I’ve tackled why we write before. Having an answer to that question is crucial, but it’s only the first question. The second is just as important: why should you keep writing?
Why This Question?
Sometimes, though, starting isn’t enough. Tools aren’t enough. Sometimes, the reasons we chose to write just seem flat and colorless. Sometimes stories don’t work, and writer’s block takes hold, and characters stop speaking to us.
On those days when we lose writing contests and can’t finish our stories and forget why we were writing the darn things in the first place, we need more than the reason why we chose to write. We need straight-up cussed orneriness.
Be Ornery and Keep Writing
Do you know the power of stubbornness? Do you know why it matters? Because being stubborn does not require logic of any kind. Being stubborn sidesteps logic. It jukes around emotion. It ninja-hides from reason, power-lists, social proof, bad reviews, terrible critics, and common sense.
Here’s the thing about writing: some days, you will feel like you’re wasting your time. Your logic—normally so keen—will tell you this is a dumb idea and you should quit. The answer you had for “why I write” suddenly seems trite and useless.
I know. I’ve been there. I’ve been writing for over a decade and published since 2012, but I still feel this way sometimes.
On those days, I need you to cling to two truths: one, the mood will pass. You’ll feel better soon and fall in love with writing again—but a lot of time can slip by if you just wait for that to happen. You can lose years. Trust me: you do not want to wait that long.
Two: the key to getting past is going to be pure bull-headed ornery stubbornness.
Yes, you need to refill your creative well. Yes, you need to take a walk, get some air, remind yourself of your reason for writing. But most of all, you just need to keep going even though at that moment it will make no sense.
Your Oath to Be Ornery
I don’t know if you’re in that place right now or not. I know I was all through last week, which is why I bring this up. We all get there sometimes; it doesn’t mean you’re a deficient writer or broken or anything else. It just means you’re a human who happens to be a writer—and as anyone can tell you, being a writer is messy.
It’s also really really worth it. But definitely messy.
This week, I had to vow again that I would not quit. I had to do that even though I didn’t feel like writing, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t even see my way to the next scene. I managed to squeak out a new short story, and I kind of hate it.
But you know what? I kept writing. I would not have if I hadn’t reminded myself of that vow. If I had not, in fact, remained downright ornery.
Now, it’s your turn. It’s time to be ornery.
When you most need a reason to write, that reason won’t make sense. That’s the time to be stubborn.
I know you won’t feel like you can do this. Maybe you don’t feel like it right now. This is the time to be stubborn.
You can do this. When it seems insane to think of yourself as a writer, be stubborn. Vow that when you can’t write, you will be ornery and keep writing anyway. Even if you write crap (and you will). Even if you feel like a failure. Even if you can’t think of one logical reason.
Be stubborn. Be ornery. Keep writing.
How have you dealt with those times when you felt like you couldn’t write? Let us know in the comments.
It’s time to make the vow and then act on it. Claim your orneriness—vow it, promise to be stubborn and write no matter what. Then write for fifteen minutes and share your current WIP (that stands for work in progress). When you’re done, share your practice in the comments, and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers!
Best-Selling author Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and was keynote speaker for The Write Practice 2021 Spring Retreat.
Author of two series with five books and fifty short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom, using up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon.
When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away.
P.S. Red is still her favorite color.