The Hard Stuff Is Good

I’m probably less than 10,000 words away from finishing a rough draft for the sequel to The Marian. I have only a chapter or two to go, and then I can start editing and polishing and formulating a release strategy. The end is in sight.

When I’m going strong, I can pump out at least 5,000 words in a week, and I usually manage more if I’m in a particularly exciting part of the story. In theory, I should be two weeks away from a completed rough draft.

In theory.

The problem is I’ve been “two weeks away” for about three weeks. Lately, it’s been like pulling teeth just to write a couple paragraphs. I’ve barely written a thing since I first realized how close I was. There were times working on this book that I felt like I could write 24 hours a day without skipping a beat, but now it’s an accomplishment just to write two sentences without pausing in between.

At first I chalked up this slowdown to a simple change in schedule. I moved to the morning show on Power FM at the start of the year, which means I can’t write during my normal writing time of 6am. I’ve been writing at or around that time since I first started work on Alpha, so it made sense I’d have writer’s block. My creative rhythm had been disrupted. All I needed to do was re-train my brain to get into writing mode in the afternoon instead of the morning.

And that’s probably at least a little true. There’s certainly something to be said for having a routine and for building creative momentum. However, I eventually realized this excuse was just that: an excuse. I was using the whole “creative momentum” argument to call a 100-word day “progress” and to justify an hour-long Madden break. A loss of creative momentum might have been part of my problem, but the main issue was much simpler:

The writing was getting hard.

I’ve always struggled with endings. I think it’s because they never feel big enough or exciting enough for me. A typical writing day for me is three or so pages’ worth, which means I do a lot of stopping and starting after really short sections. It’s hard to stay in the emotional space of the story that way, so I end up having to trust that what I’ve outlined will have the emotional impact I planned. I have to hope that when I go back for edits, I’ll be able to find the emotional thread and bring it out. I deal with the same stop-and-start issues for every other exciting section of a novel, but for some reason, when I get to the ending it’s hard for me to turn off the part of my brain that tells me It’s not [insert emotion here] enough. Endings just have a way of paralyzing me.

Because they’re so hard.

And so as I push through these last 10,000 words, I’ve been reminding myself of something I’ve found to be a basic truism of life: The hard stuff is good.

It’s something we could all do to remind ourselves of. In most cases, it seems like the better something is for you or the more worthwhile it is, the more likely it is to be difficult. Whether you’re trying to finish a novel, starting a new exercise regimen, or reading your Bible more regularly, the statement holds true. If you expect to finish with no resistance, you’re setting yourself up for a nasty surprise.

And those things that you actually can accomplish with no resistance? They’re probably not all that special anyway. That’s what makes extraordinary accomplishments so extraordinary. Not that they were done, but that they were done in spite of difficulty.

So if you’re struggling through a New Year’s Resolution, or a new spiritual discipline, or a concluding chapter to your novel, remember this:

The hard stuff is good.

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