But as I begin the next year of work, it’s time to make peace with what seems like the essence of novel writing: prolonged flailing. Sure, I’ve endured weeks of ugly drafts, but I’ve never dwelled for years in the middle of something undefined.
Who has? Other novelists.
The quote above is from a blog called One Year In-Writing the Novel written by Rebecca Meacham. Meacham talks about the solitary experience of writing a novel and her own quest to define success. She also draws on interviews with published fiction authors about their own experience of failure.
Writing a novel is a long term proposition– a marathon, not a sprint. My first novel was the product of ten years of work, some of that work was active, some of it was allowing it t lay fallow for a while as my subconscious labored and my experience caught up with my literary ambition. I am currently trying to sell a completed novel that I began two decades ago. The novel I am finishing up at the moment was begun around the same time.
“…a book provides for a distillation of our sporadic mind,” wrote author Alain DeBotton, “a record of its most vital manifestations, a concentration of inspired moments that might originally have arisen across a multitude of years and been separated by extended stretches of bovine gazing.”
Far from being an unproductive waste of time, those “stretches of bovine gazing” are, in fact what make creative innovation possible. As we drift into a stream of consciousness, our minds drift from topic to topic, mixing the past, present and future, drawing on elements from our internal and external worlds. This mix leads to the kind of new connections that lead to innovation.
“Prolonged failure” is not a bug, it’s a feature.