Writing a Novel: Why It’s So Hard

The following is something I wrote years ago, and keep in a notebook I’ve labeled “Inspiration and Encouragement”. I thought I’d already posted it, but can find it nowhere in either of my blogs (WordPress and Blogger).

I found it again today, when I went searching for some “inspiration and encouragement” and it so describes what I’ve been going through the last couple of days (yes, I’ve actually gotten into the office and worked for three days running now!) I thought I’d post it here.

Writing a Novel: Why is it so Hard?

Because it’s work. And work is hard. Work is not walking up to the tree and pulling off the fruit whenever you happen to want some. Work is breaking the soil, which does not easily yield. It is striking over and over with the hoe; it is crumbling it to a fine consistency, preparing it for the seed; it is sowing the seeds, a few at a time, walking down each row, one after the other. It is watering and waiting and weeding. And waiting. And weeding. And thinning and watering and waiting and pruning and watering and waiting and weeding and watering and finally harvesting.

Work involves doing the same thing over and over and over until you get the result you want. It often involves discomfort – muscles get sore and tired from use, skin forms blisters, callouses, emotions deflate from an initially excited anticipation and determination to frustration and even despair.

You can do more work, the more you practice it  – the stronger you are or become, the more work you can do. Even so, eventually you will reach a point where you’ve hit your limit and have to rest.

So with writing. Banging on that hard soil with the hoe is not easy. It must be done again and again. It takes effort, time. You must keep doing it, though you are uncomfortable and tired, though you are not seeing very much progress (if any). You must wait, and you must be patient. Just as the seed germinates below the ground without your awareness, so do many ideas and solutions germinate in your soul and mind, below the ground, without your awareness.

It’s hard because it’s work. We are to expect it to be hard. Embrace that, be organized, professional. Don’t complain, don’t give up, but throw yourself into the work with maximum effort and enthusiasm. The more you pound on the hard ground, the sooner it will yield, the sooner it will be soft and fertile and ready for the seed.

Remember, too, that much of the process does not involve our own effort. We cannot make the seed germinate faster, or the plant grow faster. We must wait, even as we work. We must rely upon God to provide the germination and growth, to protect, to provide the nutrients in the soil so that the sprout will become a seedling and the seedling a plant, bearing fruit in its time…

2 thoughts on “Writing a Novel: Why It’s So Hard

  1. Dave

    Good for you, Karen! I’m looking forward to reading your new work when it comes out.

    I like your description of work, simply because it’s applicable to so many other kinds of “work”. I started a blog like a week ago, one of those “let’s see if this goes more than three entries” things, and it flowed really well (in a stream-of-consciousness sense), and all of a sudden I’m thinking that I might be dried up. Maybe not? We’ll see.

    But the description applies to anything in life that involves hard work. Keeping a job that isn’t in the field you want when you’re trying to support a family, living with extended family to support your family… well, those are my personal examples. I imagine that anyone could read what you wrote and find an application.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Karen Hancock Post author

      Good points, Dave. I especially like the beating with the hoe on the hard ground part. That’s what it feels like right now! LOL. I wish you the best on your blog entries. Sometimes I feel dried up, too, and do nothing. Other times I feel dried up, but sit down and open a window to start without having any idea what I’m going to write about, or even if I’m going to, and many times something comes out. I wish it were more disciplined and predictable!.


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