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Agony Editor: Once the joy of being published fades, the challenge of growing as an author begins

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Brian-Francis-Final2-273x400

(Evan Munday)

Dear Agony Editor,

I’m a novelist at the mid-point of my career. I thought writing novels would get easier the more I wrote, but it hasn’t. It’s gotten harder. What’s up with that?

Signed,
Not Impressed

Dear Not Impressed,

I know, right? It’s infuriating. If writers had known writing would be so difficult, we would’ve become neurosurgeons or astronauts instead. Or one of those math people.

Truth be told, it’s not that writing novels is necessarily getting harder for you. It’s that your expectations have shifted. The thrill of being a published author has faded. Now you’re faced with the work itself and knowing that it will be evaluated both by a scrutinizing publishing industry and readers.

All of us want to grow and explore new heights as we progress in our careers, but that involves taking chances and venturing out of our comfort zones. But with risk comes the possibility of failure, and that can paralyze your creativity.

The good thing is that, by now, you have some perspective on your writing process. Take a look at how you write. So much of writing is an intuitive, feel-your-way-through-it, organic process, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be smarter in your approach. What tools are you setting up at the start of a project?
Are you open to new ways of organizing your thoughts? Do you have a general sense of where the story is going before you sit down to write? The more groundwork you lay at the beginning, the better equipped you’ll be when you hit those tough spots.

If nothing else, take comfort in the fact that no writer has it figured out. Recently, I saw a tweet from author Rabih Alameddine that read, “I’ve written 6 books. I still have to experience writing one where the task doesn’t feel overwhelming and impossible every step of the way.”

While writing may seem like a solitary process, it isn’t. We’re all here, dealing with our challenges in one way or another. Besides,
if the words came easily, writing wouldn’t be worth doing in the first place.


Brian Francis is the author of Natural Order and Fruit. He teaches creative writing­ as part of the International Festival of Authors.Have a question for Brian? Email info@quillandquire.com.