Someone once told me that if you can write 70 pages of a novel you will finish it. I was on page 140 when I came very close to burning the entire thing. Sometimes writing workshops can be powerfully motivating, but I’ve found with this novel that they are anything but helpful. And at times can be seriously discouraging.
The workshop, I realize, is created for stand alone pieces that are short enough to be discussed in the allotted time. So, short stories, essays, poems, all thrive in this kind of critique model. Novels, memoirs, or any long work of prose, not so much. It is very difficult to take advice or criticism from anyone who has only read 30 pages of 140. But it is just as difficult to un-hear their words.
Feeling discouraged and worthless is, I’m sure, a part of any creative pursuit. Why am I doing this? This is pointless. No one cares what I have to say. And on, and on, and on, and on, until eventually you’ve spiraled so far out of the spectrum of “productive writer” that you can’t even imagine what that life used to look like. Well, that was me.
The truth: writing is hard. The reality: maybe no one will want to read my book. The upside: I have something to say and I’m going to say it.
So, how to crawl out of that deep, inspirationless pit? READ SOME GREAT BOOKS.
And that is what I did. I spent two weeks not writing (which, of course, I hated myself for). But I read new things I’ve been meaning to read for so long, like Salvage the Bones and went back to things I’ve read before that almost break me with their beauty like The English Patient or Gilead.
If anything will put your faith back into writing it is reading a good book. Or several. Either way, I’ve started crawling out of that pit and feel motivated to finish this thing. And finishing is the most important part.
Jill Dehnert is a second-year MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of New Mexico. She is Associate Editor for Blue Mesa Review.