A new idea. A dead end. Draft after draft. Rinse, repeat.
The act of writing a story is much like learning how to cook. You are unsure of your own abilities and limits, so you copy: an omelet recipe and the structure of a plot, how to peel potatoes and how to whittle sentences.
Just when you’re positive that the next great novel is at your fingertips, it vanishes. Broken characters, uneven resolutions, incomplete settings. Writing is knowing how to throw away bits of yourself without being self-destructive. It’s an act of selective construction. Is there enough spice, is it too salty, are the sentences choppy or fluid, do the characters like the taste of death?
You write and discard and scrunch up your fists and fold your hands across the back of your neck. You sit back and think. Think. Words are pipes, and they clog as easily as they run smooth. Take care of them.
People will ask, “How’s that story coming along?” and you’ll be tempted to give an apologetic smile. Don’t. This is not a race, and you are not writing for them. “Don’t let it catch pneumonia.” Stories take time. Just how it is. Breathe. Mind clear? Yes? Good. No? Even better.
Tell a story.