My friend recently did something very brave. Something most of us obsess about, but never do. My friend quit his job to devote himself full-time to writing his first novel. To this friend, I would like to say BRAVO!

And then I will shamelessly quote the e-mail he sent me yesterday:

I’m a little intimidated to get started now because I don’t have any excuses not to and it’s a big void to be filled. Do you have any words of wisdom or morsels of knowledge to help nudge me off the diving board?

In response, I sent him an e-mail full of brilliant advice because, having written a whole novel, I am now an expert. I never have trouble sitting down to create masterpieces. Words come to me like little birds to Snow White.

Um. No.

I sent the latest revision of THE HERO to my agent Michelle on Friday, and on Saturday I returned to the work-in-progress.

Or, I tried to.

The little birds circled above me but wouldn’t land. Then they pooped on my head.

To continue this train of mixed metaphors, my new work-in-progress is a void to fill, and I’m intimidated—especially since THE HERO taught me just how much effort goes into writing a novel. I see the years spanning ahead of me. The rewrites. The killed characters. The slaughtered darlings. I see a battlefield.

I was going to share the long pep talk I sent to my friend. It’s full of life-changing advice like “try choosing a certain time and place for your writing” and “start with small goals and work your way up to big ones.” I sent him E.L. Doctorow’s wonderful quote that writing “is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

That’s all very sensible advice, but it all really comes down to the same thing. You can’t make that car trip if you stay in the driveway. You’ll never win a battle if you don’t fight. And when you’re trembling on that diving board, the only real advice anyone can give you is: “JUMP!”

Posted in: BP

8 thoughts on “Jump!

  1. Elizabeth says:

    “I see the years spanning ahead of me. The rewrites. The killed characters. The slaughtered darlings. I see a battlefield.”

    I’m so there right now. 50,000 words on the current WIP but I know there’s so, so much more work to come.

  2. Liesl says:

    Very true. I like the bit about the birds pooping on your head. I’m pretty sure I have that in my book actually. (figurative bird poop, not literal.)

    I like what some author said, I forget who…”Dare to be bad.” I think sometimes we get held back by wanting everything to come out perfect. Well it may sound a little depressing, but I think I by the time I’m done revising only about 10% of my first draft still exists. It takes guts to write crap. It takes muscles to clean it up.

    • Lara Ehrlich says:

      Hi Liesl! I’m dying to read this book of yours! Even more, now that there’s bird poop involved 😉 And it’s so, so true that you’ve got to give yourself permission to write crap. I think I’ve got maybe 10% of my original draft left, too! And a 500-page word doc of discarded bits that I’ll one day mine for masterpieces. Nothing we do is wasted, is it? (And seriously…can’t WAIT for Rump!)

  3. oline eaton says:

    this is seems pertinent, but really? when is it not?

    Leap Before You Look
    W. H. Auden

    The sense of danger must not disappear:
    The way is certainly both short and steep,
    However gradual it looks from here;
    Look if you like, but you will have to leap.

    Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep
    And break the by-laws any fool can keep;
    It is not the convention but the fear
    That has a tendency to disappear.

    The worried efforts of the busy heap,
    The dirt, the imprecision, and the beer
    Produce a few smart wisecracks every year;
    Laugh if you can, but you will have to leap.

    The clothes that are considered right to wear
    Will not be either sensible or cheap,
    So long as we consent to live like sheep
    And never mention those who disappear.

    Much can be said for social savoir-faire,
    But to rejoice when no one else is there
    Is even harder than it is to weep;
    No one is watching, but you have to leap.

    A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
    Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear;
    Although I love you, you will have to leap;
    Our dream of safety has to disappear.

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