Those Dog Days of Writing

I never know what to expect when I sit down to write.  Some days, the words gush out almost too quickly for me to keep up.  Then there are days where it’s but a mere drip, drip, drip – slow and tedious the process is and writing becomes actual work.  Is it because I have nothing to say on that day or is it that my mind is still processing, still grinding away, storing up for the next outpouring of inspiration?

Lately, writing has been of the drip, drip, drip variety – at least when it comes to the novel I am working on.  I know what I want to say.  But when I sit down to write.  It stalls.  It would be so easy to just give up, box the novel and start on another one and believe me, that thought has crossed my mind many times.  But I can’t.  I think about the characters, what they are doing and feel guilty for leaving them in limbo.  I think about all the hours I’ve put into it thus far and then there’s the simple fact that this story won’t let me go and frankly, I don’t want it to.

So, I push through.  I push as hard as I can and days as I’ve had lately make me question if I’m insane and make me question if my story even has legs.  Self-doubt, like fear, is a mind-killer and I’m the queen of self-doubt.  Thankfully, I have a tremendous support system in my writing group.  They push, they prod, they cheer and they are there for each other.  I pray I am giving back at least a portion of what they are giving me.  They help make those dog days of writing bearable.

One of my favorite poets is Robert Service. Not one for flowery language or what one might call “pretty prose,” his writing was biting and full of grit- sort of like a punch to the gut (but in a good way).  The one poem that stays with me still to this day is The Quitter.  Growing up, I had a copy of The Quitter in a frame hanging on the wall of my bedroom as a constant reminder that giving up is never an option.

The Quitter

When you’re lost in the Wild, and you’re scared as a child,
And Death looks you bang in the eye.
And you’re sore as a boil, it’s according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and…die.
But the Code of a Man says: “Fight all you can,”
And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it’s easy to blow…
It’s the hell-served-for-breakfast that’s hard.

“You’re sick of the game!” Well, now, that’s a shame.
You’re young and you’re brave and you’re bright.
“You’ve had a raw deal!” I know-but don’t squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It’s the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don’t be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it’s so easy to quit:
It’s the keeping-your-chin-up that’s hard.

It’s easy to cry that you’re beaten-and die;
It’s easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope’s out of sight-
Why, that’s the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each gruelling bout,
All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try-it’s dead easy to die,
It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.

~Robert Service

0 thoughts on “Those Dog Days of Writing

  1. Keep going! There is value in the drip-drip moment. I have a writer friend who is working on what she considers her most important work. It’s a non-fiction book about grief. She was having a really hard time working on it. It just brought up so much stuff from her past. But she knew that when she finished it, it would be a way to minister not only to herself, but to others as well. Well….this past weekend, she went with her writing group to a writers’ retreat. I just talked to her and guess what?? She finished the book! Wow. She’s had so many drip-drip moments and now she has a book! You’ll get there!

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