… is a question I occasionally get asked. My answer is a relatively simple one.
Last year, at my old job, I had the opportunity to interview a young hip-hop artist. What I loved (and miss) about interviewing artists and musicians and designers is that regardless of how different their creative pursuit was from mine, conversations on making the thing, be it a painting or song or dress, were always so relatable to me, a writer of fiction.
The artist, Khary, had this to say when I asked what his biggest piece of advice to young artists would be:
The biggest thing I could say to anyone, even myself, is learn to love the process. The shows are cool, getting plays is cool when you finally start getting plays, getting placements, getting stuff in video games is cool. But it doesn’t last long if you don’t love the actual process of making it. And I don’t think you start off loving it all the time. You have to figure out how to do it; you have to practice, you have to try new ways of doing things. And then you get less frustrated when things aren’t working; you’re like, oh, this is part of the process. That’s it.
So why do I keep writing when I haven’t seen any success yet?
I could point to the fact that publishing is slow, that I don’t want to put anything out there that’s not the best I can do, that it takes years to hone your craft, that I’m not in a rush — all of these things are true.
But the real answer is this: I love the process.
And Khary is right — I didn’t start out loving it. I was initially incredibly frustrated when I realized the amount of times I would need to rewrite a story to actually make it good. (I’m on draft thirty-seven of my first novel. THIRTY-SEVEN.) But really, there is no other way. I learn by doing; I needed to write in order to learn how to write, and then I needed to keep writing in order to learn more.
And yes, I have a goal in mind — getting traditionally published — but honestly, the more I write, the less it feels like I am working towards a thing, and more like I am working on a thing. I like my life; I like scribbling down ideas on my phone several times per day; I like drafting, and I like editing, and I like immersing myself in these little worlds I create. Sure I get frustrated when I can’t get a story to be as good as I imagined it, or I see people younger than me getting published, or I get these annoying questions from people who think it takes a few month to write and publish a book — but that frustration is so tiny in comparison to the joy writing brings me.
Learn to love the process. I’m not going to say because then it won’t ever feel like work–it is, and it does–but it’ll also feel like joy.