The year was 2013, and I was fresh on the heels of publishing my second novel, A Life Told from the Cloud. Creatively, I was feeling confident – two published novels in two years felt like a solid accomplishment. Momentum was on my side. As long as I showed up to the blank page, there was nothing that could stop me. Oh, I had it all figured out...
Anxious to keep the ball rolling, I got to work on my new project– a psychological thriller inspired by society’s obsession with social media and celebrity culture. The subject matter was relevant. The genre was sellable. It would have the shock value of Gone Girl. The grittiness of A Million Little Pieces. It would be mind-blowing. Amazing. A piece of cake. A bestseller. A perfect third novel for my budding career. Let's do this!
And so the journey began.
First draft to second.
Third to fourth.
Edit after edit.
Year after year.
Slamming my head on the keyboard.
Another year passed.
My characters needed more agency.
Plot holes needed filling.
Another year passed.
Dust settled on my Amazon author page.
Beta readers are confused.
I scrapped chapters.
Wrote new chapters.
90,000 words went to 80,000.
80,000 words went to 70,000.
Things started to come together.
Beta testers loved.
FIVE YEARS LATER, I have a manuscript that I’m proud of.
Five years! Man, oh man. Looking back, I think the problem was painstakingly obvious. It wasn't the agency of my protagonist, or POV, or anything technical for that matter. It was simply that my personal craft did not align with my vision for the book. To transform the novel, I had to undergoe a transformation as a writer. I had to be willing to put in the time. To stretch my imagination. To be inspired, rejected, slammed, and pulverized. I had to prove that I was committed to refining my craft.
I’ll be honest; the process wasn’t always fun. During those five years, I went to some pretty dark places -- both on and off the page. There were times that I almost walked away. I wondered if this thing had the legs to make it to the world. It forced me to answer big questions: What if it's not good enough? What if I’m not enough? But the journey is alchemy. Metal into gold. I had to commit to growth. I had to be vulnerable. I had to find my voice. I had to have faith in the process. And when the dust finally settled, I was left standing with a piece of art that I’m proud of.
Through this experience, I’ve also become very curious about the creative journey of other artists. How do others endure and persevere? What are the habits they create to build resilience? How do they face the blank page, the self-doubt, and the million other trials and tribulations that keep them from bringing their creations to life? These are the questions I will be asking in my new blog series entitled, Creative Grit.
Thank you to my wife for your patience and your belief in me.
Thank you to the process.
Stay tuned for more.