Riding Out the Rough Spots

By P.J. Parrish

This has been the week from hell. I don’t know what else can go wrong. Here’s what has happened so far:

I hit the wrong button and deleted chapter sixteen and had to recreate it from memory.

I got to chapter eighteen and realized a scene I had written back in chapter five, which I was certain was absolutely brilliant, now makes no sense and I have to cut it.

My plot timeline is out of whack and I have lost three days somewhere, sort of like Ray Milland in Lost Weekend but without the gin anesthesia.

I did a virus scan and it came up with 778 “issues” but apparently none of them are fixable unless I cough up $69.99 for the Super Anti-Spyware Deluxe Version.

I tried to vacuum my crumb-ridden keyboard and sucked up the 4 and + keys.

I really need a vacation. The kind of vacation where I can get away from everything, including my WIP aka The Thing That Is Devouring My Soul. We all get to this point at times, right? (If you don’t, I don’t want to hear about it today, okay?) We get discouraged, disoriented in plot hell, doubtful of our talent, and desperate to just get the damn thing finished.

This is the nature of writing. It isn’t always sunshine, lollipops, rainbows, and brighter than a lucky penny. Often, very often, it is long slow slog where the words come hard and the joy comes even harder. This is where I am this week.
But here’s the thing: When you’re in a trough, like I am right now, you need to remember that it’s temporary. You need to know that if you just ride it out, you will end up on a crest again where you can survey the wider sea and regain your bearings. I need to be reminded of this every so often. We all do. So I made myself a list. It’s a list of the things I really love about this whacked out business. If you have something you’d like to add, please share.

  1. You can drink on the job and no one makes you pee in a bottle.
  2. You can write off trips to New York.
  3. You don’t have to wear a bra at work.
  4. You get to kill people you hate and not go to prison.
  5. You can have mind-blowing sex with whoever you want and not worry about rubbers, disease or your spouse leaving you.
  6. You get to read fan letters (I answer every one I get and save them forever like old love letters.)
  7. You get to be in the Library of Congress. (In 1983, I went there and asked for the librarian to bring me a copy of my paperback romance. She did. Quite humbling.)
  8. You get to walk into a tiny bookstore in Moose-Butt Maine and see your book on the shelf. And then find out the old lady behind the counter has read your entire oeuvre and remembers each character better than you do.
  9. You get to live inside your head for days, weeks, months, at a time and not get carted away in a white jacket.
  10. You get to find a note taped to your bathroom mirror from your spouse or kid saying, “I’m proud of you.”
  11. You get to do something that gives others pleasure.
  12. You get to do something that gives you joy.

Thanks for listening. I feel better now. Hit it, Lesley!


28 thoughts on “Riding Out the Rough Spots

  1. I love you. I apologize if this embarrasses you, I didn’t mean for the world to know. But, it’s a fact.

    Only this morning did I figure a way out of the soul-sucking ditch I call my latest wip. I woke up and realized book two was floundering because I was bored with it. Nothing was happening. Someone had to die.

    It’s always fun to think of semi-gruesome ways to kill a character. I don’t think there are too many other legitimate careers that let you do this.

    Your list of good things about being a writer is very timely. Thanks.

  2. Lemme try this again… (fat fingers on a small keyboard…)

    If I may… a “sideways” view of your list…

    1. You can drink on the job AND pee in a bottle if you want to ~ especially if things are going right and you don’t wanna leave the keyboard~

    2. You can just write-off trips to New York~

    3.. You (well, some others than I), CAN wear a bra at work… even if you don’t HAVE to…

    4. You get to go to prison without killing somebody…

    5. You can:
    buy rubbers without getting smirked at at the store,
    have any number of diseases and nor suffer,
    or have our spouse leave you as a turning point in your narrative.

    6. You get to read old love letters… which may result in your spouse leaving you (see number 5).

    7. You get to be in the Library of Congress… or the White House, or a prison (see 4 above), or the Vatican, or even the secret underground operations center hidden behind the new gated community’s guardhouse…

    8. You get to walk around places like Moose-Butt Maine… And then find out the old lady behind the counter is really a serial killer…
    9. You get to live inside your head for days, weeks, months, at a time AND get carted away in a white jacket… but then be released whenever, and if, you so choose…

    10. You get to find a note taped to your bathroom mirror from a stranger saying, “I’ll be here when you get back…”

    11. You get to do something to others that gives pleasure… or pain…

    12. You get to do something that gives you joy….(Okay… so 11 outta 12 ain’t bad)…

  3. Aw geez, thank you G. Reading this, I did a spit take of coffee on my keyboard…which really can’t take anymore abuse. I am still laughing!

  4. Loved the list, and had to push back my chair to laugh at the description of the WIP as “The Thing That Is Devouring My Soul.” I’m on draft six, and feel that every morning.
    I would just add that I never wear a bra while working, or while doing anything else. And my WIP also gives me the chance to do something I otherwise couldn’t – spend time with a dog! We’ve decided not to have another dog because the pain when our last one – Shiloh – died was too much. And of course now, there’s a chance I’d outlive it, which wouldn’t be fair to her/him. But every day I get to spend time with Caesar, the most doggedly loyal friend you could ask for.

    • John,
      So true…about doggies. I get to bring mine both to work with me every day and Little Dog sleeps right next to my leg so she gets the heat from the computer vent.

  5. This post is so timely, Kris. I’ve been saying my next book, Captivate Your Readers, will be out in fall 2014. It’s fall 2014 and everything else, including editing and speaking, keeps getting in the way. Now I’m saying “late 2014” – hope I make it! Must pick a certain time of day to work on it religiously.

  6. Postscript:
    Well, ONE good thing happened this week. The ATT geek guy just came and put in a new modem. My internet speed is back! Now I just gotta find a way to fix my missing keyboard keys.

  7. Great post. I’m sorry for all your troubles. Most of us writers can relate. And thanks for the laughs. It’s so true about the benefits of what we do. These are some of the reasons we keep writing despite the hazards.

  8. I’ve finished the book from hell and I’m now working on the Rewrite from Hell. How could my editor find so much wrong when I turned in a perfect book? How could she be so right? Oh — about that list. I get to play with the cats and read other people’s books at work. Back to rewrites.

  9. My sympathies, Elaine. But I’d rather be in rewrite mode…I actually like rewriting. But you don’t want to hear that now, right? 🙂

  10. PJ–
    Hitting the wrong key and BEING PUNISHED OUT OF ALL PROPORTION! The earlier chapter that now makes no sense, and the plot design that once seemed so brilliant, but is now the work of a moron–all this is painfully familiar. So, thank you, I guess.

  11. I have something to say: I LOVE this blog.

    I also need to come out of the closet: I’m a self-published Romance author hanging out on a Thriller and Mystery blog.
    Sorry, but I’m not leaving. I can stay quiet if you prefer, but, nope , not leaving.

    This now my favorite blog. All the others I used to follow, they started out good, resonating, helpful, informative…until they just turn into a place of promotion: book promotion, software promotion, people promotion, all the fun writer-to-writer posts dwindling.

    So, yeah, love it here 🙂 If anyone wants to recommend me other awesome blogs like this one, I’m all ears.

    • Hey there, Ann! Welcome, welcome, welcome! I used to write romance and several of our other bloggers once do or still do. So you won’t feel out of place here. Besides, good writing is good writing, regardless of the genre. And yes, I know what you mean about the self promotion problem on some blogs. Yes, that’s part of any authors’ game, but it can get old real quick…sort of the same thing you hear on a lot of conference panels.

  12. As a very green author in training, I laughed out loud at several passages from your “Riding Out the Rough Spots” post. It gave me a point of reference for some of my days of frustration.

    You’ve gained a new subscriber and a fan as well.

    All the best to you,

  13. I do so sympathize, and I agree with all your reasons to stay in the business. I’d add one more: Writing gives me a purpose. It’s a reason to get up in the morning, provides structure for my day and gives me a feeling of belonging to the writing community. Hang in there. You’ll get past this. You always do.

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