Are you doing this right?
Are you making the best use of your time?
Is this first draft even worth the effort?
Should you be working on something else?
I know these worries creep into your mind without warning or hesitation. It happens to all of us. We always want to know we’re sitting down to write something that, months or even years from now, will actually have been worth it.
Sometimes, you have to rely on your own feelings to figure out if you’re writing in the right direction — or need to move on to a story that’s more worth your effort.
These are the things you should actually ask yourself if you’re ever doubting your writing time is being well-spent. Be honest with yourself. Sometimes, it’s time to let go. Sometimes, it’s time to shut out the doubtful feelings and get back to writing.
How do you feel when you think about working on it?
I really struggled while working on my 2017 NaNoWriMo project. It was a draining, time-consuming, and unpredictable experience. Whenever I sat down to write, I never knew exactly where I would end up by the end of my writing session. Satisfied? Unsure? Depressed? Yet despite the emotional roller coaster it was, every time I thought about working on it, I felt unmistakable, unshakable joy.
No matter how frustrating or exhausting a project is, if you’re truly invested in it — if you’re truly doing the right thing — some part of you will always look forward to it. You’ll always find your way back to it. It becomes a part of you. It’s impossible to tear yourself away for long.
Have you genuinely lost interest … or are you just too easily distracted?
Sometimes, we work on one project for so long — while simultaneously working on and achieving other things — that we grow out of those projects. I once started writing a book to help me process some emotional baggage. I was able to move past that pain before finishing the book, and had a really hard time finding a reason to continue after that. I was ready to tell a different story. I walked away without guilt.
It’s easy to get distracted by newer, shinier, much more persuasive projects. It’s normal to face that temptation to toss aside everything you’ve been working on over the past year to pursue something fresh. But if that’s the only reason you’re doubting the worth of your current project, don’t give in.
Are you looking forward to creating the Best Possible Thing … or are you just trying to finish for the sake of finishing?
I knew I needed to stop working on my book — or, at the very least, put it to the side temporarily — when the only thing that mattered to me was getting it done. I didn’t care if the characters were fully developed. I didn’t care that I wasn’t producing the best writing I could. I just wanted to be able to say I’d finally finished writing another book.
Sure, there are going to be points in which you don’t want to keep going, when you don’t feel like you’re doing the best you can, when you’d love to put it all behind you and start over. But if there’s even a small part of you that wants to do well — not just do work — it may be worth continuing.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.