I don't know why this is such a big revelation. Maybe because you think--or at least I thought--that when I got to a certain point, after I'd written a certain number of books, gone through the process enough times, I'd get to the end and, um, KNOW WHAT I AM DOING!!!
All the years that I was writing and rewriting and submitting and absorbing rejections and then repeating that fun loop, I kept thinking I was on the verge of understanding how it all worked, like there was some magical answer to becoming a published writer and once I figured that out, Wah lah! I'd cross over to the other side. And just Be There, I guess, smiling and waving and signing my pile of books for adoring fans.
I had these turning points along the way, mini revelations about writing and how my process worked, and whenever I'd figure out something new, I'd cling to it like it was a life raft.
I must write 1250 words per day.
I mean, 1500.
I mean, 2000.
I must revise as I go and make my draft as perfect as possible the first time through.
Who am I kidding? I should write without worrying where it will go and revise the mess later.
I'm an idiot. I should have made an outline.
But after ten "finished" manuscripts, more than 10,000 hours of time spent on writing, and one published novel, there are times when I still feel like a novice.
Every day is hard to sit down and write, to rework or to let things go, to plan or to allow my words gush out.
Every day there are distractions. The internet. The dishes. A horrifying college bill to pay. My daughter's forgotten lunch that must be brought to school. The dog yakking on the carpet.
Every day there are things that can potentially derail me. Before it was stuff like a rejection. A pass from an agent or editor who had requested something. An agent quitting. An editor changing her mind. Now it's a meh review or a bizarrely fluctuating Amazon rating.
Blah di blah di blah.
I could go on about the inner angsty-ness, but I am starting to bore myself, so I will spare you.
Here is something I DO know:
There IS a magic answer.
Something that makes the doubts and the distractions and the outside evaluations disappear.
Something that I actually did learn along the way and know for sure.
Something that ALWAYS works when I am angsting or stressing or reeling.
It is the one and only thing that I can control as a writer.
I sit down. I open up my lap top.