The over-romanticization of being a writer
Or, how I became a novelist by not romanticizing it at all
I have romanticized writing my entire life. It might be the reason it took me so long to finally write books, because I’d sit down in front of the computer with the stress of no money lingering on my shoulder, staring down a blank cursor, wondering why it didn’t feel like the daydream. I didn’t think I fit the mold of what a writer looked like. I wasn’t lithe and pale in a turtleneck, drinking black coffee with a cigarette in my hand up against an exposed brick wall in some trendy up and coming burrow of New York City I probably hadn’t heard of.
I didn’t feel cool enough.
Or good enough.
Or just, enough, in general.
Instead, I daydreamed. I’d start Monday. Or that weekend. Or one day, on the picture-perfect horizon, when I had money or lost weight or moved to New York or any other number of future scenarios that might invite the muse in.
I talked myself out of my real dreams for years. I battled Resistance, infamously coined and capitalized by Steven Pressfield. I highlighted The War of Art back in 2014 like it would be my salvation. Yes, Resistance! Yes, Shadow Careers! Yes Yes Yes. That’s what I’d been doing for a very long time.
I always had good reasons to not write a novel, though. Would it sell? Would I get an agent? Would it suck? How long would it be before it was published? But I need money now. I have work to do now. I have clients. I have Netflix to watch. I have anxiety to stew in! I have a blank cursor and a blank document here that nobody can judge or review poorly or reject.
That blank document was as comforting as a security blanket.
Finally, in my early thirties, the fear of writing became eclipsed by the fear of never writing.
Instead of wondering when the muse would anoint me worthy and send me to some cabin in the middle of a crisp autumn to write my novel, I decided to approach it like an athlete. Put in the reps and the time. Build up the momentum. Accumulate progress. Get words on the page, even if the words suck. Just (F*cking) Do It.
JUST. DO. IT.
That was the mantra.
Even if it sucked, just do it. Even if I was in a bad mood, just do it. Even if I doubted I’d ever get published, just do it.
Get over yourself, basically.
The romanticization of the writing process started to fall away. It was so much less about drinking whiskey in some Parisian bistro and so much more about showing up, day in and day out.
Romance can be distracting. We can yearn for something too perfect. We can opt out of the messiness of the present in order to hold out for something we think is better. We can miss the magic of ordinary, daily life. We forget entirely that romance isn’t always big, sweeping gestures, but can be found in the way golden light spreads across a coffee table or the subtle sweetness of a perfect vanilla ice cream or the sound of rustling trees on a blustery day or the first peek of spring flowers after a long winter or the taste of squash after months of watermelon or just life—every day, over and over.
I spent a long time missing the day in search of the grand.
I love a big moment, but I also love the discovered romance of steady progress, of stacking up a word count, of refining an idea over and over, of the daily devotion of showing up for myself.
Something about that feels even more revelatory and sacred.
I spent a lot of time underestimating how much progress you can make when you’re consistently showing up. I decided to try the whole consistent thing, and suddenly, I had a first draft of a novel written. A novel that I call “Novel Zero” because it was never meant to be published. It was always for me, to see if I had the nerve to write it, and then, to see if I had the passion to continue.
I did it again in the fall of 2020. I wrote every day. I devoted myself. My circumstances were not romantic. They were ordinary. I was working another job. I didn’t know what would happen with the book. I decided that I’d make showing up every day the reverence. I decided that caring for myself tenderly by answering the call in my heart was the romance of my lifetime.
That I was my own romance.
I didn’t write that novel on a typewriter, drinking whiskey until 3am, in some idyllic setting. I wrote it from 9-11am in my 800 sq. ft. apartment with an iced coffee filled with Sweet Italian Coffee Mate creamer from the grocery store. I was sober the whole time. I wrote it on a MacBook. I got the first draft printed at a FedEx, just to feel the weight of those warm pages in my arms.
And now, nearly three years later to the exact day of when I started this book, Main Character Energy is going to be out in the world, published by Park Row, an incredible imprint of HarperCollins.
By romancing the ordinary, I somehow spun my life into the extraordinary. By not waiting for perfect circumstances to deem me worthy of being a novelist, I anointed myself as one.
I’ve been reflecting in the days leading up to the release of my debut novel. How could I not be? It’s something I dreamed of doing since I was a kid. There is nothing else in this world that enthralls me more than the process of writing novels. It’s strange, because Radically Content was arguably a more personal book since it was about me, but I find Main Character Energy to be even more vulnerable.
I know how much inner work that book required of me. I know how many limiting beliefs I had to painstakingly acknowledge and redirect in order to sit down every day and actually write that book. I know how much fear and resistance I have felt in nearly every stage of the process for three years.
It’s a talisman for me—proof that I can do the hardest thing. For some people, writing a novel doesn’t require them to turn the tide of twenty years of doubt and limited thinking, but for me it did.
I am extraordinarily proud of myself, and proud of this book. Not only is it the story I wanted to tell, but I spent the time executing it. One of my favorite authors recently read it and said I put my heart and soul into this book and it shows.
I couldn’t agree more. I left nothing on the table and I can’t wait to do it again. And again. And again.
I’m a novelist now.
Holy sh*t. Just do it? Yeah, well, I did it.
PS: Please consider placing a pre-order for my novel, as it’s one of the most generative and supportive things you can do for a debut novelist like myself. Plus, you get the book, so really, we all win. :)