There once was a writer who felt she couldn’t do anything. She had no books published. She had no projects finished that could even come close. She didn’t have very many ideas, and all the thoughts she had never came out quite right on screen or paper. She had very little time to even practice, but whenever she could, she did. As minutes and hours ticked away, you could see her. Writing, writing, writing. But whatever became of it?
Have you, dear writers, ever felt this way? I sure have. But let me tell you something. You can do it. You can write something. You can finish something. You can publish something. You can be an author. How do I know this? Well, have you ever heard of the “Little Engine that Could”? That old kid’s story? About the impossible load, up the insurmountable distance, pulled by the scrawniest, smallest, most incapable engine in the yard? Yep, that one. And do you remember what that little engine kept thinking as he chug-chug-chugged on and on, up and up? I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. On and on, up and up he went, thinking he could. He could. He could. And you know what?
Often as writers we get caught in the proverbial trainyard. We keep thinking, round and round in circles. All my ideas just amount to nothing. I can’t finish anything. Nothing sounds right. It took me an hour just to write one paragraph. That person already has something published! I’ve been writing for years, and nothing’s ever come of it. I just can’t do it. Why am I even trying anymore?
Well, I’ve got some news for you. You’re not alone, cause I’ve been there too. I had over ten different stories, from near finished to a few scrawny sentences over the course of at least five years, before I struck something that worked. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you factor in the time it took to formulate the ideas-letting them bubble and mature into something, working out any and all kinks, writing character profiles and short stories… well, it adds up. Two of them I look back on particularly.
One was a fanfiction. I look back on it now with a cringe, but yep, I wrote a fanfiction. It was going to be an epic of over seven different books, not to mention all the branch offs, and soon, I would become the fanfiction queen of my fandom. To cut the story short, I didn’t. I wrote up to chapter 30 in the book before I dropped off. 30 chapters of work, gone down the drain just like that.
Another was a book about sentient robots, a Spanish tinkerer and a Japanese cyborg ninja all wrapped up in a junkyard in Texas. Yes, I put all those things together. Why I thought that was a good idea? I don’t know. But I did. For almost a year I worked on this world, fleshing out characters through short stories, roleplaying, and filling in character sheets. I remember specifically sitting in a rental house on the beach, tapping away at my keyboard as the main characters rushed a robotics factory in Japan to steal stuff (do not ask how they got all the way over there without teleporters). In the end I only wrote five chapters of the first book… And I don’t think I ever even fully finished the fifth one.
Was it a waste of time?
Because I worked hard on those stories. No matter how embarrassing it is looking back, no matter how much time I sometimes feel I lost that could’ve been used for other better ideas, I did not waste my efforts. Even if those stories will never see the light of day again, it was worthwhile for the simplest reason in the world: I wouldn’t have been the writer I am without them. A wise Jedi once said “Failure is our greatest teacher,” and so it was and still is with me, a puffing, slow moving, a paragraph an hour writer. Because I had that practice, I learned how to write better. I learned how to formulate better characters, how to develop better plots, and how to weave better quality writing into the plain of my story. Yes, it took a while, but good things often do. There are few things worthwhile in life, whether writing or not, that don’t require sleep, sweat, and a lot of elbow grease.
And in the end, I’m glad that I kept going. I kept huffing and puffing, dragging that load thinking “I think I can I think I can I think I can,” not just because it was something I knew I wanted to do, but something I knew my King made me to do.
And if you think I can wade through the quagmire to a firm ground to stand on, don’t kid yourself. I’m still not much better off. It still took me a little under a year to write my current project, and I’ve still got another year or two ahead of editing before I can even begin to look at publishing. But I still smile because I know, beyond this pass, above the peak, my little ditty will go from ‘I think’, to ‘I know’, to ‘I have’.
So, just remember friends. We’re all little writers who could.