Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes novels. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and an affinity for mentoring teen writers. Since 2013, Shannon has taught mentoring tracks at a local school where she provides junior high and high school students with an introduction to writing and the publishing industry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Posting a blog the day after Thanksgiving always falls to me and, in some ways, it feels like a futile effort. Most of you are enjoying your friends and family and a day away from anything resembling work. And, let's be real, writing can definitely resemble work.
I was fighting hard to get a book ready for submission when November rolled around, so I didn't participate in National Novel Writing Month this year, but I know only too well how it feels to be at the end of a long stretch of writing days, counting down the sessions until you can breathe again, wishing with every strike of the keyboard that you could find the passion that burned so brightly when you began, and feeling like every word you put on the page serves only to meet a quota.
At this point, it stops being fun.
I know. I've been there. But I want to encourage you. You're not JUST meeting a quota. You're not JUST fighting to get words on the page. You're enduring. You're pushing through the fatigue. You're working when your body says it's pointless. You're teaching yourself that you can do hard things.
And this truth is something that cannot be gifted by external knowledge. You can't absorb it by osmosis. You have to live it. You have to hit the wall so you can knock it down. You have to face monotony, so you can flex your muscles and turn it into the shimmering diamond of discipline.
The daily writers, the deadline writers, the "I couldn't stop if I tried" writers; all of us have to grow our endurance. It takes intention and time in seclusion (which might be the hardest aspect for some of you). But, like any discipline, if you continue on despite hardship, you will grow.
And there's this other truth too. One you must hold in tension with the grinding out of words. If you're doing the other part of your job as a writer--the living--those futile words you feel you're just throwing out there to meet some pre-established word count number? Those words might surprise you.
Living has a way of planting seeds in our soul. Seeds of truth and experience and philosophy. Seeds of conflict and angst and the kind of confusion that writers puzzle out best on the page. Living has a way of infusing potential into words harvested even in the most barren of writing seasons. Writers who take living seriously fill their souls with so many rich moments that when they're forced to dig deep, they're just as likely to pull up a prize winning cabbage as they are a dreary, miserable weed.
It may not feel like it at the time, but push through. Fight. Harvest words. Get them on the page. When you return to them, I wonder if you'll be at all impressed with what landed there? Maybe not. Maybe this sentence and that were about producing endurance. But THIS sentence? Maybe this one is worth holding onto. Maybe this one is worth examining more closely.
And you never would have written it if you hadn't flexed those writing muscles, dug deep, and pushed through when phantom voices were telling you to give up.
When you sit down to write, you're not just sculpting a beginning, middle, and end. You're building something much more powerful, my friend. You're creating a storyteller.
And THAT is worth a little hardship.
Because storytellers change the world.