. And yet? Last week when I pulled it out to have a go at it, I couldn’t get through the first paragraph without cringing at the sheer awfulness of it.

I think we have this idea in our heads about how we want to write, and what our voice should be. And we can’t always craft the words into that shape and all we see is the total crap suck-age. What we don’t see, because we haven’t learned to be objective, is the voice that IS there. Other people see it and appreciate it. Our inner critic doesn’t afford us that same opportunity.

Best way to get over it and get better at it? Ass in seat, words on page. Over and over until it’s done.

Wish it were that easy…..

Jessica
11 years ago

The short stories you’ve posted over the years have been AMAZING. I know a short story is very different from a book, but the stories have also been very different from usual blog posts. I would love to read a book you write!

Danell
Danell
11 years ago

Please please pleeeeeease write us a book! (I refuse to believe it would be anything but a pleasure to read. Re. Fuse.)

Becky Mochaface
11 years ago

Do it. And then maybe I’ll be inspired enough to stop making excuses for myself.

Sarah Miller
11 years ago

Even more than I hated myself during it, for sucking at it so much.

THIS IS COMPLETELY NORMAL. I swear to you. You’re practically a novelist already.

mosted
mosted
11 years ago

What’s the worst thing can happen? No one’s going to die…..so what if it’s not the greatest novel? Think I would read it anyway….love your writing…At least you’ll have tried!!

Bobbie
Bobbie
11 years ago

It took almost two years of my life…..and nearly drove me nuts; sitting in front of a computer, on a deadline, writing for 10 straight hours a day. I promised myself if I lived through it I would never do this again….. Nearly wet myself when I saw my name on the cover; already thinking about the second one……
Remember, your a mom of two boys–you can do anything!

Robyn
11 years ago

I wrote and somehow published a book (non-fiction) almost 20 years ago, and parts of it now sometimes make me cringe and want to change my name. But Jonna’s right – what outweighs that by far is that I wrote a BOOK, and I am incredibly proud of that. It makes me feel satisfied and strong to hold its weight in my hands and see my name on the cover, internal suckage notwithstanding.

If you haven’t yet read it, I’d recommend checking out Anne Lamott’s take on the ‘Shitty First Draft’ in her book Bird by Bird.

Angella
11 years ago

If anyone can do it, you can. You’re, like, good with words n’ stuff.

Seriously, though. You may be someone I consider a friend but you’re also one of the few people who inspire me to be a better writer.

I mean it.

Kate
11 years ago

A wise woman once wrote about digging through the “No” to find the “Yes” in a challenge she was presented. And so she dug. And found the yes. And ran 26.2 miles.

I bet she can dig through the “I can’t” to find the “I can” the same way.

Just do it.

NancyJ
NancyJ
11 years ago

OMG Just do it already!!!
I would be the first on Amazon to pre-order it AND the first in line at whatever bookstore you were appearing at within a 200 mile radius of my house.
We all believe in you – now believe in yourself.

Tahlia
Tahlia
11 years ago

My husband is also a writer, and I asked him before if he ever thought about writing a book, and he said that he’s one of the few writers who doesn’t think he has one in him. He loves writing, he’s good at it, etc., but putting together a book is just not his style of writing.

I’m not saying don’t do it if you have an idea and think you have it in you…. but not all writers are novelists. And that’s okay. A lot of writers would suck at putting together what you put together or wouldn’t enjoy it at all. A book takes a lot of time and effort, why do it if you hate it?

I’m trying to distinguish between “want to” and feeling like you should here. If you truly want to do it, then give it a shot. If you just feel like you should because you’re a writer… maybe rethink that one?

Josefina
11 years ago

Linda, I would love to read a book you wrote. I love your writing.

sherri
sherri
11 years ago

It’s been awhile, but you used to post some shorts on here and I always enjoyed them.

I keep kicking that idea around as well. I have these ideas floating around my head that I want to put on paper, but….I’ve almost convinced myself that I can write them just for me, and then maybe one day after they are done (ha!) I can think about what happens next.

shygirl
shygirl
11 years ago

Do you want to write fiction? Or do you feel like you *should* want to? Because that’s a big difference. Maybe the fun of your daily writing is related to the fact that it’s nonfiction.

I think you are a tremendously talented writer. Your nonfiction is amazing. The few bits of fiction you’ve posted have been really good too. But when I read this post, it sorta sounds like you’re talking about XF: writing fiction sounds like something you feel you should enjoy, but don’t. Is it possible that writing nonfiction is to writing fiction as running is to XF?

If you really love fiction and it’s a matter of tackling the behemoth job of writing an entire BOOK, no worries. You’ve already trained for running a marathon, and writing a book seems very very similar: slowly and steadily training in increments for a monumental end result that couldn’t possibly be achieved any other way. You already know how to do that, you’re just transferring a known skill to a new arena!

KKF
KKF
11 years ago

Haven’t read comments, here’s what I did:
Take the hugeness out of it. Every day for a month write a small synopsis of a certain part of the book you want to write. One day you’re all “so when he goes into the kitchen and finds her corpse, he smells the air and it smells like wet iron.” and the next day you’re all “I want them to meet on a beach someplace in Finland, in the middle of a storm” and then it’s suddenly become a very digestable project of small 1,000 words-or-less synopsis pieces that you can lace together “later”. Then let it rest for a few months. Then put them in order. Then when you’re writing it all out, you already have a large chunk of it done AND a plan for where you want it to go.
It’s what I did.
I’m a big fan of yours already, so if you’re feeling strong enough about it to WANT to do it, we can all tell you that it’s something you should find the space in your brains to do. You can get there. We’ll cheer you on all the way.

Life of a Doctor's Wife

Yep, I’m right there with you!

And I will read whatever you write because damn you are a talented writer. I have no doubt any book you crank out will kick some serious ass.

Anne
Anne
11 years ago

I second the commenter who suggested Anne Lamott’s “Bird By Bird.” Her main take is–you have to allow yourself to write shitty first drafts, because there IS NO OTHER WAY to write.

Also–writing is an art form. A DISCIPLINED art form, in the same way that dancing, music, and painting are. I don’t know if you majored in creative writing in college (if so, forget this assvice), but why is it that so many of us think we can just sit down and “write a book” with little to no prior formalized training when the same would not be true for, say, playing a Beethoven sonata; dancing in Swan Lake; painting a beautiful watercolor; etc., etc.?

All that aside, I think you could write a great book, if that’s what you choose to do.

jen
jen
11 years ago

why not a short story? there are a ton of great authors that were masters of the short story.

stacy
11 years ago

I’m struggling with the same thing. I have an idea. A real one. People tell me it’s good and that I need to WRITE it NOW. It’s non-fiction, btw. I can’t ever seem to … start.
Yesterday a friend told me to sit down and just write something for 20 minutes a day. Small commitment, over time .. big yields.
I’m starting tonight.

Nicole
Nicole
11 years ago

I commend that you’re EVEN THINKING of writing a book…. In my work at the UW I get to meet with a lot of different people, and had the pleasure of meeting the author of ‘Motherhood is the New MBA’ by Shari Storm – she spoke pretty candidly about the love and joy of writing the book but how hard it was to get published – you might enjoy the book for its content too??? http://www.sharistorm.com/ I would be happy to provide an introduction if you want one. Good luck to you!!! Nicole

Rachael
11 years ago

I feel you.

After all the work is done, kids are fed, homework completed, karate practiced, commute finished, business managed and the rest of the minutiae is over with I often realize I haven’t had the time to be creative just for creativity’s sake. And this from someone who paints for a living.

If I didn’t think the mommy guilt would kill me, I’d do an artist retreat or just hole up in a cabin somewhere for a week with just my ipod and my paint brushes. This one is at the top of my list: http://www.calderaarts.org/caldera/arts-in-residence/