I’ve been thinking recently about how the roller coaster of writing is a little like the ups and downs a novel’s protagonist goes through.
So what can you learn from storytelling about being the hero of your own journey, whether that’s writing your novel or, well, living your life fully?
Writing a passive protagonist (Hi, Fanny Price, I’m looking at you) is a great shortcut to a boring novel that it’s pretty hard to care about. We’re told to write active characters, to have them actually do something that affects the story’s outcome, but sometime’s we’re rubbish heroes in real life and act more like the dowdy friend who just sits in the corner.
Want to write a novel? Want to move to Australia? Want to find love? Guess what, you have go out there and do it. It’s easier to float along and let things happen to you, but you’re the one in charge of your own life. Don’t be a Fanny (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
You get to decide what happens… so what are you going to do?
2. It’s okay not to be perfect
Just because you’re in charge doesn’t mean you’re flawless. FAR FROM IT.
It would be lovely if you got up an hour early every day and knocked 1,000 words out, exercised, then arrived at work feeling all cheerful and fulfilled. Hahahahahahahhaha.
It doesn’t matter that you haven’t written for six months, don’t have a creative writing MA, aren’t going to writing events, that most of what you write feels like utter nonsense and that you’re kind of crabby in the morning.
You don’t have to be perfect (heroes rarely are), you just need to be brave enough to do the things you’re scared of, one step at a time.
2. You need to want it badly
Do you really want to write a novel, or do you just like the idea of writing one? There’s no getting away from the fact that writing a novel is hard work, and every hero needs enough motivation to see them through the bad patches. You’re going to have to keep going when you don’t believe you can (blind optimism or stubbornness are good traits at this stage). Do you want it enough?
By the way, there’s no shame in the answer being no. If you don’t care that much about writing, go find something else you do care about.
Uh, I’m pretty sure this is cheesy metaphor rather than scientific fact, but work with me here.
There’s often a point in novels and films when things look like they’re coming together. Then the whole thing falls apart, leaving the hero crushed and wondering how on earth they’re going to overcome this new obstacle.
This is what writers experience (sometimes multiple times) during drafting, then again during editing, and again during the process of finding an agent… you get the idea.
Lots of people give up during these troughs, which are often due to resistance and self-sabotage having a little party in your head. So many people give up three quarters of the way through their first draft, or they just start editing then can’t face carrying on. But you’ve put so much hard work in already and you’re so close. If you can be kind to yourself and start working again slowly, you will find that things are better than you thought.
Now, go be heroic. You can do it.