We Can Not Be Defeated

January 5, 2015 | By | 15 Replies More
MM Finck

MM Finck

There are writers who are joyful when they write. I have moments like that, sure, but in general I am terrified. I am more plotter than pantser, but there are things, usually the most integral, that are beyond preparation. I believe that you have to prove yourself, you have to earn it, before the story will reveal itself fully to you. I am tortured every moment of the day and night during that period of time when I don’t know if or how I’m going to “pull it off.”

I am haunted by the very real possibility that I am sacrificing any number of creature comforts, physical needs, and personal relationships and wasting precious time that could have instead been spent on definitively valuable pursuits… all for nothing. Moreover, I am going to end up publicly humiliated. I have lost count how many times I’ve asked myself (I’ve even asked others close to me a time or two million.) – Why am I doing this?

I had no answer, but the aforementioned others did, and their answer was simple, “Because you are a Writer.” Capital W. Writer, not as a job, but as an identity. Frankly, I’m not always sure I want it. It’s too hard.

My most recent novel was the most torturous yet. I took to calling it “the book that’s trying to kill me.” I had to work at the very outermost perimeter of my abilities. Through tears and fears, bordering on depression, every day I wrote. Blindly in the dark, propelled by nothing but… what? Honestly, I don’t know.

I come from a long line of hard workers. My mother’s hands are calloused. My father held down four jobs to support our family. We also have hard Irish heads. I don’t know whether it was my Irish pride (I will never write again after this, but I will not be beaten.) or the work ethic I inherited (I will do what needs to be done even if I am miserable.), but every day I pushed forward.

Oh, I’m no martyr. I whined. I actually wrote this text to a close writer-friend: “It’s so big, and I’m so small.” He has yet to stop making fun of me. He even read it out loud at a conference where he was a featured author/panelist. A whole room of people laughed at me! Ask me if I care. Not a whit. That is how it felt. You know what I meant, right?

Whine, if you will. Cry, if you will. Yell at the ceiling. Try not to yell at your loved ones, but if you do, apologize and get back to the keys. Do what you need to do to keep going. Figure out what motivates you. Reward yourself with trash television or chocolate. That delish coffee frappe’ that we all know is really a milkshake. Buy those cute shoes.

There are healthy options too – Exercise increases your confidence and energy. Showers are a tried and true mental slate-clearing trick. (In fact, my hair is in a wet pile on top of my head right now. Aaron Sorkin says that he’s taken up to six to eight showers a day when he was writing his most difficult work.)

Word count goals can be very powerful. Deadlines too. I start with a daily word count goal, and adjust it as I go along based on my revised expected total words divided by days until deadline. I move heaven and earth to stick to deadlines, even self-appointed ones. Things get too slippery otherwise. Writing groups are wonderful for emotional support or accountability. If you are not in a writers’ association or inactive in the ones you belong to, I urge you to get involved. We don’t let each other fail.

Two months ago, I heard Donald Maass, author of WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, WRITING 21ST CENTURY FICTION, THE BREAKOUT NOVELIST, and more, say that we need to defeat our protagonists. Really put them through the wringer. Put them into situations that they absolutely cannot get out of. Why? Because they will get out. Our protagonists cannot be defeated.

Neither can we. We are Writers, capital W. Our stories cannot defeat us. Only we can do that. Don’t.

One dark night, a night that felt like it would never arrive, I finished my manuscript. What felt like my story killing me was my earning it. It was growth. It was the story holding me over a ravine and making me prove how much I wanted to write it. I’m stronger than I knew, better than I knew. So are you.

It is hard to do what we do. In the immortal words of Tom Hanks from the film, A League of Their Own, “The hard is what makes it great.”

MM Finck writes women’s book club fiction and is represented by Katie Shea Boutillier of the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York City. You can visit MM’s website http://www.mmfinck.com to learn more about her and her novels. She is also active on facebook http://www.facebook.com/mmfinck and twitter http://www.twitter.com/mmfinck. Reach out. It would make her day. Mention WWWB!


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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, On Writing

Comments (15)

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  1. I LOVE this!! I couldn’t agree more. Defeat will not stop me, I will press on!!

  2. Mary Novaria says:

    So glad WWWB tweeted this today, because it was exactly what I needed at the end of a week where I have allowed discouragement and thoughts like “Why bother?” and “Who cares?” creep in. Thank you MM for shining a light!

    • MM Finck says:

      Why bother? Because you’ve been called to write. Not every one. Only the lucky, tortured ones. 🙂 Who cares? You do. Whenever you need a flashlight in the dark, return to WWWB. I do. 🙂 Best of luck!! Wishing for all good things for you. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.
      Oh, I almost forgot. I have a page on my website that is full of resources for aspiring writers. I hope you find it helpful and hopeful.

  3. Mary Latela says:

    MM, yours is the first Tweet I have read today … and YAY! Thanks for the pep talk. Sometimes life seems nebulous/foggy and so what if I just skip a day?
    However, there is something steadfast (I don’t care to call myself stubborn – that’s for others … if they dare!) about me. I WILL WRITE. There was a time when I had to write in secret (relationship mess), but I did it! So now, I relish the freedom to write. For decades (too many to mention online) I have believed that I MUST write, and now, it is still true. It’s hard work and yes, I do buy expensive exotic tea and sometimes chocolate, but that is just dessert!

    • MM Finck says:

      I am having trouble replying. Trying again…

    • MM Finck says:

      okay. sorry about that. for some reason, wordpress thought I was spamming you. here is what I wanted to say. after all this trouble, i wish it was more! 🙂
      Your determination and self-awareness are nothing short of beautiful! I’m so glad you took the time to comment. Best of luck with your projects and keep in touch.

  4. Carlie says:

    Ha! The perfect blog post to read after the rubbishy few days I’ve just had. Thank you very much, am ON IT!

    • MM Finck says:

      Yay! So happy to hear this and thank you ever so much. Rubbish days are horrid, aren’t they? I get so grumpy. 🙂 Good for you for getting back to it! You cannot be defeated!

  5. Took me until 2 years ago to believe this and another year until I figured out it could apply to my dream of writing. To hear that others struggle and survive gives me a jolt of confidence and the will to climb out of bed tomorrow and give it my all all over again. Thanks for the nudge and the encouragement!

    • MM Finck says:

      I’m so pleased that you feel encouraged! Thanks so much for taking the time to share. I completely understand about that jolt of renewed confidence when you realize that you are not alone. I hope your writing is going well. Keep on. 🙂

  6. Only now do I really embrace “because you are a writer”. As I completed the last paragraph in my book (which eventually became one of the first paragraphs in the book…crazy how that works) I owned it. I know that writing is a big piece to sharing my message with the world. Thanks for the inspiration to keep going! Beautiful words that made my heart light up!! <3

    • MM Finck says:

      Heather, I couldn’t say it better: Regarding your lovely comment, “Beautiful words that made my heart light up!! <3" Thank you so much. And I am so happy for you that you finished!! I love the comment that your last paragraph became the first. That resounds as symbolic to me. You dove down deep and came up with the treasure. That's what it's about. 🙂 Good for you!

  7. Great blog! A rallying cry to those writing blindly because the muse whispered a story in our heads and characters have appeared who will not be silenced. Every job I’ve had has been hard and full of moments of self-doubt, but writing is possibly the loneliest of them all. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • MM Finck says:

      Lynn, yes! Lonely at times, and what can be really hard is the lack of outside validation. During the drafting stage, there’s no attaboy, no stellar job evaluation, not raise, no bonus, etc. Yet, at its best, writing makes us healthier human beings, I think, because we have to look inside for approval which is the most powerful and adhesive approval anyway. Right? Keep up the good work! Congrats on having talkative characters. Those are my fave. 🙂

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