Starting Over.
It Never Gets Easier

By PJ Parrish

Today is Monday. As good a day as any to die. Well, die figuratively. I started a new book today. The curtain has gone up. My stomach hurts. It isn’t my diverticulitis flaring up. I’m sweating. And it’s way past menopause.

Man, this never gets easier, does it. Staring at that field of white. Watching that damn  curser blinking like a heart monitor. Ka-thump. Ka-thump. Ka-thump…

Writing is painful for me. Not just psychically painful. Physically painful. Although I have been noodling around with this new book idea for weeks now, I have been putting off actually starting it. I have good excuses. First there was the Edgar banquet. Then there’s this conference first novel contest I’m judging. Then the dogs needed their dental cleanings. Then there was the Heat and Panthers semi-finals. Then friends came up for Memorial Day and I had to take them on a winery tour. And man, look at that load of laundry over there waiting to be folded,

But you know, don’t you. The longer you wait, the worse it gets. Because writing is like exercising, or practicing the piano or learning a language. If you stop, your energy flags, your muscles atrophy, your mind grows cobwebs.  You get fat and lazy. Then get you depressed because you’ve gotten fat and lazy.

It’s a confidence thing. Every time I start a new project, I am scared. Scared that I’ve run out of gas, scared that I will become one of those pathetic writers who phone it in. I’m worried that, because I’m not a pup anymore, I don’t have the energy to go the distance and the new kids coming up are so damn clever. I’m thinking that this plot is pallid, that this story is shapeless. I will be revealed as the fraud that I am,


Then I remember. I remember that once things get going — oh, around chapter 20 or so — it will start to gel. It will become fun again. I remember that I have been here before and have come out the other end okay. I remember that every book feels like you are pushing a mammoth boulder up a hill until that beautiful moment when you crest and then you race downhill in an exhilarating rush. And I remember that I am so damn lucky to get paid (well maybe) to think stuff up, to have readers who buy still our books and write us emails of thanks. I remember all of this and try to stop whining and do my job.

The good thing is, there is redemption even for scofflaws. There is always another day, a new chance. Another Monday.

Today is Monday. Today, I took a detour and wrote this blog instead. I know this is  procrastination of sorts. But this blog has also been like a quick set of jumping jacks. See, I figure just the fact that I have to come here and move my fingers over the keyboard might get my lard ass in gear again for the heavy lifting of fiction.

And I looked this up: I’ve been hanging around here now since 2012. You guys are my peeps.

So, thanks for letting me vent today. You’re cheaper than therapy and a lot more fun. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s back to work. That page is still blank. That curser is still blinking. I’m not getting younger. Every journey starts with one keystroke.


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About PJ Parrish

PJ Parrish is the New York Times and USAToday bestseller author of the Louis Kincaid thrillers. Her books have won the Shamus, Anthony, International Thriller Award and been nominated for the Edgar. Visit her at

20 thoughts on “Starting Over.
It Never Gets Easier

  1. Fear of imperfection is silly. There is no such thing as perfection in a novel. “Novels aren’t completed; they’re abandoned.” Every page is subjective. A book I’m reading (Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast & Slow) suggests that one way to get the Boys in the Basement (or whatever you call it) cooking, is to get your conscious mind in a good mood. Test subjects who held a pencil between their teeth had a better attitude because it unconsciously forced their mouth into a smile. The Boys are easily fooled.

    It’s hard to create when you’re in a bad mood or worried or indecisive. Get a massage, take a walk, change projects, write something short and new, eat a waffle, tour a museum, get out in nature, sit there with a pencil between your teeth, whatever it takes. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Read funny poems out loud. Draw a cartoon. If you’re worried about something, write it down, put it in a “God Box,” and forget it.

    When facing the white paper or computer screen, don’t imagine it as an empty surface you have to fill. Imagine it as a window looking out into a fog bank, a place where there already are people and cities and pets, approaching you or waiting for you to blow away the fog and see them. Ask yourself, “Who goes there? What’s their name? What do they want? What do they look like?” Launch yourself fearlessly into the cloud.

    • Such grand advice JG. And yeah, I am a strong believer in long therapeutic walks. And it has to be WALKING, not biking, not jogging, not pickleballing. There is something about the lovely slow cadence of a walk that allows you to interact with your surroundings — see, smell, hear, absorb. That frees up the creative mind, I believe.

  2. Dean Koontz feels exactly the same way at the start of each book. He goes into the enormous room in his home that is shelf after shelf of his books and editions, and says to himself, I’ve done this before, I can do it again. And then he does.

    Push that boulder.

    • You know, that’s true, seeing your “work” on a shelf somewhere does give you confidence. I don’t have an office like a normal writer. I flit around everywhere from coffee shops to bars to my balcony to my fainting couch. Maybe this needs to change. Maybe I need a writer’s shed in the backyard. George Bernard Shaw had a shed in his yard that he could rotate, so he could always see the sun. 🙂

  3. Wow, PJ. I feel bad for you, seriously. I’m always excited with the beginning of a new novel, like a kid on Christmas morning, exhilarated to rip open the paper and see what’s inside.

    I’ve thought many times how wonderful it would be if I could erase my longest series (now finished at 21 novels) from memory and start over, same main characters, etc. What a wonderful ride it was.

    • Oh, don’t pity me. I create my own angst. 🙂 But thanks for the thought. The cloud doesn’t last long, just the first couple chapters. Then it becomes fun again. And I have learned that sometimes I have to write a really bad opening chapter and then just chuck it.

  4. I’m with you, Kris. I think we all are. For many of us, me certainly, it never gets easier, so I work on having fun while I work, while I take those first tentative steps into the first scene of my latest book (something I’ll be doing soon). Motion leads to momentum, and momentum builds until, finally, a writing rhythm is found, once again.

    We’re here for you.

  5. I feel that way when I start a novel, and when I’ve have to dive back into the novel because something in life came up to bring everything to a screeching halt for awhile.

    • Yes! Very true about having to STOP writing for whatever reason. It is such a momentum killer. I have learned, if nothing else, that I have to write something every day or I lose my connection to the imaginary world I am trying to build. And if you are away too long, your characters get pissed off and stop talking to you.

  6. Scofflaw . . . new word for me. I love it! Like scalawag, it just rolls off the tongue. I know a few folks who need this printed on a T shirt… 🙂

    I’m with you. I feel the same when I finish a first draft, then have to go back and start hacking it up. That’s where I’m at today. Time to get after it.

    But, there is that pile of laundry . . .

    Have a great Tuesday!

    • Thanks, Deb. I actually had a good morning writing today. Had to break away to come here.

  7. Thanks, Kris, for this entertaining look at the first day of writing a new book. I can relate. I have a little internal voice that pipes up now and then and says, “Wow. Look at that boulder. It’s huge. You’ll probably never be able to move that thing.”

    But you gave us the solution to the problem, too. “The good thing is, there is redemption even for scofflaws. There is always another day, a new chance. Another Monday.” And Tuesday, Wednesday, …

    Have a great week and best wishes with the new book!

    • The sun will come up tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar… (I hate that song). 🙂

  8. 2012??? Kris, you’re the marathon woman. Eleven years of coming up with good post after good post to help all of us. Plus your many books.

    Even if you quit today (and I sure hope you don’t!), you have an impressive body of work to be proud of that has entertained and educated your fans for years. Sorry, you can’t convince me you’re a fraud!

    Hope you overcome the fear as soon as the new book starts rolling.

    • Isn’t that the truth! Before I start a book, my house is clean, my drawers are neat and color-coordinated, my refrigerator smells fresh. Then after, life goes to hell. My dentist (who I like so much I made him a character in my last book) claims he can tell when I am writing again. “You’re not flossing, are you,” he says.

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