Let’s be honest: this week has been hard. Really hard.
I am writing a first draft, and it’s going horribly (as writing a first draft is wont to go), and I’m stumbling into evening after evening of soul-shaking, identity-questioning doubts about my writing abilities.
I’m a fraud.
I don’t know how to write a book.
I don’t have a second book in me.
My agent and editor and everyone else will discover that I’m just a one-book girl.
Goodreads hosted an event “Ask Anne Lamott” this past week, and just now, I have found the time to sift through her responses. You need to know that Anne Lamott always seems to be speaking directly to my heart– we are both writers, Christians, and women who wildly, desperately need help– and so all of her responses to various reader-posed questions felt like balm. This one, in fact, felt like validation:
“You have to be pretty lost and crazy” in writing fiction. Yes, okay, I reassure myself. This is just the way of things; this is The Way It Goes.
But then, there it was– an actual response to me. Me! Jackie Lea Sommers!
“Short assignments, shitty first drafts, and just do it.” Yes, thank you. That is how my next novel will get written: day after day writing something bad, then making it less bad, then making it good, then making it great. I’m in the bad stage right now, and that’s okay.
“You get to ask people for help.” Yes, thank you. I actually stopped in to my beloved writing professor’s office just yesterday to vocalize my fears, and she said that if I needed encouragement in the zen of writing or someone to commiserate with, I could just ask. I will definitely be asking. And then, last night, I met with [some, but not all, of] my writing group, women who let me vent about Penn and Maggie, my newest characters, and about their problems. My group members listened and encouraged and offered suggestions, and it was lovely. And I’m so terribly grateful for my beta readers too!
“And read a lot more poetry.” I couldn’t agree more. I think I’ll start with some Mary Oliver tonight. I haven’t yet had a chance to crack open her latest, A Thousand Mornings. Then Christian Wiman’s Every Riven Thing. It sounds like respite.