Explorations: my author blog
That's a quote from one of my favorite books on writing, Brenda Ueland's "If You Want to Write". I think it's absolutely true, and it's also true that everyone's journey is unique. Please remember that, and don't get discouraged! It is so very easy to become disheartened. That happened to me a lot when I was younger.
I didn't want to hear that every successful novelist had at least one novel hidden a trunk - a novel they hid because it was so bad. I didn't want to hear that the first 100,000 words everyone wrote were junk. How was that helpful? Heck, I still don't want to hear these things! If you're going to actually write anything, much better to focus on the positive - on what you love, the stories you want to tell, and the people you want to reach. Then keep working, because your story is unique to you, and no one else can tell it. That's what I think. But-
At the same time, as I've worked at finishing novels, I've come to realize that there is some truth to those old bromides. I actually do have something like a "trunk novel" - a story I started, but gave up on because it was, frankly, pretty bad. That's not to say I might not return to it sometime down the road and make something good of it - there's a character or two that might be worth developing further. But we will take false paths and make mistakes on our journeys. That's okay. We just have to recognize that these things didn't work for us, put them behind us, and keep going.
I have mixed feelings about them, myself, but I'm slowly starting to like them. My mom's cousin, a woman we all loved dearly, said to me once, "You should strike the word 'should' from your vocabulary." Of course, it's only a word! But that group of words - "should", ought" "must", mustn't", and so on - can be very guilt-inducing. If you fail in one of your "shoulds" or "musts", you can simply feel like a failure, in which case, you might stop striving towards your goals. That's the exact opposite of what New Year's resolutions are supposed to achieve.
For many years, as a teenager and young adult, I was focused on the "shoulds". I would get all anxious and punitive - I must get up earlier! I must exercise! I must write every day! and so on. But-
If you think about it, you can see that I was focusing on (1) what I wasn't doing, and (2) what I thought I ought to be doing. If I failed in a goal, I would beat myself up mentally for failing. It was all rather joyless. So, as a young adult, I decided I wasn't going to make any New Year's resolutions. Then, two or three years ago, I decided I'd make one, but I thought about it rather differently. Instead of promising myself, "I will write every day," I resolved that I would get up fifteen minutes earlier, turn on the computer, and write between alarms. I would try to do this every weekday. If I missed a day, or was sick, I'd just get back into the swing as soon as I could. That was a resolution I managed to keep. As the year went on, I found that I looked forward to my writing time and almost never missed a day. I also found that I was achieving new writing goals, such as finishing a draft of a novel.