Guest Post: Giving Up On Writing. Again. And Again.

Patrice here: Today, I have my friend Akshaya Raman to talk about the one thing we’re told never to do: give up. I’m obsessed with this post–it rings so true with my own journey. hope you enjoy it!!

When Patrice asked if I’d be willing to write a post about not giving up, my first response was: oh, but I’m not the right person for this—I gave up so many times! But Patrice made a good point: writing isn’t about not wanting to give up, but about knowing when to keep going.

The first book I ever wrote seriously (by which I mean I wrote “The End” and actually let another human—aka not my cat—read it) was back in 2014 during NaNoWriMo. When I finished it, I knew I needed to revise it, but I really, really didn’t want to. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to put in the work, it was because I knew in my heart that the book was absolutely terrible.

It was the first time I ever understood that Ira Glass quote, that one about the time it takes to bridge the gap between what you want your work to be and what it actually is. I could see quite clearly that the book I had written was miles away from what it was in my head. And so I did the one thing everyone tells you not to do.

I gave up on it.

No one—not my friends, my CPs, my family—understood why I didn’t try to revise, try to query it. And, yeah, maybe I should have. But at that time, I made the decision to put it away.

My second book was the book that really taught me how to write. It was an ambitious mess. It had a million POVs and even more plot threads. But y’all. I loved this book so much. I was sure this was The One. And I spent over a year writing and rewriting and cutting and rewriting again—until I absolutely loathed the book.

Writing is so full of ups and downs, and we’re always told to push on. It’s sometimes hard to tell if hating the book is just a normal part of the process or if there’s an actual problem. It took months of literally crying about this book for me to accept that I was miserable.

So I gave up. Again.

Putting it away was incredibly hard—and in hindsight it was the best decision I could have made. It was just too ambitious. I wasn’t ready to tackle such a vast world with such a huge cast just yet. But a small voice took up residence in the back of my mind.

Maybe I would never finish anything. Maybe I would always give up the moment things got hard. Maybe I would just keep writing books and putting them away.

I wrote book three early in 2016 when conversations around #ownvoices were happening frequently. It was a strange experience working on it because I was giving a lot of thought to the kinds of stories I wanted to tell—and for the first time, consider the possibility that there might be space for those stories. I didn’t even get to the end of my first draft before I realized I wasn’t passionate about it the way I had been months earlier. So three-fourths of the way into my first draft, I abandoned that book too.

At this point that tiny voice in my head turned into a full blown spiral. I had given up on three books.

And that voice was telling me that I was a quitter. I was lazy. I wasn’t a Real Writer. I didn’t want it enough. I wasn’t brave enough to put anything out into the world.

I felt like such a failure. Half my CPs were finishing books and querying and signing with agents. Others were working on the same projects they’d been working on for years. And here I was tabling another book and starting all over again.

I wish I could say there was a spark of recognition that told me that book four was something special, something different. But there wasn’t. I didn’t even tell anyone I was working on this book until I was really close to finishing my first draft because I was so terrified that if I told people they would confirm my worst fears: that they wouldn’t care about what I was working on because they didn’t believe I could stick with a book. I was afraid they’d dismiss me because “oh it’s just Akshaya chasing a shiny new idea again that she’ll give up on in a few months.” (Though of course when I did finally tell my CPs they were nothing but wholeheartedly supportive and enthusiastic.)

But there was something different about book four. I didn’t give up on it.

And honestly, I have no idea why. Maybe it was that after writing and throwing away nearly 700k words, I had finally grown enough as a writer to lessen the gap between my vision and what I was putting on paper. Maybe it was being able to write about my own culture and people who looked like me. Or maybe it was something else.

So maybe this isn’t the conventional wisdom—this isn’t a story about never, ever giving up and why you should always push on.

Writing is hard. We put our heart and soul and sweat and tears into whatever we’re working on in that moment and it sometimes feels like that WIP has to be everything—that we’ve somehow failed if we fall out of love with it or if that WIP doesn’t “go anywhere” or that every WIP even has to go somewhere.

But I wish I’d known all those years ago to trust my gut, even if my gut was telling me to give up. I wish I’d known it was okay to write for myself and doing so didn’t mean that I wasn’t a Real Writer or that I wasn’t serious about my goals. And I wish I’d known that I was more than any one book, and that giving up on a book didn’t mean I’d failed as a writer—or that I was giving up on myself.

It just meant that it wasn’t the project for now and it was time to write the next thing.

Akshaya Raman fell in love with writing when she wrote her first story at the age of ten. She’s a YA writer represented by Hillary Jacobson at ICM Partners, and she contributes to Writer’s Block Party, a group blog about writing and publishing. You can find her on Twitter @akshraman.

 

 

 

 

P.S. Akshaya just signed with an agent! YAY. Congrats, Akshaya. So proud of you and all your hard work. The giving up was totally worth it <3

Go on over to Twitter and give her a big congrats!!!! (Her book is sooo good :D)

                 

8 Responses to Guest Post: Giving Up On Writing. Again. And Again.

  1. Jodi Lew-Smith Jun 29 2018 at 1:01 pm #

    Akshaya this post completely spoke to me – thank you!

    I too have four manuscripts under my belt and I don’t feel any of them is finished — but I’m hopeful that the current WIP will be the one I finish and query — when it’s actually READY for that. (Years ago I had no idea what that meant!)

    I too have had to put down works that I either felt were too ambitious for me, or knew I couldn’t sell, and start over with something new. Having to explain that to non-writers is one of the hardest things to do.

    I was especially taken with your discussion of the distance between our vision for our work and what we’re able to achieve — and how the narrowing of that gap is how we evolve as writers.

    I’d add to it that another facet is our ability to SEE that gap. Every time I write a draft and then study it with critical eyes, I’m deeply grateful when I can see how to make it better. Or even just see that something is wrong — or COULD be better. Isn’t that a fine feeling?

    Best of luck with your own book!
    Jodi

    • Akshaya Raman Jul 1 2018 at 12:34 pm #

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I’m so glad I’m not alone! You’re so right that being able to see that gap–and maybe even how to fix it–is a really wonderful feeling. I wish you all the best with your current WIP!

  2. Stephanie Bucklin Jun 29 2018 at 4:59 pm #

    I love this post, and especially how you mention that you did not have any special feeling about the fourth book–I feel like in hindsight, it’s easy to say that of course the latest book “felt” different (they always do!) but it’s also comforting to think that just because there’s not that charged magic spark of *this is so different* that the book still could be different. If that makes sense!

    And I think part of growing as a writer has to be wading through all this conflicting advice, because on the one hand, we all want a road map, and on the other hand, we all are on distinct paths. Really enjoyed reading about yours, and good luck with the submissions process!!

    • Akshaya Raman Jul 1 2018 at 12:37 pm #

      Yes it totally makes sense! It’s often so hard to tell where a book might go while working on it and like you said we’re all on our own paths. Thank you so much for reading!

  3. Holly Jun 29 2018 at 5:41 pm #

    This post was amazing! I wish I could say that by book four, I was able to write ‘the end,’ but I don’t think I can possibly admit how many WIPs I currently have at different stages. Partly because I have only been able to dedicate a sliver of time to working on them which drags the process out for so long that I essentially do fall out of love with them. But the other piece of having so many WIPs for me, has been the addiction to the new seed. Once that story begins cultivating, it pretty much well takes over my life and I can think of nothing else. I was so certain that I was alone in this madness as the rest of my writerly friends and CP’s did not hit this phase at all. I’m calling it a phase because that would indicate that eventually it might end. Thanks again for this post. It was just what I needed!

    • Akshaya Raman Jul 1 2018 at 12:44 pm #

      I’m so glad to hear that this post resonated. I definitely understand that feeling of falling out of love with projects and being excited about new things. I wish you all the best with your writing!

  4. Katie Brown Jun 30 2018 at 4:56 pm #

    Thank you for sharing!!
    I just told my husband and sister recently that I don’t feel like a “real writer”. Or that maybe I’m a better reader than I am a writer because I’m in the middle of three book projects but keep putting them aside when I’m not finding inspiration in them.
    I plan to keep trying even if it means giving up every once in awhile!

    -Katie

    • Akshaya Raman Jul 1 2018 at 12:46 pm #

      Oh gosh, I totally understand that feeling. You ARE a real writer and I’m so glad that you’re going to keep writing! Good luck!

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