Twenty Years of “I’m Working on a Novel”

I wanted to write a novel since I was old enough to know what a novel was. I had ideas and I told everyone about them. I acted them out when I was a child. I sketched them out as I got older. And I never ever started a single one.

I don’t even remember what my ideas were. Maybe they were genius ideas that could have had me rolling around in a Rowling-level amount dough. Maybe they were absolutely horrible and I was right for never releasing them into the world.

I’ll never know because I didn’t start. And just think, if I had started then I would have been an old pro. At 31 I would now have at least 20 years of experience under my belt.

I don’t and I can’t do anything about that now. But one of my favorite sayings is “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

So, in November of last year I decided to start that novel. I went in really strong , just writing whatever came to me. But at about 25,000 words I crapped out.

Part of the problem was that I was expecting too much from it. As I was writing, I imagined thousands of adoring readers reflecting on the infinite wisdom of my words and at the same time turning pages at the rate of 1000 per minute because of how incredibly wonderful and exciting the plot was. I’d get tons of money, a movie deal and probably a nobel prize or two.

I know, absolutely know that all of this is extremely unlikely, but there these thoughts creeped at the back of my mind, whispering their ugly little egotistical lies as I typed out my words.

And then it happened. I got stuck.

I had no idea where my novel was going or what I was doing with it. I stopped writing because it was absolutely terrible anyway and no matter how hard I tried nothing would ever come out of it. I’d be another faceless nobody who was “working on her novel” but not actually ever doing anything with it.

The incomplete novel is now sitting in a box marked “writing” waiting there for me to take it out again, dust it off and bring it back to life, even if it is a terrible, agonizing, deformed life.

And that’s the only way anything will ever happen. I’ll neither land a movie deal nor become a faceless nobody who is a published faceless nobody if I don’t get that novel out and start writing.

So out it comes. And here I begin again. No quitting this time.



  1. Ashes

    October 13, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    “The second best time is now.” That is perfect. Sometimes, I get so mad that I’ve wasted time that I am more defeated by the embarrassment than I am motivated to stop wasting more time. Now…where can I go to find some of that discipline that I don’t seem to have…Hmm…

    1. devyn

      October 14, 2015 at 8:10 am

      I have that same issue. I’m nearing 33 years old, and while I know that’s not old, I do feel sometimes that it’s too late to start things. So many successful people started in their teens or at the least in the 20’s. But there are plenty of people who have started even later than I have. And even if they hadn’t, I remind myself of the lines from The Princess Bride when they’re in the Fire Swamp and Buttercup says “We’ll never survive.” Then Wesley responds with “Nonsense, you’re only saying that because no one ever has.” Just because no one has done it before doesn’t mean it’s not possible. The only way something is impossible to do is if you don’t do it!

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