People often ask about the biggest challenges writers face. Most of the time, they expect to hear answers like “deadlines,” or “getting good reviews” — but in truth, the biggest challenges in a writer’s world come from within.
The three-headed Cerberus of every writer’s personal hell.
I talk a lot about fear, and laziness…well, it’s pretty self-explanatory, and the only way to deal with that is lots of discipline and self-awareness.
And so, by process of elimination, this blog must be about entropy.
Thermodynamics will tell you that “entropy” represents a degree of disorder or randomness in a mechanical system, which causes energy to become unavailable for use in mechanical work.
In the writer’s world, “entropy” represents a sometimes gradual, and sometimes deliberate, decline resulting in the writer’s brain and time becoming unavailable for writing.
In simpler terms: we get lazy, or we find an excuse, and we stop.
Not quit, mind you–we haven’t given up writing–we’ve simply found a convenient excuse to spend our evenings watching Ink Master, The Librarians, and Food Network instead of working on another novel.
For novice writers, this phase takes over after completion of a manuscript. It’s written, it’s edited, it’s polished to a glorious sheen, and now it’s time to query, not to write…
Except that once the rejections start, it’s easy to get caught up in revising, re-querying, and re-re-querying, and the idea of starting another manuscript altogether seems too time-consuming and difficult…
…and besides, surely the 247th agent will sign me now, and why should I waste my time?
For writers with an agent, the temptation is to wait until the agent finds a publisher, and then start something new.
Except that sometimes, books don’t sell, and then the agent wants to know what else you’re working on…and you can’t answer…
For writers with a book in the publishing process, the temptation–no matter where you are in your career–is to wait until after this release, and then put in the heavy lifting on the next book in the queue. The next in the series, a standalone–it doesn’t matter. We’ll get right on it…after things calm down.
Except that they never do calm down.
The take-away lesson from all of this is that writers write, and we need to keep writing, no matter where we are or what unspeakable storm is buffeting our physical and mental lives. Yes, there will be times in life when writing is impossible–but make sure that’s a legitimate description and not an excuse.
You don’t get to wait until you’ve queried every agent on the planet before you start another manuscript. Is this one really ready to query? Huzzah! Start writing your next one (and NOT the next in a series–something different, in case the first does not pan out) the day you send the very first query out.
You don’t get to wait until the agent sells your book before you write the next one. Talk with your agent, and make sure the project you’re starting is something (s)he is interested in and thinks (s)he can sell. Or not, if that’s not how you roll (although I always advise communication) but, one way or another, start the writing.
You don’t get to wait until this book comes out before you start the next one. Publishing schedules are tight, and the more high-quality books you release, the better your chances of establishing a writing career. Waiting to start the next one only shortens the time you have to write, and shortening time is not a recipe for success…in baking or in art.
Writers are creative people, and we’re especially good at creating excuses not to write. Don’t do it.
Entropy will be fighting your progress every step of the way. Don’t let it win.
Finish your project, celebrate with a pizza and a glass of whatever-you-fancy, and then get those fingers back up on the keys.