The Blank Page is a new weekly series on Novelty Revisions dedicated to any writer who is just beginning their journey or starting again after a long pause. Check back every Monday for more tips and inspiration.
About four months into learning the violin, I stopped playing.
Not forever. But for long enough that there were days I worried I would never take my instrument out of its case again. Worried that I would never hold it, never care for it, never feel the things I felt when I made music with it.
Why did I stop?
It wasn’t because I suddenly hated it — in fact, the longer I went without playing, the more I missed it. Admittedly, it also wasn’t because I didn’t have time. Everyone has 10 spare minutes somewhere in the day to dedicate to refining their craft; every minute counts.
I wasn’t bored. I wasn’t suddenly preoccupied with another hobby. I was fatigued.
I think there comes a point in most creators’ journeys where they hit a wall. They WANT to keep going. They WANT to improve. Desperately.
And maybe that’s the problem.
When you first start learning and practicing something new, it’s usually fun and exciting. As much as you’d love to be instantly good at it, you know deep down that it’s normal to start off terrible and work your way up. Every day it feels like a completely new experience. You’re motivated. You’re READY.
But those feelings do fade over time. You will reach this point where you’re perfecting the basics and still having fun, but it becomes apparent that now, if you want to continue advancing, you’re going to have to work even harder than you did when you were starting out.
It’s not just writing prompts and familiar story spinoffs anymore. It’s the hard stuff. Telling stories with more complex characters. Moving past the stage of beginning and into a realm of higher expectations more competition, and more demands.
The fatigue sets in when you start to feel like you’ll never move forward. That you’ll always be stuck at the level you’re at. You don’t know if you can put in more effort — or if you even want to.
Beginners’ fatigue will always lead you to a life-changing decision: Walk away, or push through?
And that choice — whether you keep writing when it starts to feel pointless or you set it aside and move on — is no one else’s choice but yours. You don’t have to put yourself through any kind of challenge you don’t think is worth the effort or energy or time.
You are allowed to give writing a try. And if it turns out it’s not for you, the only thing that means is that writing isn’t for you — not now, at least — and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you’ll never be “good” at anything. It doesn’t mean you’re less worthy of success or happiness than anyone else.
It just means it’s not for you.
And the great thing about being a beginner and having the power to make a choice of this magnitude is that you don’t have to “quit” writing. You can take the manuscript you’ve been working on or the writing book you were studying, put it in a drawer, and leave it there for as long as you want to. You can pull it out of that drawer again later, if or when circumstances suddenly prompt you to have the desire to do so.
But if you feel like you’re struggling, and progress is so slow that it seems non-existent, and you’re tired and you don’t love any of your ideas and it feels like no one cares about what you’re writing — but you decide to keep writing anyway — what does that say about you?
It says you’re willing and able to make sacrifices, starting right now, to make writing a top priority.
It says you’re aware that long stretches of mundane creation and resulting fatigue are part of the journey.
It says you’re mentally and emotionally capable, right now, of taking on this very difficult, yet very rewarding task.
Just because you can’t make the necessary sacrifices right now, or don’t yet know how to tolerate exhaustive repetition and delayed gratification, or you simply can’t handle the psychological and emotional weight of transitioning from beginner to intermediate creation, does not mean you never will.
For some, it’s just not the right time. For some, there are just other factors in the way that need to be dealt with first.
For many, eventually, the decision to continue comes from the same original desire that pushed them to start writing in the first place. They want it so much that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to be better.
I took a break from the violin. I questioned whether or not I wanted to welcome it back into my world again. Ultimately, I did. I chose the hard path, the one that meant more time, more failure, more frustration, more doubt, more fatigue.
I don’t know if it will all be worth it. But for now, there’s one thing I do know: Creating is hard. There will be moments that difficulty intensifies.
But that is how we grow. That is how we cease to call ourselves beginners, and move into the next phase of creation. Eventually. When you’ve mastered the basics. When you know you’ve done all you can to build the foundation upon which you’ll build your hobby — maybe, one day, your career — from here.
Just starting out as a writer or returning from an extended hiatus? Let me know how I can help. Just drop a comment below with your questions/concerns — I am here to serve.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.