This week I encountered a major setback in the progress of my novel after several days of sweet flow. I set a goal of eight pages per day Monday through Friday for the five weeks I will be teaching summer school. By the end of five weeks, I mused, I would be back in the practice I’d fallen out of during a challenging school year. I arranged my life so that I could be successful, including informing my family of my plan, setting up a space to do the writing, and writing myself a letter setting my intentions. Three days passed and the world was rainbows and hearts and flowers because holy cow I was writing again and that felt better than ________  (fill in the blank with your simile of choice).

Then Monday happened and I thought at first that I must be asleep having a freaky-scary nightmare. I  opened the document containing the 30,000 or so words I had so far of my novel and what did I see?


and therefoswimmin’wimminerefore couladded, twisting

Figure 1

It looked like someone took the letters of all the words and tossed them in the air to see where they’d land!

In the hours that followed I felt pretty certain that I’d reached the point where Liz gives up and my internal editor rose to the occasion, beating me down in that way only she can. You’re wasting your time. Think of all the books you will be able to read, how many seasons of TV you will consume. You’re life will be less stressful and you suck at writing anyway. It’s just a delusion you came up with as a little girl and why the hell do you keep pretending you are a writer? You’re a writer about as much as you are the most popular girl in school or a spy with special powers to read minds, also things you used to think you wanted.

I cried. I went to the gym and upped the weight on all the nautilus machines to make it even harder on myself, the loop of all the reasons I should just stop the madness playing on repeat.

When I came home I opened the document again thinking maybe it would be magically fixed. It t wasn’t. I didn’t write that day, but I did print out as many versions of the garbled prose I could find, vowing to make a plan tomorrow.

My plan? Retype the entire novel one chapter at a time and that is going to take some rewriting and some deciphering of nonsense. It is forcing me to consider every line and I’m cutting and adding too. I am saving a new draft every time I sit down to write in three locations: Drive, Dropbox, and the hard disk of my computer. I’m pretty sure the problem happened in the first place because I was working on a Macbook and an iPad. My iPad makes a nice ebook reader and has a nice yoga app on it, but I’m done with trying to write on it.

I wish that I could say, lesson learned, I never again have to encounter the self-doubt that accompanies setbacks in writing. Not only am I certain that sometime in the future I will have to resist the urge to delete everything I’ve ever written and take up crossword puzzles. I am also fairly certain that these setbacks make me a stronger writer and remind me why I go to all this trouble in the first place. In order to come back I had to remember that I write because I love it and that’s reason enough to carry on.


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1 thought on “Setbacks

  1. Carol

    It is part of the process. No? To strive to write is what it is all about. Not the outcome


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