Monday, March 9, 2015

The Art of Persistence

More than anything, writing is an art of persistence.

There is a book I have been working on since I was 14. It is still as fresh in my mind as it was the day I made it up. I can still remember which characters I chose names for on that first day, which characters had been bouncing around in my head for years before then waiting for a story, and which ones I didn't add until this past year or are still changing names and genders and roles. 

I have wondered several times whether I should lay this one to rest. The sunk cost fallacy refers to an error in thinking that says, "I have already invested so much time into this bad relationship/failing project/awful job/expensive fixer-upper that if I bail on it now, I will have wasted all that time" and then proceeds to waste even more time and energy on it. The wisdom of the sunk cost fallacy is that sometimes, quitting is a good decision.

Yet while I entertained the idea, I never seriously considered quitting on this story. I would go write other things, edit the heck out of the MS, chop and cut and reposition until it was no longer recognizable -- but I did not give up on it. I persisted. And to be fair, it is SO HARD to revise something you wrote when you were in high school. I mean, really. So I am not even surprised it is taking this long. 

Not quite what this image means, but I couldn't resist.
Right now, I am in a very frustrating patch. I am prepping it for Camp NaNo in April -- which, like some of my previous attempts at NaNoWriMo, will probably be sidelined by grad school. I am writing so much new material that it barely counts as editing anymore. I will be effectively writing a new book this April. Hell, I once considered changing the genre to magitek. (Which would be awesome. You know, fantasy but with technomancers instead of necromancers. It is seriously tempting.)

All that aside, I think that it is going in a good direction. I am doing the patience thing. I am doing the persistence thing. 

It is paying off.

I am glad I did not quit this one. I do not think I'm committing a sunk cost fallacy here -- after all, imagination costs me nothing. Time? Energy? Sure, those cost. But after nearly ten years of working on this thing, it's not like I feel a huge time crunch or pressure anymore. It will be done when it is done. I have proven to myself that I can crank out a book in a year, but clearly that is not right for this project. I will finish it at its own pace. 

In the meantime, it is huge fun to put my daydreams to paper.

2 comments:

  1. A writer without persistence is just an occasional typist, as they say. Though I am one to talk, having at last shelved my own Novel 2 for the foreseeable future. But I look at it, in my case, as give myself permission to show persistence with other projects for a while.

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  2. There are very few feelings more satisfying than the feeling of breaking through the writer's block doldrums. That's one of the reasons I hung with this one.

    Also, persisting is not the right choice for every project...and I know I certainly did not prioritize this one for a long time, and am only starting to prioritize it again now. I have some shelved novels myself. I'm not sure what makes this one different. Maybe having a longer history with it means I won't give it up.

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