I'm glad I keep a journal as I write a book because I can look back and see my writing process in all its up and down glory:
The excitement when I get an idea and start to play around with it.
The drudgery that hits some point in the middle and I think how the heck am I going to make it through this one? (This is usually around the time when I realize I have no idea what is going to happen in the story, and worse, I don't even know what the thing is ABOUT anymore. Because it changes, see? What you THOUGHT you were writing is not actually what you're writing.)
And then there's the cool moment when it clicks. Still not sure how this works but believe me, I am not complaining. Dumb luck. Magic. The Muse. My awesome subconscious mind playing around while I sleep. Whatever. I'll take it. When I reach that point, I know I'm nearly home free. I get the book now. I know where it's going. And I go with it.
But this part of Writing a Book is only the first part. It's just the first draft. Next comes the Putting It Away In The Drawer part because that is what Stephen King told me to do and I like to follow his instructions.
Then there's the nauseating First Read Through where I see the flashes of my own brilliance while at the same time fighting to stay awake through boring sections and over all of that is the ever present worry: how am I going to FIX this giant freaking mess?
Somehow I do.
I revise. Once. Twice. More.
And each time the rollercoaster process begins again. Doubt that this is any good, that it is worth doing, that anyone will ever even read the damn thing. Anxiety that I can't write. That if I ever even had talent, it's long gone. But also love. For that kernel of a story that made me want to write it in the first place. And love for the characters, who are REAL by this stage, twittering away in my head, saying lines that don't sound like things I would say. So how cool is that?
It's enough to make me want to work on the book again, to get it right. And when that book is marinating in my Stephen King drawer, it's enough to make me want to start another one.
What was my point again? Oh, right. This is why I'm glad I keep a journal. So I can remind myself of my process.
Which brings me to this morning. I am somewhere in the middle of a revision--a revision, I might add, of a manuscript that I started writing like, three years ago. This is revision number four maybe? I don't even know. I read through it a few weeks ago and I loved it. Today, uh, not so much.
But I reread an old writing journal and realized that I was right on schedule. Ah, it's the middle where I-think-the-book-blows-and-wonder-if-I-should-quit. Been there. Done that.
Here's a nice little nugget of wisdom I picked up from Steven Pressfield's book on writing, War of Art. He calls the doubts and anxieties that accompany writing a book--the nasty stuff that can potentially derail writers--a sign of Resistance. Every day, he says, it's a battle between you and Resistance and the only way to win is to keep writing.
Today, as I pick my way through what's got to be the worst pile-o-junk I've ever written--boring and absurd and pointless and probably unpublishable--I am keeping Steven Pressfield in mind, and writing anyway.
Take that, Resistance.