Since I published The Greenest Branch, I have been asked by so many aspiring authors how I managed to write a novel from start to finish. They also want to do that – they say – but they don’t have the time, or they don’t feel competent, or they are afraid that it will fail, etc.
Well, I can’t tell anyone how he or she should approach their writing goals. All I can say is what worked for me. Firstly, I was disciplined about it – I decided that I wanted to write a novel, this novel, and I set out to do it, come hell or high water. Were there days when I did not feel inspired and would rather have been doing something else? Of course. There were many such days, especially on beautiful summer weekends. But I still sat down and wrote, even if it was for an hour or two.
Lesson #1: Don’t wait for the Muse. More often then not, she will not arrive when you need her. You must write no matter what, and if you love what you write then the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment after the end of your writing session will show you that the Muse was there all along. If you try this and you still can’t, maybe this is not the right project. Think about something different, but don’t give up.
But equally important was the permission I gave myself almost eight years ago. Back in November 2010, I wrote these two notes (forgive the chicken scratch!), telling myself that I had as much right to express what was in me as anyone else, and that I didn’t need an external validation as a writer and an artist.
Lesson #2: Whether you write a novel or not is entirely up to you. You don’t need anyone else’s approval and permission. Nobody has a monopoly on the right or wrong way to be creative. You will have to do your research, if necessary, but you don’t have to have a PhD in the subject matter of your novel to write confidently.
One last thing: the notes were not just about a permission. They were also a promise. They have been hanging on my corkboard all this time, reminding me that if I did not fulfill this promise to myself, how could I expect others to keep the promises they gave me? Or how could I hope to keep promises I made to other people? It was a matter of honesty and honor.
It was also a lot of fun, the missed days in the sun notwithstanding.